Author Topic: about Bel Canto and black holes  (Read 2875 times)

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Offline False_Dmitry

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about Bel Canto and black holes
« on: May 27, 2010, 12:27:13 PM »
Where are the fans of the "bel canto" repertoire - Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and so forth?

I confess to having something of a "black hole" relating to this stuff.  And it's not for want of trying.  This evening I went to a concert performance of NORMA (uncut), with a well-regarded Italian primadonna in the title role, and Moscow's finest in the supporting roles, with a top conductor.  The performance could not have been better, they worked their socks off, and the conductor caressed and cajoled every nuance and colour from the score.

But I'm afraid I left at half-time. I didn't dislike anything about it (although frankly you could get the whole of BOHEME into the first half of NORMA and still have time to spare).  But I sit through this music as though I'm waiting for the dentist - there's nothing in it which involves me, and when I notice a nicely-turned phrase or embellishment, it's with the cold dispassion of a judge marking the obligatory routines on the Parallel Bars in the Olympics.

Is it only me who feels a shiver go down their spine when yet another set-piece number starts "bom-tiddle-tiddle-tiddle"?

The strange thing is that I'm an avid fan of the previous generation of Italian opera composers (Mozart, Gluck, Cherubini, Paisiello & Co) and once we hit RIGOLETTO I feel we're back in the world of proper operas.  (I wobble in opinion concerning the early Verdis, but a decent staging usually pulls me on-side with them). 

Does anyone else experience a little ennui when watching a heroine expiring/being burned alive/committing suicide to a predictable sequence of I, IV and V chords with a load of scrubbing from the fiddles?
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BMW

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Re: about Bel Canto and black holes
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2010, 01:33:57 PM »
Just don't think so much about it!  :)  Enjoy bel canto for what it is, rather than compare it to something else that may be more technically challenging or satisfying.  I bet folks are not talking about it here because too much analysis may spoil the fun!

Offline False_Dmitry

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Re: about Bel Canto and black holes
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2010, 01:15:53 AM »
Just don't think so much about it!  :)  Enjoy bel canto for what it is, rather than compare it to something else that may be more technically challenging or satisfying.  I bet folks are not talking about it here because too much analysis may spoil the fun!

It's a fair point :)  It was a period when a much greater democritisation was going on with attending concerts and operas - they were no longer the preserve of the nobility,  and music was being written for the masses!

Even so, I think I prefer the German and English opera repertoires from this period ;)
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DarkAngel

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Re: about Bel Canto and black holes
« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2010, 06:20:47 AM »
Where are the fans of the "bel canto" repertoire - Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and so forth?

I confess to having something of a "black hole" relating to this stuff.  And it's not for want of trying.  This evening I went to a concert performance of NORMA (uncut), with a well-regarded Italian primadonna in the title role, and Moscow's finest in the supporting roles, with a top conductor.  The performance could not have been better, they worked their socks off, and the conductor caressed and cajoled every nuance and colour from the score.

But I'm afraid I left at half-time. I didn't dislike anything about it (although frankly you could get the whole of BOHEME into the first half of NORMA and still have time to spare).  But I sit through this music as though I'm waiting for the dentist - there's nothing in it which involves me, and when I notice a nicely-turned phrase or embellishment, it's with the cold dispassion of a judge marking the obligatory routines on the Parallel Bars in the Olympics.

Is it only me who feels a shiver go down their spine when yet another set-piece number starts "bom-tiddle-tiddle-tiddle"?

The strange thing is that I'm an avid fan of the previous generation of Italian opera composers (Mozart, Gluck, Cherubini, Paisiello & Co) and once we hit RIGOLETTO I feel we're back in the world of proper operas.  (I wobble in opinion concerning the early Verdis, but a decent staging usually pulls me on-side with them). 

Does anyone else experience a little ennui when watching a heroine expiring/being burned alive/committing suicide to a predictable sequence of I, IV and V chords with a load of scrubbing from the fiddles?

Norma is not representitive of entire Bel Canto period.......
The soprano role is extremely challenging vocally, but story is a throwback to baroque era
 
Some of the very best light comedies with exciting showcase florid arias and great fun for all come from Bel Canto era:
Rossini - Barber of Seville + Italian in Algiers
Donizetti - Elixir of Love + Daughter of the Regiment + Don Pasquale
 

Offline False_Dmitry

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Re: about Bel Canto and black holes
« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2010, 08:11:07 AM »
Rossini - Barber of Seville + Italian in Algiers
Donizetti - Elixir of Love + Daughter of the Regiment + Don Pasquale

I agree this is are all great fun in their own way.  But the comedies are the exceptions...  Bellini's output is almost entirely tragic (except for SONNAMBULA, which is more a thriller, but has a non-tragic ending).   Then there are Mercadante's and Pacini's operas...   once again, they're mostly epic weepies of inordinate length :(
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Offline sospiro

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Re: about Bel Canto and black holes
« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2010, 10:13:45 AM »
I love bel canto and went to see La Fille du Régiment from ROH on Tuesday 25th May.

I went with a friend who had not been to ROH before & knew neither the music nor the story. I had loaned her my copy of the 2007 production but she didn't have time to watch it.



We went to the pre-production talk which was given by Paul Wynne Griffiths, the cover conductor. I was slightly disappointed as all he did was talk about what we were going to see anyway, (and what lots of people had already seen, either in 2007 or on DVD). I could have done with hearing about some behind the scenes stuff as well but my friend found it invaluable.

We had great seats - Stalls Circle centre right.

It is the same cast as the 2007 production with exception of Ann Murray taking the part of La Marquise de Berkenfeld instead of Felicity Palmer.

From quite different perspectives, we both had a wonderful evening. My friend had no idea it was so funny and, knowing the music & story, I could concentrate on the singing (and the amazing acting). Natalie Dessay's comic timing was brilliant and she could surely have a career as a non-singing actress if she wanted to.

Anyway to get to the important bit, I had not seen Dessay live before and I thought she was amazing and as far as I could tell, she nailed everything. I loved the antics & singing-while-you-iron stuff but Il Faut partir! Adieu! really touched me. The audience must have agreed as there wasn't a rustle, cough, sniff - not even a pin was dropped during this.

So much has been written about Juan Diego Flórez and the legendary Ah! Mes amis that I thought it might be a bit of an anti-climax but it was as spectacular as everyone says and with all the applause, cheering, foot stamping, "encore", "bis" it made me think that one day there might actually be an encore at ROH. (If La Scala allowed it…) and the beautiful Pour me rapprocher de Marie got us all sighing!

The rest of the cast were superb as was Dawn French (surtitles in French when she spoke English!)

9 out of 10.



Annie

Offline Gabriel

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Re: about Bel Canto and black holes
« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2010, 02:37:01 PM »
I agree this is are all great fun in their own way.  But the comedies are the exceptions...  Bellini's output is almost entirely tragic (except for SONNAMBULA, which is more a thriller, but has a non-tragic ending).   Then there are Mercadante's and Pacini's operas...   once again, they're mostly epic weepies of inordinate length :(

And what to say about Rossini himself, whose first hit was an opera seria, Tancredi, and who composed lots of operas on serious subjects: Elisabetta, Otello, Mosè in Egitto, Armida, La donna del lago, Ermione, Maometto II, Semiramide, Zelmira, and finished his operatic career with Guillaume Tell.

And it would be erroneous to think that bel canto can be found just in Italian. Boieldieu's La dame blanche is a wonderful, delightful opéra comique, plenty of splendid ideas and beautiful vocal writing. The recording led by Minkowski is absolutely recommended.

Offline bosniajenny

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Re: about Bel Canto and black holes
« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2010, 11:24:35 PM »
False_Dmitry, I think the best approach to bel canto is not to take it all so seriously! I realise that a lot of the operas are about "serious" things (murder, suicide, madness, revenge and so on) but surely that reflects the tastes of the times (the composers wanted their operas to be put on, after all!), and there are some beautifully light-hearted operas of the era.

Mozart didn't write only the Requiem and Don Giovanni! Let there be room (and praise where due) for everyone - mostly it's a matter of personal taste anyway.  8)

Offline Valentino

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Re: about Bel Canto and black holes
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2021, 02:16:24 PM »
Last entry in this thread was posted about the time I went into hiatus on GMG, so like me it's now resurrected.

I just realised that I like bel canto opera, at least the highlights LP I have of Bellini's Norma.
So may I have some help? What's listenable in the black hole?
We audiophiles don't really like music, but we sure love the sound it makes

Offline The new erato

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Re: about Bel Canto and black holes
« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2021, 10:19:00 PM »
Not a conneseur of this repertory, but I enjoyed the Met stream of Daughter of the Regiment and Lucia de Lammermoor quite a lot last year.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: about Bel Canto and black holes
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2021, 10:32:48 AM »
I've begun to realise that my appreciation of bel canto has a lot to do with who is singing it, hence I have a lot of Callas. My favourite operas tend to be the ones Callas sang and then usually only in the recordings she made. Without her. I quite often find them a bit boring.

Of those she didn't perform, I like:-
Rossini: Guillaume Tell - I favour the Gardelli recording in French with Caballé, Bacquier and Gedda.
Rossini: Le Comte Ory - the old Glyndebourne Gui recording is an absolute joy.
Rossini: L'Italiana in Algeri - Baltsa/Abbado
Rossini: La Cenerentola - I have the Marriner with Baltsa, but there is a superb video with Von Stade as an ideal Cenerentola.

Donizetti: Maria Stuarda - even though she sang the role in English, Janet Baker is my favourite, preferably the earlier recording with Pauline Tinsley as Elizabeth, but the later with Rosalind Plowright is also very fine. I also have a liver La Scala recording with Caballé and Verrett.
Donzietti - La Fille du Régiment - I have the Sutherland/Pavarotti recording and I don't think it's yet been bettered on CD, though the DVD with Dessay and Florez is also very good.
Donizetti: Lucrezia Borgia - this is an opera I really wish Callas had sung, but there is a superb live performance from New York with Caballé as Lucrezia, which I really like.
Donizetti: L'Elisir d'Amore - my favourite recording is the Pritchard with Cotrubas and Domingo.

Bellini: I Capuleti e i Montecchi - preference here for Patanè with Sills and Janet Baker, but Muti with Gruberova and Baltsa is also very good.

Then there all the Callas recordings I have.

Rossini: Armida - Florence 1952 - dreadful sound but spectacular dramatic coloratura singing from Callas, the like of which we will probaby never hear again.
Rossini: Il Turco in Italia - the score is cut to ribbons but the Gavazzeni studio recording is a joy
Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia - with Gobbi and Alva conducted by Alceo Galliera. Also a joy from beginning to end. I also like the Gui with De Los Angeles. All the more modern urtext recordings seem a bit po-faced in comparison.

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor - I have three Callas recordings, both the studio ones and the live 1955 Berlin performance.
Donizetti: Anna Bolena - A famous 1957 La Scala performance with Callas in stunning form.
Donizetti: Poliuto - La Scala 1950, Callas in rather frail voice, but Corelli is fantastic.

Bellini: La Sonnambula - Three recordings with Callas, the 1955 Bersntein, the 1957 Cologne performance and the studio recording.
Bellini: Norma - both Callas's studio recordings, London 1952, the incomplete 1953 Trieste performance with Corelli, and, best of all the 1955 La Scala performance with Del Monaco, Simionto and Zaccaria
Bellini: I Puritani - Callas's studio recording of 1953.

I also have the Naxos recording of Rossini's Semiramide, but I can't say I like the opera that much.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas