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Thread: Modern Opera

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    Senior Member crmoorhead's Avatar
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    Default Modern Opera

    I was thinking of compiling a list of (and doing further research on) modern operas. For the sake of argument, I'll arbitrarily include any opera written after 1950 in this category. Here is an initial list of ones that spring to mind mainly constructed from various Amazon wishlists of mine. Many more suggestions would be welcome, especially operas within the last 30 years.

    What I want to know is:

    A) Are any of them any good? Which ones are the best/worst?

    B) Do you own copies of any of these on disc or DVD? How many?

    C) Have you attended any peformances of any modern operas? Any premieres?

    ADAMS

    Nixon in China
    Death of Klinghoffer
    Doctor Atomic

    ADES

    The Tempest

    BERNSTEIN

    Candide

    BIRTWISTLE

    The Mask of Orpheus

    BRITTEN

    Billy Budd
    Gloriana
    The Turn of the Screw
    Noye's Fludde
    A Midsummer Night's Dream
    Death in Venice

    CORIGLIANO

    The Ghost of Versailles

    GLASS

    Einstein at the Beach
    Ahknaten
    Satyagraha

    HINDEMITH

    Die Harmonie der Welt

    LIGETI

    Le Grand Macabre

    MARTINU

    The Greek Passion

    MAXWELL DAVIES

    Taverner

    MENOTTI

    Goya
    The Saint of Bleecker Street
    The Consul
    Amahl and the Night Visitors

    MESSIAEN

    St. Francois D'Assissi

    RAUTAVAARA

    Vincent
    The House of the Sun

    SAARIAHO

    L'Amour de Loin

    STOCKHAUSEN

    Licht

    STRAVINSKY

    The Rakes Progress

    TIPPETT

    King Priam

    VAUGHAN-WILLIAMS

    The Pilgrim's Progress

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    Senior Member guythegreg's Avatar
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    I saw the first part of Nixon in China at the Met. The drama wasn't working for me, and I seem to recall I left at the first interval.

    I listened to the first part of The Tempest on CD. Seemed to be a lot of screeching and roaring - pretty tuneless - so I didn't try it again.

    I saw The Nose twice and loved it. I know, it was written before 1950, but hey. I did wish Shostakovich had written some music for it.

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    Super Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Nixon in China is very good. It works all the way through for me. Kathleen Kim is a killer Madame Mao in the Met's recent production.

    The Death of Klinghoffer has been made into a truly wonderful film (with a cut of about 20 minutes in the music), filmed and sung live on a ship in the Med, with Christopher Maltman and Tom Randle). Powerful stuff:



    I enjoy the Rake's Progress - accessible music and a great story, completely bonkers (Tom Rakewell goes to the city to seek his forturne and ends up marrying marries Baba the turk, a bearded lady, and loses his money, sanity and true love). I know two excellent DVD, one based on the Hogarth engravings, and one transfered to Oil-rich Texas and Vegas.



    Billy Budd is one of my favourite operas, with music redolent of the sea, and a gripping plot; and I recently saw a production at the English National Opera. It was set in a kind of gulag, with Claggart in the obligatory Regie long leather coat, but the set was rather too restricting for my liking, though the singing was good. My first love will still always be this Glyndebourne DVD, with John Mark Ainsley as the definitive Captain Vere:



    The Turn of the Screw is dramatically extremely successful, with music in turns tonal and dissonant but always very beautiful. I have several versions but the one that always stays in my mind is this film:

    Last edited by mamascarlatti; Aug-18-2012 at 22:46.
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    Super Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Recently I saw a DVD of Harrison Britwistle's The Minotaur (from the library). I was absolutely blown away, it seems like such a strong opera, beautifully performed by the principals, full of pain and pathos. It was so good that I have just purchased my own copy ( in the presto classical deep discount sale). This is the version I watched:



    Akhnaten for a long time was my favourite modern opera, I used to go for long walks listening to it my my Walkman, my pocket jingling with tapes. Funnily enough when I first saw it in the early eighties at ENO I hated it, I was totally unused to the musical idiom and was wondering what on earth was going on. I'm so annoyed, because I'll never see it again, Glass has forbidden any production to be put on video.

    The recent production of Satyagraha at the Met (which I saw in the HD broadcast) was well executed, but spoiled for me by the decsision not to put subtitles. They gave us a handout but of course the print was minute and the lights were out and I didn't have my glasses. Grrrr.

    L'Amour de Loin has a strange, eerie, other-world feel to the music, very lovely and hypnotic, with a courtly love story.
    I can recommend this DVD as a starting point, impeccably sung by Dawn Upshaw and Gerald Finley,



    but what I really long for is for this production to be available as a DVD:

    Last edited by mamascarlatti; Aug-18-2012 at 22:24.
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    Senior Member crmoorhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    Nixon in China is very good. It works all the way through for me. Kathleen Kim is a killer Madame Mao in the Met's recent production.

    The Death of Klinghoffer has been made into a truly wonderful film (with a cut of about 20 minutes in the music), filmed and sung live on a ship in the Med, with Christopher Maltman and Tom Randle). Powerful stuff:
    I enjoy Nixon in China too. The last act is a bit odd, but it was better on second viewing. I recorded a performance at the Met on Sky Arts 2. All the characters are good and the humour works well for me. There are some really iconic scenes in the opera and the music's character lends well to the drama.

    The Klinghoffer film looks intriguing.

    I enjoy the Rake's Progress - accessible music and a great story, completely bonkers (Tom Rakewell goes to the city to seek his forturne and ends up marrying marries Baba the turk, a bearded lady, and loses his money, sanity and true love). I know two excellent DVD, one based on the Hogarth engravings, and one transfered to Oil-rich Texas and Vegas.
    I have a recording of this from the Stravinsky boxed set, but have not got around to listening to it yet.

    Billy Budd is one of my favourite operas, with music redolent of thre sea, and a gripping plot; and I recently saw a production at the English National Opera. It was set in a kind of gulag, with Claggart in the obligatory Regie long leather coat, but the set was rather too restricting for my liking, though the singing was good. My first love will still always be this Glyndebourne DVD, with John Mark Ainsley as the definitive Captain Vere:

    The Turn of the Screw is dramatically extremely successful, with music in turns tonal and dissonant but always very beautiful. I have several versions but the one that always stays in my mind is this film:
    I haven't listened to any of Britten's operas yet, so I'll put these at the top of the list.


    Recently I saw a DVD of Harrison Britwistle's The Minotaur (from the library). I was absolutely blown away, it seems like such a strong opera, beautifully performed by the principals, full of pain and pathos. It was so good that I have just purchased my own copy
    This was one I left out of the list. I have seen mixed reviews of this and have not heard any of Birtwistle's compositions at all.

    Akhnaten for a long time was my favourite modern opera, I used to go for long walks listening to it my my Walkman, my pocket jingling with tapes. Funnily enough when I first saw it in the early eighties at ENO I hated it, I was totally unused to the musical idiom and was wondering what on earth was going on. I'm so annoyed, because I'll never see it again, Glass has forbidden any production to be put on video.
    I didn't know that it is forbidden to put productions on video. Does this apply to all his operas? For the number of operas he has composed, there are very few DVDs available. A brief search on amazon shows that the recent Kepler is available.

    I am actually listening to Akhnaten right now. I have listened to excerpts before. This is my first full listening. It'll take a little time to digest.

    The recent production of Satyagraha at the Met (which I saw in the HD broadcast) was well executed, but spoiled for me by the decsision not to put subtitles. They gave us a handout but of course the print was minute and the lights were out and I didn't have my glasses. Grrrr.
    I did see this advertised at the local Picturehouse cinema, but I work the evenings that they have opera showings.

    L'Amour de Loin has a strange, eerie, other-world feel to the music, very lovely and hypnotic, with a courtly love story.
    Sounds great! The still you posted above looks spectacular! :O

    Thanks for all the recommendations!
    Last edited by crmoorhead; Aug-18-2012 at 23:08.

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    Senior Member Crudblud's Avatar
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    Messiaen's St. François d'Assise is my favourite opera, so what am I going to recommend? Check out Kent Nagano's recording on CD with José van Dam (who played the lead role in the première and several productions afterward). On DVD I highly recommend Pierre Audi's production conducted by Ingo Metzmacher, with Rod Gilfry as St. François. I believe the original production under Seiji Ozawa is also available on DVD, and while it's fine on CD and what few clips I have seen of the staged production look great, the video quality is horrendous and in serious need of remastering.
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    Super Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crmoorhead View Post
    I haven't listened to any of Britten's operas yet, so I'll put these at the top of the list.
    You are in for a treat. Don't forget also Peter Grimes - my favourite production despite the slightly questionable English diction from some of the cast, but the two principals are electrifying:



    A much more brutal portrayal of Peter is by Jon Vickers in this CD - I don't buy Peter Pears as Peter, he's too gentle.



    And Owen Wingrave, a moving plea for pacifism (This was written as an opera film to start with)



    A strange but compelling film, partly Britten's Gloriana and partly a kind of portrait of Josephine Barstow, is this one:



    For something lighthearted and fun, and a triumphant overthrowing of a mother's shackles, see Albert Herring:

    Last edited by mamascarlatti; Aug-18-2012 at 23:42.
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    Senior Member crmoorhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crudblud View Post
    Messiaen's St. François d'Assise is my favourite opera, so what am I going to recommend? Check out Kent Nagano's recording on CD with José van Dam (who played the lead role in the première and several productions afterward). On DVD I highly recommend Pierre Audi's production conducted by Ingo Metzmacher, with Rod Gilfry as St. François. I believe the original production under Seiji Ozawa is also available on DVD, and while it's fine on CD and what few clips I have seen of the staged production look great, the video quality is horrendous and in serious need of remastering.
    I find Messiaen absolutely fascinating as a composer and as a man, but the two things that put me off are the high price of the DVD and the length of the opera. Length isn't really an obstacle, but it is a reason for me delaying until I might have more time. Procrastination is the thief of time, as they say! Maybe I'll snatch a bargain one of these days.
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    Senior Member Crudblud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crmoorhead View Post
    I find Messiaen absolutely fascinating as a composer and as a man, but the two things that put me off are the high price of the DVD and the length of the opera. Length isn't really an obstacle, but it is a reason for me delaying until I might have more time. Procrastination is the thief of time, as they say! Maybe I'll snatch a bargain one of these days.
    I hope you do! It's quite unlike anything I've experienced before or since.
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    Super Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar is another recent opera which I find utterly beautiful, with sephardic and middle eastern folk tunes incorporated into the music.

    This is the recording that introduced me to it:



    A stage production is also available on YouTube: part one
    Last edited by mamascarlatti; Aug-19-2012 at 22:33.
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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    A) Are any of them any good? Which ones are the best/worst? Yes! I love modern opera. See my list below of ones I like.

    B) Do you own copies of any of these on disc or DVD? How many? No

    C) Have you attended any peformances of any modern operas? Any premieres?
    Yes, Ive seen a few of the below in the theater (with a *).

    If you dont mind, Ill include some operas from before 1950, because they are certainly modern, more 'modern' than some on your list.


    - Il Prigioniero, Luigi Dallapicola (1948) *
    A brilliant serial opera in one act which packs quite an emotional punch.



    Music here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DVNOQW3O1A

    - Die Soldaten, Bern Alois Zimmermann (circa. 1963) *
    One of the most powerful works of art Ive ever experienced, and definitely one of my top 10 operas. The score is near unplayable and calls for a huge orchestra complete with offstage brass and an onstage jazz group. Electronics and tape is also used near the end. Its based on an 18th century play about a girl who's innocence is robbed by soldiers.



    - Hans Werner Henze is one of the greatest composers alive. Hes written quite a few operas of which I have seen/heard and can recommend the following:

    L'Upupa. A fantastic comedy:


    Der junge lord. Another comedy:


    Henze music is wonderfully eclectic and incorporates many many styles.

    - I can also double some recommendations already made: Britten's operas, Stravinsky's and the Messiaen.
    "Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody." - Rousseau

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    What about Poul Ruders the Danish composer whose work includes the following:

    The Handmaids Tale
    Elma Jezkova

    The Handmaids Tale was performed by the Royal Danish Opera and produced on a good cd. Here is a review in the Guardian newspaper (UK)
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandsty...opping.culture

    The other i would mention is Stewart Wallace who created the opera Harvey Milk. This is a decent opera but for me the last 10 minutes are superb when Harvey gets shot. This is chillingly done and beautifully sung. Again, it is available on cd.

    And for Hindemith you did not mention Cardillac, his opera which has several attempts on DVD.

    Philippe Manoury's who wrote "K" and opera based on Franz Kafka's 'The trial'. I saw this in Paris a few years back now, a strange opera i must say!!

    Tan Dun who has written several operas. 'Tea' which was recorded in DVD and Marco Polo which i have seen on CD.
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    Obviously the Britten and Stravinsky Operas stand out. Both Billy Budd and Peter Grimes are superb! I like Billy budd but I absolutely love Peter Grimes, especially with Anthony Rolfe Johnson as Peter. The DVD mentioned with Christopher Ventris is not the best production, quite boring as it the one at the Met. We need a really good DVD!

    The Harrison Birtwistle opera 'The mask of Orpheus' is just strange noises ....very weird. I picked it up cheap in a second hand shop some years back and it is weird...weird!

    Oh i just remember one ...Lorin Maazel...he did 1984, i have the DVD with Simon Keenlyside. Not a fan of this miserable looking man and his conducting just bores the pants off me. Need to have a very wet night to bother watching this again!

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    Super Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yashin View Post
    I absolutely love Peter Grimes, especially with Anthony Rolfe Johnson as Peter. The DVD mentioned with Christopher Ventris is not the best production, quite boring as it the one at the Met. We need a really good DVD!
    Luckily you can make up your own mind if is boring, as it is available on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nb3j3...13C010D897C8C7 This is the only Peter Grimes I have seen where the relationship between Peter and Ellen is credible and rather tender.

    Oh i just remember one ...Lorin Maazel...he did 1984, i have the DVD with Simon Keenlyside. Not a fan of this miserable looking man and his conducting just bores the pants off me. Need to have a very wet night to bother watching this again!
    I tend to agree that the music is rather dull, eclectic and not very memorable, but I enjoyed the production by Robert Lepage, complete with Diana Damrau as a truly scary gym instructor.
    Last edited by mamascarlatti; Aug-20-2012 at 12:55.
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