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Thread: Opera- Libretto by Composer

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Default Opera- Libretto by Composer

    Reviewing what I know of this topic, the Composer-Librettists so far seem to fall into two categories...
    Category One: The Master of Bayreuth!
    Category Two: Various "one-hit wonders." Current examples are- Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, Charpentier's Louise, and Arrigno Boito's Mefistofele. The latter two, like Flotow's Martha or Thomas' Mignon, were more highly regarded in the era of our grandparents. I might (and probably will) research this further, but I also thought it would be fun to consider these works, and others that could be added.
    The hardest knife ill us'd doth lose his edge. Shakespeare- Sonnet 95

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    Berlioz, Messiaen, Tippett, Prokofiev.

    Messiaen would be another of your one hit wonders. Two of Berlioz' three completed operas have libretti by him. I don't know offhand if all of Tippett's libretti are by him or only some. And I threw Prokofiev in, even though it was he and his wife who worked together on libretti.

    Nice thread, though. I'd like to know who else wrote their own libretti.

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    Senior Member Handel's Avatar
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    I don't have precise example, but I am sure Handel contributed to his operas/oratorios libretti.
    At first, I discovered the wonders of classical music through the marvels of its baroque period and especially those from Mr. Handel, which explain my forum nickname. About 10 years ago, my interest leaned over classical period and Herr Haydn's production. The music bus recently drove me to the early 1800s. Where will it end?

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    Quote Originally Posted by some guy View Post
    Berlioz, Messiaen, Tippett, Prokofiev.

    Messiaen would be another of your one hit wonders. Two of Berlioz' three completed operas have libretti by him. I don't know offhand if all of Tippett's libretti are by him or only some. And I threw Prokofiev in, even though it was he and his wife who worked together on libretti.

    Nice thread, though. I'd like to know who else wrote their own libretti.
    I know he wrote libretti for The Knot Garden, Midsummer Marriage and King Priam but I'm afraid I turned Priam off after about five minutes. I'm no fan of Tippet though I'm usually happy with contemporary music. From his music I'd guess he lived a fairly stressful life.

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    "I have only come here seeking knowledge"... a cheap Gordon Sumner lyric, I know- but I have to ask... WHICH Berlioz operas were ones where he did the libretti? In the case of Prokofiev (and as far as I'm concerned, he counts), maybe we could give an ordinal rank of his operas, by popularity (for the sake of completion, don'tcha know).
    The hardest knife ill us'd doth lose his edge. Shakespeare- Sonnet 95

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    Wagner is a good example of why composers should stick to composing and keep away from words!

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    It's not the first time I've heard the "Wagner should have stuck to music" sentiment. Not long ago, I heard a native German speaker say something similar. If I'd been in a more confrontational mood, I would have said, "How does it make you feel to know that Wagner has spread the German language further across the globe than Goethe, or Rilke, or Hesse?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_town/Philly View Post
    It's not the first time I've heard the "Wagner should have stuck to music" sentiment. Not long ago, I heard a native German speaker say something similar. If I'd been in a more confrontational mood, I would have said, "How does it make you feel to know that Wagner has spread the German language further across the globe than Goethe, or Rilke, or Hesse?"
    Yes but some of the stuff Wagner wrote sounds laughably stupid, in English translation at least. So what favour did he do the German language?

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    Senior Member Leporello87's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_town/Philly View Post
    It's not the first time I've heard the "Wagner should have stuck to music" sentiment. Not long ago, I heard a native German speaker say something similar. If I'd been in a more confrontational mood, I would have said, "How does it make you feel to know that Wagner has spread the German language further across the globe than Goethe, or Rilke, or Hesse?"
    Very true. However, note that, by virtue of the music, this would have happened anyway, even if he had outsourced the writing of the libretti to someone who knew more what they was doing.

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corkin View Post
    So what favour did he do the German language?
    Well, if you consider the numberless people who've made been motivated to acquire a better understanding of German and had as their initial motivation a better understanding of Wagnerian opera, I would say that constitutes a big favor to the German language.
    Quote Originally Posted by Leporello87 View Post
    by virtue of the music, this would have happened anyway, even if he had outsourced the writing of the libretti to someone who knew more what they was doing.
    I'll grant your initial premise as uncontested, but I shouldn't think that it would be necessary to remind someone who bears your screen name that if you outsource the writing of your libretti, you may wind up with text that differs from the native language of the composer
    The hardest knife ill us'd doth lose his edge. Shakespeare- Sonnet 95

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_town/Philly View Post
    Well, if you consider the numberless people who've made been motivated to acquire a better understanding of German and had as their initial motivation a better understanding of Wagnerian opera, I would say that constitutes a big favor to the German language. I'll grant your initial premise as uncontested, but I shouldn't think that it would be necessary to remind someone who bears your screen name that if you outsource the writing of your libretti, you may wind up with text that differs from the native language of the composer
    The problem is, although it is clear Wagner had considerable talent, his end products are so often either over-blown or underachieving, but either way always conspicuously self-indulgent. A shame really....

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    I understand that this has morphed into a "wind-up-the-Wagner-fan" foray. Still, like Carl Sandburg said about the city of my birth, I have big shoulders, too... I'll play along for a little bit
    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corkin View Post
    The problem is, although it is clear Wagner had considerable talent, his end products are so often either over-blown or underachieving
    10 operas premiered after the age of 29, every single last one of which remains in the standard opera repertory 125-160+ years later. We should all overblow or underachieve to that extent.
    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corkin View Post
    but either way always conspicuously self-indulgent.
    Guilty as charged. I guess it's a good time for me to dust off my James King quote from the rotating sig archive... "[Wagner's] ego was such that he believed he deserved to be rewarded and rewarded handsomely for the art that he brought into being. On this point, at least, he and I are in agreement."

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