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Thread: How do you start??

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    Junior Member Caronome's Avatar
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    Question How do you start??

    Hi everyone!

    I'm new to the forum and have only really been into (okay, obsessed with) opera for a year, and I'm trying to learn.

    I have a question:

    How do you listen (as in a CD) to an opera you have never heard before? It always bothers me when I don't know what's happening! I try to watch the opera on VHS or something before getting the CD, but that takes up a lot of time! I'd like to learn how to move straight to CD's. Is there some magic way (lol) or do you read the libretto as it goes?

    Thanks everyone!

    Pace e Gioia,
    Mariel

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Hi Caronome ...

    Welcome to Talk Classical ... I have limited knowledge on opera, but what works for me is to read the libretto along with the music the first couple times. I've seen La Boheme, Carmen and Tannhauser live on stages lots of years ago - they are still my favorites as a listener.
    Kh
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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    It strikes me to suggest a book containing synopses of the operas, like the Penguin Concise Opera Guide. Then you can browse, maybe it'll help you choose a work. There are several books like this but the Penguin is pretty good.

    Hope that helps,
    Frasier

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    Junior Member toughcritic's Avatar
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    You can read about the composer, how the opera was created and so on. Also read what the plot is about before listening. Knowing the background of a certain work will really draw you into it.

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    It strikes me to suggest a book containing synopses of the operas,
    Listen not to Frasier.... Listen not to him

    An opera is like a movie... you don't want to be told in advance who dies, when and how. Do you?

    I usually play the new opera as background music while I'm studying (many, many hours a day, I can say). I do it many times until I catch (superficially, of course) some motivs and themes. Then in my free time I listen to the opera with the libretto in hand...
    Once I know the libretto and the opera very well I just listen to the opera itself for more complex details.

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    Junior Member Mahler Maniac's Avatar
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    I try to play a fun game with opera....I listen to a piece and then try to imagine what is happening...and then I go an see the opera and see if I am right!

    Im usually wrong though...lol..

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manuel View Post
    Listen not to Frasier.... Listen not to him

    An opera is like a movie... you don't want to be told in advance who dies, when and how. Do you?
    Looks like Penguin don't agree with you - they'd have expected it to be a good seller even to take it on. Penguin rarely publish something that isn't a dead cert.

    Uh...not every opera has someone dying.
    The plots of well-known operas are pretty well known - they've been around a long time and they're less about who dies and how than 'is the whole work enjoyable theatre?'

    However, there is a similarity to new movies - I've attended a couple of opera premieres and frankly wondered why I bothered.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frasier View Post
    Looks like Penguin don't agree with you - they'd have expected it to be a good seller even to take it on. Penguin rarely publish something that isn't a dead cert.
    If you are aware somebody sells somethin with the certain that it will appeal to a wide, wide public... avoid it. It's attraction is in most cases based in simplicity, as it's designed to be found interesting by a big number of non-alike individuals.


    Quote Originally Posted by Frasier View Post
    Uh...not every opera has someone dying.
    That's true....

    Andrea Chenier
    La Traviata
    Turandot
    Rigoletto
    Adriana Lecouvreur
    Madama Buterfly
    Cavalleria Rusticana
    Tosca
    La damnation de Faust
    Lakmé
    Carmen
    I Pagliacci


    ....

    Even if nobody dies... I suppose not everybody wants to be told the young couple marries at the end of Il Signore Bruschino (attenders will somehow have the idea of the happy ending, but that's not the same)

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    In the same vein, most operatic CDs offer a synopsis as well as the libretto so people can get an idea of what's going on. Since most opera I'm interested in is sung in Italian and I don't speak Italian (assuming the diction of the singers was good anyway); and since I don't want to sit there following the libretto the whole time, I read the synopsis.

    All that aside, I've concluded that the only way to really get into these things is to watch, either attending the opera (expensive if you live in London) or on the small screen. Because it's more than just the story line/plot and who gets done in at the end - it's the theatre, the cast, the sets, etc, as much as the music itself. Still, A DVD usually offers the advantage of subtitles for one's first-time-through. And one can watch individual actz if there's insufficient time for the whole thing.

    So I strongly recommend watching a variety of styles, eras and composers. Operatic DVDs tend (like seats at the opera house) to be expensive but can be obtained used in like-new conditions or borrowed from a library. It's the only way to assimilate the story quickly while learning which composers, directors and singers you like.

    Unfortunately, a bad production can wreck a piece so it's too easy to "not like a work" when really the performers not the composer are at fault.

    EF

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    Member cato's Avatar
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    Everyone here has already given you good advice, and the only thing I add is my own experence.

    First, before I buy an opera CD, I like to listen to it before I buy. Usually this can be done either on-line, or most music stores have "scanners" that you can use to listen to the CD before you buy.

    However, sometimes I can buy an opera before I even hear it, just based upon the composer/type of opera.

    For example, I bought Tchaikovsky's opera Mazeppa, because......

    1. I love Russian opera.
    2. I love Tchaikovsky's style of composing.
    3. It's a histroical opera, and I love opera's based upon history.
    4. Like Tchaikovsky's other works, it's a late 19th century romantic opera.

    Based on all that, I bought it, and I love it, which I knew I would, even before hearing it.

    Now, as far as listening to it, vs. reading along, I would just say do whatever works for you.

    I listen sevral times before I read along with it. For me, the music and sound of the voices take center stage, as opposed to the story. Don't get me wrong, the story is important, it's just that for me it takes a back seat to the sound of the music and voices.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by cato; Apr-08-2007 at 22:14.

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    Senior Member zlya's Avatar
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    I'm brand new to this forum, but I'd like to venture a historic tidbit that may be of use.

    During the 19th century it was common practice in many places to buy an opera libretto and study it before going to see the opera. One would then take the libretto along to the opera and follow along with the singers. This was in the days before the giant flashing supertitles.

    So following along with the libretto is not only useful and rewarding, it's a historically authentic way to appreciate the great European operas.

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    My suggestionS:

    Change your old VHS....LOL

    Buy operas on DVD, you will love them! You can read the text while they are singing!!!!! Take advantage of our time...become a technologically freak!!!!!

    I love operas on CD...I prefer operas on DVD!!!!!! And I am an opera freak!

    Do you want to see my collection? ( I am proud of it, that's by biggest tresor):

    http://www3.bell.net/svp1/

    Bye

    Martin

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by myaskovsky2002 View Post
    My suggestionS:

    Change your old VHS....LOL

    Buy operas on DVD, you will love them! You can read the text while they are singing!!!!! Take advantage of our time...become a technologically freak!!!!!

    I love operas on CD...I prefer operas on DVD!!!!!! And I am an opera freak!

    Do you want to see my collection? ( I am proud of it, that's by biggest tresor):

    http://www3.bell.net/svp1/

    Bye

    Martin
    These are posts of 3 years ago, myaskovsky. Most likely these users aren't around any longer.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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