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Thread: English Opera

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    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Default English Opera

    What are some of your favourite operas in the English language? I know for some, English is perhaps an awkward language for opera, but nonetheless many great pieces have been composed.

    I shall start with a few. Perhaps the greatest of all English operas ever written.

    Handel, Semele (1744)

    Handel, Hercules (1744)

    Both are categorised in his oeuvre as "oratorios" (historical reasons) but oratorios they ain't.

    Does anyone have the following version of Hercules by William Christie (2006)?


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    Super Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Yes I do and I love it. I'm always banging on about Joyce DiDonato's heart-rending performance of "Where shall I fly".

    Handel oratorios I also love are Solomon and Athalia.

    Other English language favourites are the Rake's Progress, Porgy and Bess and Dido and Aeneas.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Yep. Purcell's Dido and Aeneas is a fine piece. Lots of very good versions around.

    I haven't listened to Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress entirely yet. Shall do soon.

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    English operas... written by a German composer who was profoundly impacted by the Italians.

    I quite like Delius' A Village Romeo and Juliet.

    Britten might be the greatest native English opera composer: Peter Grimes, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Turn of the Screw, Billy Budd, Death in Venice.

    Thomas Adès seems promising... although I have only just heard bits of Powder Her Face, and only heard The Tempest once all the way through.

    While I quite like Purcell, I wasn't sold on Dido and Aeneas... should I give The Faerie Queene a shot?

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StlukesguildOhio View Post
    While I quite like Purcell, I wasn't sold on Dido and Aeneas... should I give The Faerie Queene a shot?
    Absolutely. It's wonderful. Just keep in mind that it is a masque, not opera, therefore it is very different, it is a synthesis of different genres that doesn't follow the usual operatic language.

    I love many of the above quoted (Peter Grimes and The Rake's Progress are among my favorites, and Porgy and Bess is very special), and I'd add The Ghosts of Versailles.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Absolutely. It's wonderful. Just keep in mind that it is a masque, not opera, therefore it is very different, it is a synthesis of different genres that doesn't follow the usual operatic language.

    I love many of the above quoted (Peter Grimes and The Rake's Progress are among my favorites, and Porgy and Bess is very special), and I'd add The Ghosts of Versailles.
    Fair point about Purcell, although at that point in time (1689), the genre of English opera was not as well developed as one might think, and Dido was the closest one could associate the terms "English opera" with it.

    The first true English opera came along when Handel penned his masterpieces.

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    I think the first work to be called an English opera was John Blow's Venus and Adonis.
    But I hear what you mean about Handel.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    "English language" operas? Accck! I missed that. Surely add Porgy and Bess, Albéniz' Henry Clifford and Merlin, Glass' Einstein on the Beach and Waiting for the Barbarians, Victor Herbert Babes in Toyland, Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, Menotti's The Consul, Amahl and The Night Visitors, The Medium, Louis Andriessen's Rosa - The Death of a Composer, Tobias Picker's Therese Raquin, Jake Heggie Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, James MacMillan The Sacrifice,...

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    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    I think the first work to be called an English opera was John Blow's Venus and Adonis.
    But I hear what you mean about Handel.
    Yep. I've got Venus and Adonis directed by Rene Jacobs on the Harmonia Mundi Gold label. Nice.

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    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StlukesguildOhio View Post
    "English language" operas? Accck! I missed that. Surely add Porgy and Bess, Albéniz' Henry Clifford and Merlin, Glass' Einstein on the Beach and Waiting for the Barbarians, Victor Herbert Babes in Toyland, Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, Menotti's The Consul, Amahl and The Night Visitors, The Medium, Louis Andriessen's Rosa - The Death of a Composer, Tobias Picker's Therese Raquin, Jake Heggie Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers, James MacMillan The Sacrifice,...
    Wow, wow! Slow down. I don't know several of them. Which ones are your favourites, as an English language opera?

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    Wow, wow! Slow down. I don't know several of them. Which ones are your favourites, as an English language opera?

    Porgy and Bess is a clear favorite.
    I also quite like any of the Britten operas and as I already noted, Delius' A Village Romeo and Juliet.
    I have a thing for Minimalism (which may be connected with my love of Indian music) and so I quite like Glass' Einstein of the Beach and Waiting for the Barbarians
    Another I failed to mention is Harry Partch' Delusion of the Fury... which in many ways is far more innovative (and challenging) than anything by Schoenberg, Berg, Cage, Ligeti, Glass, etc...
    Of the less-well-known I quite like the operas by Menotti, Floyd's Susannah and Picker's Therese Raquin.
    Louis Andriessen's may be a bit too "out there"... along with Glass and Reich's Dr. Atomic, Death of Klinghoffer, and Nixon in China... but I quite like it.

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    Senior Member Herkku's Avatar
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    I like Dido and Aeneas, Semele, A Village Romeo and Juliet, Sāvitri, Troilus and Cressida, The Midsummer Marriage, Peter Grimes, Albert Herring, The Turn of the Screw, Owen Wingrave, Death in Venice and The Rake's Progress.

    Janet Baker recorded some of those mentioned and I'm especially partial to her recordings!

    I wonder why English is considered awkward as an opera language, since most of the popular music is sung in English. Could someone explain that to me?

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    Vaughan-Williams is an underrated opera composer. Try the Chandos recordings of Sir John in Love and Pilgrim's Progress to get an idea of what he was able to accomplish.

    Britten probably has the most interesting selection, with Peter Grimes being in my opinion one of the best operas ever. I also like Albert Herring, Billy Budd, Death in Venice, Midsummer Night's Dream etc.

    For American I would add Moore's Baby Doe, Davis' X, Tania, Amistad, Previn's Streetcar.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rangstrom View Post
    Vaughan-Williams is an underrated opera composer. Try the Chandos recordings of Sir John in Love and Pilgrim's Progress to get an idea of what he was able to accomplish.
    I got the Pilgrim's Progress but it is still on my unlistened to pile.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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