Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Luigi Cherubini, Medea (1797)

"Beethoven regarded Cherubini as the greatest of his contemporaries." This is what his wikipedia entry claims. I guess Mozart is probably a little too early to count as one of his contemporaries. Anyway. This is his best-known opera these days, largely because Maria Callas used it as a star vehicle. I saw a production from Moscow's Stanislavsky Music Theatre that was on Operavision; it's not there anymore, but I download these things for consumption at my leisure, so I had it just sitting around.
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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Gottfried von Einem, Dantons Tod (1947)

Here's an obscure one. It's based on an 1835 play by Georg Büchner (also the writer of Woyzeck, upon which Herzog's film and Berg's opera are based). According to wikipedia, this opera was instrumental in a post-war artistic rebirth, written by a young composer who wasn't implicated in any way in the nazi regime. Is it still performed? Seems so, though I doubt it's ever been done outside Austria or Germany.
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Jacques Offenbach, Les contes d'Hoffman (1880)

I'd been wanting to see this one for a while now, but somehow never got around to it. Hey, did you know that Offenbach wrote ninety-eight operettas? Or opéras comiques? These classifications somewhat elude me. Staggering in any event. He clearly knew how to write a crowd-pleaser. Certainly, he did based on this opera, not staged 'til after his death. It certainly pleased me.
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And now, the rare political post.

So there's been a lot of argument lately: should the Democrats impeach trump? I mean, obviously he should be impeached, but we live in Hell, so being obviously true doesn't necessarily mean that much.

One seemingly unanswerable thing you might say is: if we don't impeach him, why the hell do we even have impeachment? We've obviously decided that, at least for a republican, no level of corruption and malevolence is too great, so why not get rid of the pretense? Well, we're also obviously not going to take impeachment off the books, because admitting this to ourselves would make us uncomfortable, and besides, republicans would still want to be able to use it for some future Democratic President's equivalent of EMAILZ. So it remains. But the problem is: if it remains and Democrats don't even try to use it, aren't they tacitly suggesting that trump's crimes don't rise to that level? I mean, they're obviously just avoiding it for political reasons, however wise you think those reasons may be, but isn't that sorta kinda what it looks like? It is a vexed question.

You can make pretty plausible cases either way: that impeachment would be good for us, or that it would be good for them. But I think what we really have to admit that we've never had a case that's analogous to this in any useful way, and we just don't know. Comparisons to either Nixon or Clinton are just filled with holes. Here's what I'll say: if you're not going to impeach, then you'd better make damn sure you're keeping the issue alive through the next election cycle, by continual investigations and subpoenas and basically never shutting up about it. Keep them on the defensive. If you let this die as an issue, what the hell good are you? Republicans were able to create this stink of corruption around HRC based on literally nothing, and you can't do it with this cartoonishly corrupt crime boss? Granted, the worthlessness of our media makes it more of an uphill slog, but goddamnit, this is important. This may in fact be the most important thing.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Gaetano Donizetti, Rita (1860)

The story on wikipedia is that while Donizetti was waiting around for a libretto to be ready for him, he ran into Gustave Vaëz, who had written the libretto for Lucia di Lammermoor, and asked him if he could write a short something so he'd have something to occupy himself in the meantime. Vaëz dashed out this one-acter, and the rest is history. Sort of. It wasn't performed until after Donizetti's death, however.
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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Charles Gounod, Faust (1859)

This was the first opera that the Met produced in their inaugural season in 1883. That's fun fact. It was popular then, and it's popular now. It's basically the Faust story, similarly though not identically presented to La damnation de Faust. I do not have that much more to say about it, except that it really is pretty terrific: great music, great drama.
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Friday, April 19, 2019

George Frideric Handel, Rodelinda (1725)

So Bertarido is a king, of somewhere-or-other, only his throne has been usurped by Grimoaldo, a duke of somewhere-or-other, taking Rodelinda, Bertarido's wife, prisoner. Grimoaldo hopes to marry Rodelinda (even though he'd previously been involved with her sister-in-law, Eduige), since Bertarido is thought to be dead. But surprise twist! He's not. And with the aid of the loyal counsellor Unulfo, Eduige and Rodelinda are able to restore him to the throne and kill the evil counsellor Garibaldo and Grimoaldo regrets his ways and gets back together with Eduige and is forgiven and truly everyone is happy.
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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Christoph Willibald Gluck, Iphigénie en Tauride (1779)

Shows what I know: I thought the premise of this opera was some wild-ass fanfiction, but no, it turns out that it's largely based on a Euripides play. That's what I get for not knowing my Greek drama as well as I should! My punishment is harsh yet just.
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Monday, April 15, 2019

Claudio Monteverdi, Orfeo (1607)

So I guess it's debatable whether this is actually the first opera per se, but it's certainly one of the first, and certainly the first that's actually performed these days. I did want to see Euridice, but it doesn't seem to be available anywhere.
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