Sunday, November 10, 2019

Franz Schreker, Der ferne Klang (1912)

Schreker is largely unknown today, but he was huge in his time. According to wikipedia, at his peak he was the second-most-performed living opera composer in the Weimar Republic, after Richard Strauss. Unfortunately, the rise of naziism was the end of all that; he wasn't directly murdered, but the rise of anti-Semitism and the increased supression of his work undoubtedly led to the stroke that killed him in 1934 at the age of 56. I feel like we don't spend enough time remembering what total worthless shitheads nazis were and are.
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Saturday, November 09, 2019

George Frideric Handel, Orlando (1733)

I feel like I lose all perspective when it comes to Handel operas. I subjectively feel that I like some more than others, but that may be more a function of my mood and other external factors when I'm watching them than on the operas themselves. Which one is best? Well, at this exact moment, I feel it may be this one, which fucking owns bones. But I may feel differently after seeing the next one!
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Kevin Floyd

I first met Kevin when I took his gender theory class as a graduate student (what we call "queer theory" when we want to sound like radicals). I had previously been extremely phobic about critical theory as a general concept, but I'd taken a class in semiotics the semester before and I was kinda warming to it. It was a transformative class: one of those things that really, really influences how you perceive the world. I was honestly a little intimidated by the intensity of his intellect and, let's face it, by his being way more handsome than any English professor has any business being; nonetheless, later when I need a director for my dissertation, he was the obvious choice. We had some very heavy theoretical discussions, and O how he put me through the wringer with regard to my writing, which he perceived--obviously correctly--was not as clear or focused or scholarly as it needed to be. There were times when I really seriously thought I wasn't going to have what it took to do it. But somehow I did, and even if I didn't follow the sort of academic trajectory that he had, I was still lastingly grateful. Mine was the first doctoral dissertation he ever directed, as it happened, but he did not miss a beat.

I wish I'd had more of a relationship with him, honestly, but there was something about him and about my general social awkwardness such that that never happened (okay, we might as well be brutally honest, it was obviously in large part because I felt self-conscious that I had failed as an academic, and I didn't want to feel like I was secretly being judged which again I do because I'm kind of ludicrous). The only subsequent contact I had with him was requesting letters of recommendation (with which he was always extremely conscientious). Well, so it goes.

Anyway, I suppose it's probably pretty obvious where this is going, at least in outline: a year ago or a little less I learned from another of his students that he'd been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor (I did send him a note of general appreciation when I learned the news; no idea if he read it), and today I learned that he'd died on Thursday. He must've been in his fifties; I don't know exactly.  I know the above photo isn't great, but he was extremely not-online, and it's the only one I could find.  Talking about "fairness" when it comes to things like this isn't very helpful or meaningful, but I can only record my subjective reaction, which is that BOY is this ever unfair. Sure it's universal, but the idea that this stupid, random brain malfunction could silence such a strong voice...goddammit. Don't really have much to say here; just felt that I shouldn't let this go by unremarked. Rest in power.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, The Golden Cockerel (1909)

This was Rimsky-Korsakov's last opera. Appropriately, I guess, it's based on a Pushkin poem. It's another fairy/folktale kind of thing--the most mysterious I've seen yet.
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Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Ivan Zajc, Nikola Šubić Zrinski (1876)

Never thought I'd see another Croatian opera, but with Operavision, all things are possible. This is my religious credo. According to wikipedia, Zajc "is often called the Croatian Verdi." Is he, wikipedia? Is he REALLY? Is he "often" called anything, at least outside of his home country? Hmm. Well. Be that as it may, he wrote a bunch of operas, of which this seems to be considered the best.
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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Mozart and Salieri (1897)

This sticks out pretty jarringly among Rimsky-Korsakov's operas: you have all these pieces based on Russian fairie and folk tales, and then, BOOM, this one that has absolutely nothing to do with any Slavic themes. Of course, the reason is that it's based on a play by Pushkin, so I suppose in that sense it's indirectly Russian, but still...
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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Alexander Dargomyzhsky, The Stone Guest (1872)

You gotta have a lotta nerve to write an opera based on the Don Juan legend, given that it makes comparisons with one of the most famous and best operas ever written unavoidable. But I can tell you why it happened: it's because the libretto here is a play by Pushkin. If there's one thing I know about Russians, it's that they like composing operas based on Pushkin material. It couldn't have been avoided.
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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Jean-Philippe Rameau, Les Boréades (1764)

Rameau's last opera, only performed posthumously for reasons people don't seem to be quite sure of. At any rate, we can be grateful that it survived to be performed.
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