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Thread: Neophyte question about classical/choral/opera

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    Default Neophyte question about classical/choral/opera

    Hello, and forgive me for what may be a dumb question. I'm finding that I enjoy classical music and choral music, which I understand to be a sub genra maybe. But I can't get into opera. The voice in choral music to me is an extension of the orchestra, but in opera the voice completely takes over, and seems to have nothing to do with melody.

    Is there such a difference and is there a better way of articulating it? Do people tend to like one or the other or is it just me?

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    Senior Member PetrB's Avatar
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    Much of what seems to be your perception is the want or need of 'a melody.' Some opera, the vocal line is just a part of the musical fabric, as much as any abstract an 'absolute' symphonic work.

    Almost all of Puccini is nothing but melodic, while much of Verdi, by comparison, is the vocal line as part of another type of musical construct.

    Too, many a neophyte just flat-out has trouble with the 'artificiality' of the fully-trained operatic voice.

    Both Period and 'national' singing style can play a huge difference as to what kind of singing and sound you hear. French opera has an emphasis on diction, with a more 'natural' sound. Italian opera has its 'bel canto' (beautiful singing) concentrating almost entirely on a quality of sound produced. Verdi, 'verismo' (truth) preferred 'singing actors' over a beautiful full voice.

    Getting wrapped up in the story, attending an actual opera or watching and listening to a good filmed one, can make all the difference. Opera IS THEATER ~ without a sense of better, experience of it as theater, you are truly missing a major, key element.

    Two great (and older film versions) I recommend are

    "La Traviata" (one hit 'tune' after another), as filmed by Zeffirelli, with a great cast and a 'classic' story.

    Ingmar Bergman's "The Magic Flute," the popular Mozart opera - that is sung in Swedish, which is not so far off from German it should not sound 'off' to anyone accustomed to the German.


    Try also, the more 'natural' classical singing style as exemplified in Lieder, Chanson, etc.

    Berlioz' song cycle "Les Nuits d'ete," a masterpiece, is a work I would think any music lover would want to know.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBTRGsP6R-I
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxlchhfkC1I

    Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" is another masterpiece.

    And the smaller songs, by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Ravel, Britten, Debussy, Poulenc, DuParc, and hosts of others have all been performed by the worlds best singers.

    Try briefer links. Jessye Norman singing Wagner's "Liebestod" or Schubert's "Erlkonig." / Elly Ameling singing Schubert or the singers Dietrich Fischer-Diskau, or some contemporary generation singers performing similar repertoire.

    Schubert ~ Nacht und Traume; Elly Ameling
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TnK7tPTwHE
    Rosamunde- Romance "Der Vollmond"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITgA9XQ2WfA
    Der Erlkönig: Jessye Norman
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8noeFpdfWcQ

    Here is Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte, complete - audio only, on period instruments. Modern practice in opera has far less vibrato than great singers from the early to mid 20th century used.
    Musicology has changed much in how music -- and opera -- are performed and sung, including less vibrato and a more natural acting style.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5JDHhET4bk

    This conservative modern classical choral work, orchestra and chorus, (tonal, do not be afraid:-) is very much a piece where chorus and orchestra are integrated as a whole.
    John Adams ~ Harmonium
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZjjN1Z1S9k
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWZnU...eature=related
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BO9OrRM5yuQ
    Last edited by PetrB; Mar-16-2012 at 08:10.

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    Senior Member Stargazer's Avatar
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    I'm also not a big fan of opera myself, but there are indeed a few that I really enjoy. I find I gravitate more towards the more Baroque style operas, I really enjoy a lot of the operas by Handel, Monteverdi, and Purcell...they sound very different from most others. As a whole Rinaldo is probably my favorite. Also knowing the story helps. That's one reason I find it somewhat hard to get in to, I don't understand most operatic languages and I seldom have the time to actually sit down with a translation and listen to an entire opera in-depth that way.

    It is possible that you just don't like the genre, it isn't for everyone and honestly a few years ago I would have died if someone said I'd end up listening to/liking some opera lol. But it is such a diverse form that I'm sure there's a few out there you may enjoy if you can find them.

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    Senior Member Couchie's Avatar
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    What do you make of this?


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    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stargazer View Post
    I'm also not a big fan of opera myself, but there are indeed a few that I really enjoy. I find I gravitate more towards the more Baroque style operas, I really enjoy a lot of the operas by Handel, Monteverdi, and Purcell...they sound very different from most others. As a whole Rinaldo is probably my favorite. Also knowing the story helps. That's one reason I find it somewhat hard to get in to, I don't understand most operatic languages and I seldom have the time to actually sit down with a translation and listen to an entire opera in-depth that way.

    It is possible that you just don't like the genre, it isn't for everyone and honestly a few years ago I would have died if someone said I'd end up listening to/liking some opera lol. But it is such a diverse form that I'm sure there's a few out there you may enjoy if you can find them.
    You are already miles ahead with your taste for operas by Handel, Monteverdi and Purcell. The half dozen favourite Rinaldo arias simply take one's heart away!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Couchie View Post
    What do you make of this?

    That was beautiful. The scene really has me curious! What is it?

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Only the greatest opera ever written! (imo). Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.
    "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 Jeremy Marchant's Avatar
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    I'm not a great fan of opera either, though not for the reason you give (which I am not sure I understand!)
    I suggest listening to operas by composers you otherwise like.

    Also, how willing are you to listen to "art-songs"? eg


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    Senior Member Couchie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vlad View Post
    That was beautiful. The scene really has me curious! What is it?
    The above clip is from this DVD production of Tristan und Isolde: http://www.amazon.com/Wagner-Tristan...2118338&sr=1-4

    You'll definitely be wanting this CD: http://www.amazon.com/Wagner-Tristan.../dp/B000001GXS

    I think you might really like Wagner as he worked to eliminate the convention of operas being vocal "showpieces", you'll find his vocal lines are long, lacking technical fluff, and are better integrated into the musical fabric than that of most opera composers. In fact I don't really even think of Tristan und Isolde as an opera at all, more like a symphony with voice.

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