Friday, December 13, 2019

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Kashchey the Deathless (1902)

Oh look, more Rimsky-Korsakov! Based on a fairy tale, so we're in extremely familiar territory. The story here is that the title character is an evil sorcerer who can never die because he's hidden his death in the tears of his daughter, Kashcheyevna, and she's very hard-hearted and never cries. He's holding a princess known only as "Tsarevna" captive in his realm, as she longs for Ivan, her prince; he's worried that Ivan might discover his secret, so he sends a captive storm spirit to see what's happening. Elsewhere, Ivan is searching for Tsarevna. Kashcheyevna (a sorceress in her own right) tries to kill him, but then she falls in love with him. The wind spirit reveals that Tsarevna is Kashchey's prisoner, so everyone traipses off there. Ultimately--this was pretty predictable--Kashcheyevna sheds tears for her unrequited love, causing her dad to croak and her to disappear (well, per the wikipedia entry, she turns into a willow tree, but here she just disappears--fairy tale logic). Tsarevna and Ivan are happy, and presumably so is the wind spirit, off doing wind-spirit-related activities.
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George Frederic Handel, Teseo (1713)

That's "Theseus" to us Anglophone proles (yes, the main Theseus, apparently). He's fighting against Egeo, the king of Athens. He and Agilea are in love, and so are Arcane and Clizia, but those last two are totally extraneous to the main story, so you can kind of forget about them. More relevant is Medea (again, the main Medea), who is in love with Teseo and extremely jealous (you're gonna think, hey, shouldn't that be Jason? but apparently this IS based on mythological sources, albeit I don't think she was ever depicted as being in love with Theseus). Anyway, she uses her magic to create havoc, but then, in a truly excessive display of deus ex machina, some god or other appears and chases her off. Edifying!
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Sunday, December 08, 2019

Antonín Dvořák, The Jacobin (1889)

Outside the Czech Republic, It sure isn't common to see any Dvořák operas other than Rusalka. For the opportunity to see this one, we must thank some awesome hero on youtube who uploaded a 1974 Czechoslovakian teleplay with--glory be!--English subs (I assume they were added after the fact by a fan, but it's not wholly clear to me).
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Thursday, December 05, 2019

Philip Glass, The Perfect American (2013)

It's an opera about Walt Disney, which is certainly an intersection of several of my interests. But...[sotto vote]I think that title might be...ironic.[/sotto voce]  We shall see what we shall see.
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Saturday, November 30, 2019

George Frideric Handel, Saul (1739)

I'd already seen an opera based on the story of Saul, Carl Nielsen's Saul og David (though the Handel is really an oratorio). I must say, I don't find the story itself particularly dramatically compelling. Saul loves David but then when the people accuse him of only having slaughtered thousand whereas David has slaughtered tens of thousand, he gets upset and jealous and then dies after a dead prophet channeled by a witch tells him how much he sucks. Whee. Okay okay, that's a bit reductive, and you certainly could make something of this, but it would definitely need some work.
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Samuel Barber, Vanessa (1958)

I want to watch more American operas. This is because--as is well-known--I am extremely patriotic, and it's interesting to see how my own dang country (RIGHT OR WRONG) has treated this artform that I love. So here's one of our better-known examples. Apparently it was neglected for a long time, but it's coming back into fashion a bit these days.
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Gioachino Rossini, Guillaume Tell (1829)

Rossini wrote this at the age of thirty-six, and even though he was at the height of his popularity and even though he lived another forty-odd years after that, he never wrote another opera. I gather he may have been suffering from mental illness, though he did rally and wrote some more music towards the end of his life.
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Sunday, November 24, 2019

Philip Glass, Akhnaten (1984)

The first three Met Live in HD productions this year weren't of any great interest to me: they showed Turandot, Manon, and Madama Butterfly, all in productions that had already been in HD years prior. If you have a new production, then by all means show it, but I just can't get excited about repeats like this. Maybe they put asses in seats, but considering that there are only ten LiHD productions a something a little more daring, dammit. Something like the Met premiere of a Philip Glass opera. Please. That's more like it.
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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

George Frideric Handel, Tamerlano (1724)

Well, Tamerlano's the Timurid emperor. He's captured the Ottoman emperor, Bajazet, and also his daughter, Asteria. There's also some sort of Greek guy, Andronico, whose status is extremely unclear hanging around. Andronico and Asteria are in love, but Tamerlano wants to marry her even though he's already engaged, the cad. A certain amount of angst ensues, there are murder plots, things aren't quite clear about who's in love with whom, Bajazet ends up committing suicide, but Tamerlano repents and everyone else is happy. The end.
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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Aaron Copland, The Tender Land (1954)

Wait, Aaron Copland wrote operas? Since when? Why was I not aware of this?  Maybe because I haven't paid attention at all.  Hard to say.  Well, in fairness, he only wrote two of them, and they don't exactly occupy a central place in his ouevre, but still. I guess I'm a pretty casual Copland fan; I've always enjoyed Appalachian Spring and Billy the Kid, very evocative, but I can't claim to be super-familiar with his work.
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