Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Thomas Adès, The Exterminating Angel (2016)

Ha!  Crossing one of those unseen composers off the list right away!

My dad saw this a while ago and super-duper hated it. But I mean, really, if you want to discourage me from seeing an opera, the best choice would be to say, eh, it was kinda meh. Obviously I'm going to want to see such a maligned piece. My dad's taste in opera more or less overlaps with mine; it's not super-conservative or anything. Still, you won't catch him watching Einstein on the Beach, say. Nonetheless, I was entirely prepared to believe that I would indeed dislike this. That it would be just impossibly awkward and "what the hell do people SEE in this?" Alas--if that's what you were hoping for--no. I thought this was a really good opera. Maybe even better than that. Um...I feel like that's sort of anti-climactic, but it's just how it is.
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Monday, January 20, 2020

Top Ten Opera Composers I've Somehow Avoided

I've seen a fair few operas, but there are hundreds of composers I've NEVER seen. I mean, thousand, really, but in terms of those that are ever performed and available in any way, probably hundreds. I want to see them all! Why not? But there are a few notably notable omissions on my list, so here's the ten that seem most glaring to me.
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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Claude Debussy, Pelléas et Mélisande (1902)

Hey, it's this! What's "this?" It's my two hundredth opera, that's what! Of course, it depends on what you're willing to count as an "opera," which is why this sort of effort to exactly ennumerate things like this is an exercise in foolishness, but fuck man, I can't help it. It's my generation! I think I approach operas the way some do pokémon, though I think they're more likely to actually catch 'em all.
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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Unsuk Chin, Alice in Wonderland (2007)

Who's got two thumbs and has seen a whopping THREE operas by women? Not to brag, but that's a total of almost exactly 1.5% of the total! Okay, kind of pathetic. But I have to wonder: even if you decided that your only goal was to see as many operas by woman as possible, how many would you be able to accrue? Would you be able to get to triple digits? I have my doubts. It's not a problem that can be individually solved.
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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Camille Saint-Saëns, Samson et Dalila (1877)

Here's a somewhat famous opera I'd never seen, so I thought, why not? Probably everyone basically knows the story of Samson and Delilah: he's a tough Israelite warrior fighting the Philistines, until Delilah (who--I'm not a Biblical expert--I think is supposed to be another Israelite who betrays him in the original story, but in the opera she's clearly a Philistine herself) seduces him and gets him to reveal the secret of his strength, which is his hair; she has it cut and he's turned over to the Philistines but then, for his final attack, he knocks down the temple's pillars and everyone dies. Extremely edifying.
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Friday, January 10, 2020

Charles Gounod, La nonne sanglante (1854)

This is based on an episode from Mathew Lewis' gothic novel The Monk. The idea is that these two families are at war with one another. They decide to stop fighting and to signify the end of their enmity, Agnès, one of their daughters, should marry the eldest son from the other. But OH NO! She and the younger son, Rodolphe, are in love! What to do? They decide to elope, but there's a spooky story that the ghost of a nun is walking the halls of the castle! Rodolphe doesn't believe it, but then he mistakes the ghost for Agnès and pledges his troth to her instead (he may not be all that bright). Then, lucky break, it turns out Rodolphe's brother has been killed in The Wars. Only problem is this damn nun, who won't give Rodolphe up unless she avenges her by killing her lover who murdered her. He agrees, but oh no, who does the murdered turn out to be? Only people who have seen an opera before will be able to guess the answer.
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Monday, January 06, 2020

Philip Glass, Einstein on the Beach (1976)

As the opera opens, we see two women sitting on the side of the otherwise-bare stage, emotionlessly reciting a series of disconnected numbers and phrases over a faint background ambient drone.  For the first part of this, there's also a lot of noise from the audience, who don't quite seem to realize that the opera has started, though eventually they quiet down.  This goes on for something like twenty minutes. The question is: can you imagine yourself conceivably liking this? You don't have to necessarily like it as done, but can you imagine a situation where you would? If so, this may be for you. It may not, but it may be. If not...I'd say it's definitely not.
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