Sunday, February 16, 2020

Antonio Vivaldi, Orlando Furioso (1727)

Wikipedia says that Vivaldi "claimed to have composed 94 operas, but fewer than 50 titles have been identified, of which the scores of only 20 or so survive, wholly or in part." Of course, even if his claim is true, that doesn't likely mean that he composed ninety-four operas' worth of original music, given the tendency of baroque composers to self-cannibalize. Still, boy. Given how we see Vivaldi as such an important composer, it's kind of shocking when you first realize how much of his stuff is simply non-extant.
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Friday, February 14, 2020

Benjamin Britten, Billy Budd (1951)

Britten's most famous opera is also--unless there's something really obvious I'm forgetting, as is so often the case--the most famous opera with an all-male cast. I am trying and failing to find anything interesting to say about that fact, but I thought it was at least worth noting.
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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Michel Tabachnik, Benjamin, dernière nuit (2016)

Who exactly is Michel Tabachnik? Well, he's a Swiss composer and conductor. From poking around on the internet I think that, although he's fairly prolific as a composer, this is his first opera, but I could not swear to that with absolute certainty. His wikipedia page says nothing about this or any other such that he might have written. That seems to indicate a...let's say lack of particularly intense general interest in him and his work, but who knows?
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Monday, February 10, 2020

Benjamin Britten, Albert Herring (1947)

So apparently after The Rape of Lucretia, Britten understandably wanted to do something lighter, and thus we have his first comedy, based, of all things, on Maupassant story transplanted to England.
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Saturday, February 08, 2020

Benjamin Britten, The Rape of Lucretia (1946)

So it's Roman Times, and Tarquinus is in charge. The situation is explained by male and female "choruses" (just one person each, in fact), who are observers outside time who throughout the opera comment on the action in a Christian fashion, and also get emotionally caught up in the goings-on. But anyway. Tarquinus. Tyrant. He's drinking with his subordinates at an army camp, but everyone's jealous of Collatinus, the only one whose wife (Lucretia) has been faithful while they're away. But how faithful IS she, really? Tarquinus decides to go back to Rome to see. I mean, the title kinda gives away what happens next, doesn't it? Lucretia is traumatized, and even though Collatinus accurately asserts that it wasn't her fault and there's no need for shame, well, what do YOU think she does? Keeping in mind that this is an opera?
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Friday, February 07, 2020

George Gershwin, Porgy and Bess (1935)

Well, if Britten is the most famous English-language opera composer, here's possibly the most famous single English-language opera. American opera, certainly. Nicely timed for Black History Month, we have the Met's new production Live in HD. Why not? It seems a little weird that I hadn't seen it before this, but I think that's at least partially due to not being quite sure what it really was: the only thing I knew from it was "Summertime"--the most-covered piece of music ever, with tens of thousands of recordings--and, like, it's a pop song. How is this from an opera? Not that I have anything against musical theatre or anything, but in that case it wouldn't necessarily be something I'd've focused on. It was actually a revelation to hear that song--it opens the opera--sung as an operatic aria, and suddenly understand. It's recognizably the same thing, but also very different. Anyway, definitely an opera, this, though it could easily be--and has been done--as a musical.
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Thursday, February 06, 2020

Benjamin Britten, Peter Grimes (1945)

And now...this! Britten's first big success. The more I think about it, the more I realize that he really is THE biggest name in English-language opera, unless you count Gilbert & Sullivan, which I've decided not to. Purcell, sure, but I just don't think he's as prominent, at least these days. Most of Britten's operas have become part of the repertoire, which is impressive for ANY mid-twentieth-century composer, let alone an English one. So that's cool.
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