Monday, June 17, 2019

Antonio Vivaldi, Juditha Triumphans (1716-ish)

This is based on the Book of Judith, a part of the Old Testament that may or may not be apocryphal, I can't be having with your religious debates, but I'm going to take it as such because it's kinda badass. The plot--which is basically the plot here--is that Assyrians are trying to fuck up Israel, but then this young widow, Judith, goes to beg mercy from the general, Holofernes; he falls in love with her and she ultimately beheads him when he's in a drunken stupor, breaking the back of the invaders. I feel like whoever wrote this didn't have a clear conception of how hard it would be to literally sever someone's head, as opposed to just cutting their throat, which would do the job just as well. This was written to celebrate a victory of the Republic of Venice against invaders, and at one point towards the end this is specifically spelt out, lest you should miss it.
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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Joseph Haydn, L'infedeltà delusa (1773)

That's "deceit outwitted," a title which really doesn't relate to anything in the opera.  Like the Rameau opera, I watched this with French subtitles, but there's a big difference: in the former, the subtitles were just a transcription of the libretto; hence, eighteenth-century French. But here, the libretto of course is in Italian, so the subtitles just translate it to contemporary French--which is just a shitload easier for me to understand. So that's good.
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Friday, June 14, 2019

Joseph Haydn, Orlando Paladino (1782)

Haydn is an extremely well-regarded composer. Perhaps you've heard of a little thing called The Creation?  And yet for some reason nobody thinks about his operatic career. But he wrote sixteen operas (the first of which is lost), so, I mean...why wouldn't you be interested?
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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Jean-Philippe Rameau, Castor et Pollux (1737)

French opera is almost as old as Italian, and yet for whatever reason, you don't hear much about the French baroque. Or at least I don't. So I watched this. As far as I can tell--and I know it's absurd to generalize from a sample size of one, but the wikipedia entry on French opera confirms that this is the norm--the three biggest differences are:

1. A lot more time given over to elaborate dances;
2. Much more straightforward plots than the byzantine opera seria style; and
3. Probably most significantly: no castrato roles. More because for whatever reason the French didn't like the style than any moral reasons, but still, they weren't complicit in that particular evil, so good for them. It's a very intriguing and probably unsolvable mystery, though: what reasons would there be for that cultural difference?
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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Mark-Anthony Turnage, Anna Nicole (2011)

First question: is this really a contemporary opera about Anna Nicole Smith? It sure is! Second question: seriously, is this a joke? Well, if it's a joke, it's a joke commissioned and produced by the Royal Opera House and starring Eva-Maria Westbroek. So...really not a joke at all. And actually, the concept fits neatly into the operatic tradition. La traviata. It's the single most-performed opera in the world. And it's based on the life-story of a woman who had only recently died who was considered to be morally disreputable (yes, filtered through Dumas and then the censors, but STILL). And in terms of character, there are obvious comparisons to operatic women like Lulu or Manon Lescaut. So I think this is a wholly justifiable operatic subject.
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Monday, June 10, 2019

George Frideric Handel, Agrippina (1709)

So almost immediately following the release of the 2019-20 Met in HD schedule, which includes this opera, this is announced on Operavision. COINCIDENCE?!? Well, I suppose it pretty much has to be, but it still seems pretty weird: Handel wrote forty-some operas, and you both just happened to hit on this one RIGHT NOW? Hmm! Well. Anyway.
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Sunday, June 09, 2019

Mario Vargas Llosa, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977)

Well, here we have this, which is a book what I read. It's an in part semi-autobiographical thing in which the narrator, named Mario Vargas, okay okay, is an eighteen-year-old aspiring writer working editing news bulletins for a radio station. "Aunt Julia" is his thirty-two-year-old divorced aunt (no biological relation) with whom he starts a relations; "the scriptwriter" is Pedro Camacho, a Bolivian who's been brought into Peru to bring his tireless work to the local radio soap operas (you might think from the title that the two are related in some way, but they're really not). Every other chapter is an unrelated story which, it quickly transpires, is an episode of one of Camacho's many serials. These start out normal but become strange as the scriptwriter starts to lose it, and characters from serials start getting mixed up and changing names and roles and everything, sometimes within the chapter. So the book is about the narrator and his relationships with these two characters.
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