Author Topic: Concert performance practice of choral and opera pieces  (Read 1173 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline mc ukrneal

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 9138
Concert performance practice of choral and opera pieces
« on: September 14, 2010, 10:27:45 PM »
I came across this video today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qo--vvnKgQ4 (pretty remarkable by the way, and rousing conclusion). In the video, you will see the principals standing right in front of Toscanini (for those who don't look - they stand in front of the conductor, between him on the podium and the orchestra). At first, I was a bit surprised - I don't recall ever seeing something like this (but I admittedly don't watch many concert performances). Most excerpts that I have seen are performed with the singers to the side (so less of a direct view from the conductor, or perhaps entirely not visible). Was this practice (of having them right in front) an older practice? Is it done just by certain conductors? Might it be an exception due to space? I'm really quite interested.

This organization makes so much more sense to me in some ways as the conductor and singers more clearly see each other. In other performances I have seen, the singers are always to the side (presumably so the audience can see them better), with varying degrees of visibility to the conductor.

Having them in front more closely corresponds to choral pieces when the singers usually have a direct view of the conductor (though not necessarily standing right in front of the conductor!). Verdi's Requiem or Beethoven's 9th come to mind.

Be kind to your fellow posters!!

Offline knight66

  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 10098
  • Location: Edinburgh
Re: Concert performance practice of choral and opera pieces
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2010, 11:10:12 PM »
I have not ever seen a setup like that. Nor have I seen photos from old concerts where the singers stand in that position. It may be a Toscanini idea, though I have seen other Youtube material of him conducting singers where they are in the usual position to the side.

Although that platform looks jammed up, there is space to the side where the singers could have stood. Occasionally singers are put behind the orchestra or at the front of the choir, but these set-ups are unusual.

You may notice on that clip that the singers seem to be singing to the conductor, not the audience and Toscanini is basically blocking at least one singer from view for most of the audience. There looks like an odd tension in the air there, not just in-character, but worry. Toscanini was notoriously difficult to please.

I have seen singers stand further towards the front of the platform than the conductor. This suggests they are in good rapport and don't need to see him. Some soloists don't appear to be able to sing without their eyes on the conductor. If you watch staged opera on DVD you can observe that some singers seem never to noticeably look at the conductor, though they probably are keeping visually in touch from time to time. Some others swivel their eyes constantly to obtain that security. The latter make for poor actors on stage.

Callas was notoriously short sighted and in performance probably could not really see what the conductor was up to. But she and the conductor always stuck together. I deem it a matter of musicianship; if you can feel the music and know it, if rehearsals have worked as they ought, a singer can tell from what the orchestra is doing exactly what the conductor is up to.

Mike
DavidW: Yeah Mike doesn't get angry, he gets even.
I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Offline mc ukrneal

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 9138
Re: Concert performance practice of choral and opera pieces
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2010, 09:31:42 AM »
I generally agree with you. On the other hand, some performers just have difficulty getting into a rhythm with one another, especially if time for practicing together has been limited. Every time I see the clip, knowing what I am going to see, I still find myself surprised. It's really odd and fascinating.
Be kind to your fellow posters!!

Offline sospiro

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 212
  • Location: Staffordshire, UK
  • Currently Listening to:
    Opera
Re: Concert performance practice of choral and opera pieces
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2010, 10:42:07 AM »
Callas doesn't often look at the conductor on here.

Annie