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Thread: English-speaking Opera - Extended Project (EPQ)

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    Junior Member Jobe's Avatar
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    Question English-speaking Opera - Extended Project (EPQ)

    One of the courses I am going to take (not even sure if I'm allowed yet; only 30 places available in my school) is that of the EPQ, or the Extended Project Qualification.

    The art and fun of such a task is to put 90 hours of work and then write a 5000-7000 word written piece. We have a year to do this.

    Why do I tell you this? Well, I am yet to come up with the title but it will be something like "The significance English Opera" (and I mean, not just Operas from England but all over the Anglosphere). The whole point in it is to have an rather narrow title, so I was also thinking of including Tragedy or Contemporary in there somewhere, if needed.

    Why do I tell you THIS? Well, I'm not actually an Opera-lover, and past Verdi's Othello, Monteverdi's L'orfeo, some Puccini, Rossini - as well as the odd bits of Mozart and of course Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin... I am totally unfamiliar with much of the Opera world - let alone that with an English vernacular.



    This thread exists so I could ask for help from some Opera Gurus or teachers, if ye can find generous time to spare. I want to locate something more than good ol' Porgy and Bess and I can't keep name-dropping Mark-Anthony Turnage every 5 sentences...

    Anyway, hope you're interested in assisting and maybe we'll learn something new together. Poor mother will spend many a day on Amazon whilst I hurl names at her, requesting DVDs and what have you...

    I'll update this thread soon.

    Did I make a stupid mis cake? iPhone.

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Have you heard or seen any of Britten's operas? In my opinion the greatest British opera composer.

    There's also the singularly british phenomenom of Gilbert and Sullivan. That should provide a very unique and culturally relevant perspective.
    "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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    Senior Member Meaghan's Avatar
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    If you are leaning 20th century, listen to lots of Britten! His operas are wonderful and varied. The best-known is Peter Grimes, which is probably a good starting point. Britten is actually the only opera composer with whose works I would say I'm very familiar.
    Here is a list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_britten#Operas

    Handel and Purcell wrote Baroque English-language operas. I don't know much about them, but many other members certainly do.

    It might be interesting to research 19th century English operas (or actually anything after Handel and before Britten!), because less has been written on those, and there aren't really any that are very well-known, besides Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. I highly recommend The Wreckers, by Ethel Smyth. Wonderful, lush, late-Romantic music, and a very dramatic plot. It is about a small coastal village whose residents are very poor and so engage in the practice of wrecking--luring ships onto rocks by setting up false beacons and then taking their valuables, sometimes murdering the sailors. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wreckin...ing_in_Britain) A couple lovers who aren't supposed to be lovers try to stop the wrecking and trouble ensues in typically operatic fashion. Here's a recording: http://www.amazon.com/Ethel-Smyth-Wr.../dp/B0000024E1. Sadly, there is no DVD.

    If you researched this and other operas from this period, you'd be able to say more that hasn't already been said, and also create a chronology of English-language opera without a big hole in the middle.

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    Senior Member Art Rock's Avatar
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    Britten, definitely.

    Smyth is a good suggestion.

    Very British: Boughton's The Immortal hour.
    I treat my music like I treat my pets. It’s something to own, care about and curate with attention to detail. From a blog by hjr.

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Purcell: Dido and Aeneas. The Fairy Queen and King Arthur are closer to masques with extended non-singing passages.

    Handel wrote mainly oratorios in English - eg Theodora, Solomon, The Messiah, Joshua, Judas Maccabeus. Some of these have been staged successfully. Hercules is an opera though.

    The Rake's Progress by Stravinsky is in English, based on a series of Hogarth Prints.

    The Beggar's opera by John Gay - a ballad opera.

    Many contemporary composers write in English - eg
    Philip Glass - Kepler, Waiting for the Barbarians (some of his operas are not in English)
    John Adams - Dr Atomic, Nixon in China, Death of Klinghoffer
    Lorin Maazel - 1984
    Adamo - Little Women

    And yes, you can't go wrong with Britten. My favourites are Billy Budd and Turn of the Screw.
    Last edited by mamascarlatti; Jun-14-2011 at 23:19. Reason: too many typos
    Natalie

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    Senior Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Also, there are Thomas Adés' two operas, Powder Her Face, a chamber opera, and The Tempest.

    And the whole neo-Puccini thing that seems to be all the rage these days.

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    Junior Member Jobe's Avatar
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    All very good suggestions indeed, AND YE HAVE SPURED A LOVE FOR ETHEL SMYTH

    I will be sure to actually gain a focus title tomorrow or the day after and I am humbly grateful for the help already supplied.

    The best thing about Britten is also that he's quite a character... All mini-biographies of Britten from books I've read have taught me something new each time.

    I think Contemporary Opera is too large a gambit. I imagine that living-Composers nowadays wouldn't appreciate me ripping-off-their-music-because-I'm-all-poor-and-have-an-uncultured-background like (although I would like to go and see this). However, I will include it in my project, as one would hope I'd be able to contact genial members of the movement for information as it fascinates me grossly. I think a quick trip down to the ICC CD rack is in order. If you get any more information about modern composers, be sure to inform me.
    Did I make a stupid mis cake? iPhone.

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    Senior Member LordBlackudder's Avatar
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    Senior Member GoneBaroque's Avatar
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    Here are two excerpts from the 1954 opera Troilus and Cressida by sir William Walton:

    and


    and one from The Bear also by Walton and based on a play by Chekov



    Rob

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    ...The man who mistook his wife for a hat by Michael Nyman? Maybe not in the same leauge with the guys above, but still in english and with an interesting sujet.

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    Senior Member GoneBaroque's Avatar
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    Two more great English Operas you might like to look at:

    The Midsummer Marriage by Sir Michael Tippett





    and Sir Michael's King Priam

    Rob

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    Default At the Hawk's Well

    Here's an opera written in 1991; At the Hawk's Well. The libretto is a setting of W. B. Yeats.

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