Monday, October 14, 2019

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Mlada (1890)

This is not to be confused with the 1872 opera Mlada, which was an abortive collaborative project with Rimsky-Korsakov along with some other Russian composers, including Mussorgsky and Borodin (certainly an impressive array of talent). This apparently uses the same libretto but is completely different musically.
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Friday, October 11, 2019

George Frideric Handel, Rinaldo (1711)

Blah blah, another opera based on Orlan--HA! THIS ONE IS BASED ON TASSO'S GERUSALEMME LIBERATA! JOKE'S ON YOU! Hmm. That was probably too much capitalization. But anyway. It's still the same character, more or less. So if Rinaldo got short-changed by Ariodante, never fear; he still gets his own Handel opera.
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"Let's not bicker and argue about who killed hundreds of thousands of who!"

When people call trump our worst president ever, other people are always quick to remind us that for all his loathesomeness, he has yet to lie us into a war that killed hundreds of thousands of innocents and immiserated countless more (I mean, in addition to everything else, but for the sake of argument, let's stay focused here). Which is true, though obviously not because trump would have any scruples about that if he saw the opportunity and thought it would lead to his greater glory, but I think the point is that when people look at george w bush, they see, like, a person, who is capable of liking other people. Who, it's easy to believe, authentically loved Barney the dog and was sad when he died. Whereas it's impossible to imagine trump even feeling sad if one of his children died (regret at having lost any possible opportunity to fuck his daughter doesn't count). Trump just seems fundamentally less-than-human in a way that gwb didn't.  I mean, gwb is someone who would be capable of having friends.
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Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Ariosto vs Handel

So I've been prompted to reread Orlando Furioso, for perhaps obvious reasons. Notwithstanding the somewhat tedious (okay, very tedious) bits where Ariosto feels the need to flatter his partrons by going on about how illustrious their ancestors were, it remains highly entertaining, and Barbara Reynolds' verse translation a marvel. The episode from whence Handel's Ariodante comes is early on in the text, so I thought it might be interesting to look at the differences between poem and opera.
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Saturday, October 05, 2019

George Frideric Handel, Alcina (1735)

HEY GUESS WHAT POEM THIS IS BASED ON. I bet you would not get it right if you had one million guesses.
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Monday, September 30, 2019

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, The Tale of Tsar Saltan, of His Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan (1900)

That's a mouthful of a title, innit?  This is a somewhat surreal fairy tale thing, similar to Sadko, although this one is from a story by Pushkin. We have three sisters, all of whom want to marry the tsar; he chooses the youngest, Militrisa, as you do, and the jealous older two along with their mother plot their revenge: when the tsar is away at The Wars, they devise a scheme whereby Militrisa and her young son, Gvidon, are sealed in a barrel and thrown into the sea. However, the two of them survive, washing up on an island. Gvidon saves a swan from being eaten by a kite and in gratitude it makes a city appear on the island of which he becomes prince. Ultimately the swan becomes a woman, and they're going to get married. They return to the tsar's kingdom, and there is general rejoicing; everyone's so happy that they even forgive the schemers. Hurray!
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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Ivan Acher, Sternenhoch (2018)

This is based on a 1928 Czech novel by Ladislav Klíma, The Sufferings of Prince Sternenhoch. The story, such as it is: Sternenhoch is a German noble who marries a younger woman, Helga. She has a child, which she then murders, and the next day she's with her lover, feeling cheery, until Sternenhoch appears and kills her, sort of maybe. His mind fast disintegrating, he visits a witch for help, but she gives him a potion that makes him violently hallucinate, further fracturing his psyche, until at the end he either dies or is locked in an insane asylum and is reunited with his dead wife.
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Friday, September 27, 2019

Kaija Saariaho, L'Amour de loin (2000)

Hey, it's my second opera by a female composer! It's also, embarrassingly, only the second to be produced at the Met (the first being this, which you'd be hard-pressed to find any video of, which seems somehow symptomatic of the problem).
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Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens (1863)

Any ol' man in the street is probably going to have a pretty good idea of what this is about, but it's bifurcated to an extent that I've never seen in an opera: the first two acts take place in Troy, as the Trojans ignore Cassandra and wheel a big ol' wooden horse into the city, with hilarious results. In the last three, the Trojan survivors led my Aeneas come to Carthage, where the queen, Dido, has a thing with Aeneas until he's told by the gods that he needs to stop fucking around and go found Rome. That happens. Dido does not react well. The end.
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