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Thread: The Greatest Opera Ever Written

  1. #601
    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenOC View Post
    If you're thinking JS Bach, I read that he was in a different town one time with some son or other. He suggested they drop by the opera "to hear the pretty tunes." You can almost hear the sneer in his voice!
    I think he's talking about Myers Briggs categories, so Js would be who incline towards Judging instead of Perceiving, IIRC.

    If that story is true, I share with Bach a certain contempt for opera of his era. For that matter, all music of his era that wasn't by Bach.

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    Senior Member Dr. Shatterhand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I think JS probably get irritated with the length of time opera takes and it's largely illogical framework
    Interesting! My father's definitely a Judger; he likes opera (including twentieth century works like (King Roger or Die tote Stadt), but it irritates him if the characters aren't believable. He also can't see the point of myth or fantasy.

  4. #603
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SimonTemplar View Post
    Interesting! My father's definitely a Judger; he likes opera (including twentieth century works like (King Roger or Die tote Stadt), but it irritates him if the characters aren't believable. He also can't see the point of myth or fantasy.
    Yes that fits. Of courts there ate three other categories of preferences in MBTI

    https://www.opp.com/en/tools/MBTI/MB...sonality-Types

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  6. #604
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by howlingfantods View Post
    I think he's talking about Myers Briggs categories, so Js would be who incline towards Judging instead of Perceiving, IIRC.

    If that story is true, I share with Bach a certain contempt for opera of his era. For that matter, all music of his era that wasn't by Bach.
    Handel? .

  7. #605
    Member pianozach's Avatar
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    OMG

    OK, here's the deal: I've made a little list, and I've been posting the entries one at a time on a remarkably similar looking vBlog to THIS one.

    It's A Beginner's Guide to Classical Music, and was intended to be a launching ground for those who have no background or exposure to classical music, but are interested in Classical music, and are woefully unsure of where to start.

    I've accompanied each entry with explanations, a linked video (usually a live performance), and occasionally a link to a related pop or rock version. It started last November as a Top Ten, then Top Twenty, and now I'm up to #160, where I've stopped to include some full length operas.

    For instance, the first ten:

    Holst – The Planets, Op. 32. 1918
    Dvorak - Symphony No.9 in E minor “From the New World”, Op 95. 1893
    Beethoven - Symphony No. 3 "Eroica"
    Stravinsky – The Firebird. 1910
    Tchaikovsky – 1812 Festival Overture, Op. 49. 1882

    Vivaldi - Summer, The Four Seasons. 1723
    JS Bach – Brandenburg Concerto #6, In B Flat, BWV 1051. 1721.
    WA Mozart – Symphony 41 in C “Jupiter”, K. 551. 1788
    Borodin - In the Steppes of Central Asia. 1880.
    WA Mozart - Overture from The Marriage of Figaro. 1786

    In retrospect, the TOP TEN reminds me of MOST EXPECTED works on next season's Local Symphony Orchestra list. But, IMO, these are probably some of the most ACCESSIBLE Classical works for a novice listener.

    That said, I've got a list of roughly 50 operas, and it occurred that I'm going to have to choose one to go first.

    Of course, full length operas, which can be problematic in terms of accessibility for a novice listener (They're sung by operatic voices, they're usually in a foreign language, and they're long). So I've neglected them in my Top 160, although I've included several Overtures and other opera highlights in the list, but almost all are non-vocal.

    And there are over 600 comments in this thread. Has there been any consensus?

    The Top Ten on my list do not include any operas in English, which might actually be a better starting point

    Bizet – Carmen
    Mozart - The Marriage of Figaro
    Verdi - La Traviata
    Puccini - La Bohème
    Mozart - The Magic Flute

    Rossini - The Barber of Seville
    Puccini – Tosca
    Puccini's Madama Butterfly
    Mozart - Don Giovani
    Verdi – Rigoletto

    . . . . but I can't help think that it might be better to begin with and Opera in English. I'm pretty familiar with the Sir Arthur Sullivan operettas, but after that, where does one go for Operas in English? Purcell? Bleah. Ralph Vaughan Williams? Britten? (Actually, I've got A Midsummer's Night Dream in my list). Porgy and Bess? The Threepenny Opera in English? Does West Side Story count?

    I'll browse through THIS thread (all 600 comments), but looking at other sites with music experts the list of ten above are almost always mentioned, and the following seem to pop up frequently as #1:

    Carmen
    La Boheme
    Le nozze di Figaro
    Falstaff
    Rigoletto
    La Traviatta
    L'Orfeo

  8. #606
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pianozach View Post
    OMG

    OK, here's the deal: I've made a little list, and I've been posting the entries one at a time on a remarkably similar looking vBlog to THIS one.

    It's A Beginner's Guide to Classical Music, and was intended to be a launching ground for those who have no background or exposure to classical music, but are interested in Classical music, and are woefully unsure of where to start.

    I've accompanied each entry with explanations, a linked video (usually a live performance), and occasionally a link to a related pop or rock version. It started last November as a Top Ten, then Top Twenty, and now I'm up to #160, where I've stopped to include some full length operas.

    For instance, the first ten:

    Holst – The Planets, Op. 32. 1918
    Dvorak - Symphony No.9 in E minor “From the New World”, Op 95. 1893
    Beethoven - Symphony No. 3 "Eroica"
    Stravinsky – The Firebird. 1910
    Tchaikovsky – 1812 Festival Overture, Op. 49. 1882

    Vivaldi - Summer, The Four Seasons. 1723
    JS Bach – Brandenburg Concerto #6, In B Flat, BWV 1051. 1721.
    WA Mozart – Symphony 41 in C “Jupiter”, K. 551. 1788
    Borodin - In the Steppes of Central Asia. 1880.
    WA Mozart - Overture from The Marriage of Figaro. 1786

    In retrospect, the TOP TEN reminds me of MOST EXPECTED works on next season's Local Symphony Orchestra list. But, IMO, these are probably some of the most ACCESSIBLE Classical works for a novice listener.

    That said, I've got a list of roughly 50 operas, and it occurred that I'm going to have to choose one to go first.

    Of course, full length operas, which can be problematic in terms of accessibility for a novice listener (They're sung by operatic voices, they're usually in a foreign language, and they're long). So I've neglected them in my Top 160, although I've included several Overtures and other opera highlights in the list, but almost all are non-vocal.

    And there are over 600 comments in this thread. Has there been any consensus?

    The Top Ten on my list do not include any operas in English, which might actually be a better starting point

    Bizet – Carmen
    Mozart - The Marriage of Figaro
    Verdi - La Traviata
    Puccini - La Bohème
    Mozart - The Magic Flute

    Rossini - The Barber of Seville
    Puccini – Tosca
    Puccini's Madama Butterfly
    Mozart - Don Giovani
    Verdi – Rigoletto

    . . . . but I can't help think that it might be better to begin with and Opera in English. I'm pretty familiar with the Sir Arthur Sullivan operettas, but after that, where does one go for Operas in English? Purcell? Bleah. Ralph Vaughan Williams? Britten? (Actually, I've got A Midsummer's Night Dream in my list). Porgy and Bess? The Threepenny Opera in English? Does West Side Story count?

    I'll browse through THIS thread (all 600 comments), but looking at other sites with music experts the list of ten above are almost always mentioned, and the following seem to pop up frequently as #1:

    Carmen
    La Boheme
    Le nozze di Figaro
    Falstaff
    Rigoletto
    La Traviatta
    L'Orfeo
    How does all this address the subject of the thread: THE GREATEST OPERA EVER WRITTEN?

    (Also - just puzzled/curious - how can this be your first post if you joined the forum in May of 2018?)

  9. #607
    Member pianozach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    How does all this address the subject of the thread: THE GREATEST OPERA EVER WRITTEN?

    (Also - just puzzled/curious - how can this be your first post if you joined the forum in May of 2018?)
    SECOND QUESTION FIRST. I forgot you guys were even here. Found you back then, signed up, and promptly forgot. I should have bookmarked the page. Found it again yesterday while searching for the one best opera ever, tried signing in, and yikes, I guessed my user name and password on the first try.

    FIRST QUESTION NEXT. Um, well, as I mentioned, I'd like to present some operas for novice listeners, and it makes sense that I'd consider using "THE GREATEST OPERA EVER WRITTEN" as a potential first entry.

    I just perused this entire thread and discovered several things:

    1. There's an awful lot of folks here that hate recitative.
    2. Folks here are having trouble reconciling "greatest" and "favorite", yet most people here seem to think that their favorites are the "best". I agree . . . The operas that people 'love' may very well be the 'best'.
    3. As I went through I made hash marks next to my list, and in several instances added additional operas, either because of how they were described, or because several people mentioned them.*
    4. I learned about operas I'd never heard about. Ever. Like Meyerbeer's Huguenots.
    5. No one thought Madama Butterfly, Rigoletto, or Die Fledermaus was 'the greatest'.
    6. There's a list, posted as a sticky note with the results of a poll. I'll look at that soon.
    7. I've musical directed every Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, all of them at least twice, some of them several times. Directed two of 'em. They're likeable, tuneful, and they're IN ENGLISH. Sullivan's one grand opera was well received in the 1880s, broke attendance records, then was practically never heard from since. Not a lot of love for operetta, is there?

    * You might be interested at the hash mark results for this thread. DISCLAIMER: My count was neither scientific nor unbiased. Sometimes it's difficult to tell whether someone simply commented with their fave opera several times. If someone mentioned two 'best' operas I'd count them both. If they listed three or more, I'd count the first on their list.

    I found the choices to be quite interesting: It seems that Wagner and Mozart kiiled it, with Verdi a close third. The Ring was mentioned often, although some folks mentioned the entire cycle while others mentioned one of the four parts, with the first and fourth operas getting the most love.

    1. The Ring
    2. Don Giovanni
    3. Tristan und Isolde
    4. Marriage of Figaro
    5. Carmen
    6. The Magic Flute

    7. Don Carlo
    7. Fidelio

    9. La Bohème
    9. Falstaff
    9. Tosca
    9. Le Grand Macabre

    13. La Traviata, Der Rosenkavalier, Les Troyens, L'Orfeo

    I think that I cannot place The Ring at the top of my list even though The Ride of the Valkyries already appeared earllier on my list (at #31). I can't think of an appropriate justification for something so astonishingly epic. For example, if I'm trying to get someone who has never been to the movies to appreciate film, I am not going to start with the Godfather trilogy, regardless of how highly I may rate it (maybe The Wizard of Oz, or Around the World in 80 Days, or perhaps Raiders of the Lost Ark.) I digress. Perhaps one could say that Wagner is simply too advanced for a beginner, eh?
    Last edited by pianozach; Dec-01-2019 at 17:21.

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  11. #608
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    ^^^ If you're fond of listing, you may be interested in participating in this thread: Discussion: The 2020 Talk Classical Top Recommended Opera CDs and DVDs
    Last edited by Woodduck; Dec-01-2019 at 17:59.

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  13. #609
    Member pianozach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    ^^^ If you're fond of listing, you may be interested in participating in this thread: Discussion: The 2020 Talk Classical Top Recommended Opera CDs and DVDs

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    ^^^ If you're fond of listing, you may be interested in participating in this thread: Discussion: The 2020 Talk Classical Top Recommended Opera CDs and DVDs
    thanks.

    I'm opinionated, but as an instrumentalist raised on piano, symphonic, then rock, pop, and musical theatre, my working knowledge of opera is lacking.

    I grew up despising opera, mostly because I hated the way legit voices sounded. Oh, that bellowing and catterwalling.

    I have a healthy appreciation for it these days, which is a good thing as I'm resident MD for an operetta group, and accompany choirs at two schools.

    I sing some . . . was in a professional BBSQ for several years, and as church soloist for non-mainstream churches. I coach amateur vocalists (mostly in very simple technique, and advanced dramatic presentation for both auditions and performances).

    I feel as though I know enough about Opera to be a danger to myself and others, but I'm learning more all the time.

    I'm more of an afficionado of live symphonic works, and have favorite conductors, notably Bernstein, Mehta, Dorati. I love film composers and, at one time thought it would be a great career. A buddy of mine that DID film and TV scores warned me that "there is nothing like having to compose on a schedule to suck the joy out of music." That's not why I'm not a film composer . . . it's a combination of lack of technical skills and contacts. To a large degree it's who you know.

    Wait, what was your question?

    Oh. I have one current favorite presentation of The Mikado to share. The Pacific Opera Project just streamed their production a few months ago, and it's brilliant. The operetta has been unofficially blacklisted for several years now by ignorant folks that have decided that it's racist. For those actually familiar with the work, they're aware that Gilbert was NOT making fun of the Japanese, but rather, making fun of the British, and getting away with it by pretending to be writing about the Japanese. POP skirts around the 'objectional' stuff by making it far less Japanese, and more global.

    I did get to watch the stream live, and know a couple of the people in it: Will, who plays half of Pish-Tush, and Tony, who was in the ensemble.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tE1FxIjubM0
    https://youtu.be/tE1FxIjubM0
    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/tE1FxIjubM0" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

  14. #610
    Senior Member MAS's Avatar
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    What constitutes the greatest? By what or whose measure? Any human agency involved would proffer an opinion.

    It offends me when people automatically think Wagner’s music is the greatest. The longest, yes. Not that I don’t like Wagner.

    Does what I like make anything the greatest? To me, yes. But I’m realistic enough to think that even I don’t believe that. I’m not deluded.

    But if you had a committee put together the criteria for the greatest opera, would it come to a consensus? You’d want to have at least one person to represent (like) each known composer. One for Monteverdi, one for Händel, one for Mozart, one for Verdi, and so on and so forth.
    Some would like three or four of the composers, some twenty, some just Berg, some Glass, some any 12-tone stuff. Each would have his or her criteria. A Monteverdi opera would have a smaller orchestra, a Strauss one a larger one, so would the criteria differ for each of those? I’m already thinking this is too complicated!

    What I think are great operas (no one has to agree)

    L’Incoronazione di Poppaea, Alcina, Rinaldo, Orlando, Giulio Cesare, Orfeo Ed Euridice, Iphigenie en Tauride, Cosi Fan Tutte, Don Giovanni, Die Zauberfloete, Medee, Euryanthe, Oberon, Les Huguenots, Semiramide, Lucia di Lammermoor, Ana Bolena, Norma, La Sonnambula, I Puritani, Les Troyens, Lohengrin, Der Ring des Nibelungen, Romeo et Juliette, Rigoletto, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Don Carlo, Aida, Otello, Un Ballo In Maschera, Macbeth, Nabucco, Madama Butterfly, Turandot, Eugène Onegin, Werther, Manon, Le Cid, Pagliacci, Cavalleria Rusticana, Salomé, Elektra, Arabella, Billy Budd, Akhenaten.
    Last edited by MAS; Dec-06-2019 at 05:31.

  15. #611
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAS View Post
    It offends me when people automatically think Wagner’s music is the greatest. The longest, yes. Not that I don’t like Wagner.
    Who AUTOMATICALLY thinks that? Don't most people who think that think it because of what they hear?

    I’m already thinking this is too complicated!
    It IS complicated.

    What I think are great operas (no one has to agree)

    L’Incoronazione di Poppaea, Alcina, Rinaldo, Orlando, Giulio Cesare, Orfeo Ed Euridice, Iphigenie en Tauride, Cosi Fan Tutte, Don Giovanni, Die Zauberfloete, Medee, Euryanthe, Oberon, Les Huguenots, Semiramide, Lucia di Lammermoor, Ana Bolena, Norma, La Sonnambula, I Puritani, Les Troyens, Lohengrin, Der Ring des Nibelungen, Romeo et Juliette, Rigoletto, La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Don Carlo, Aida, Otello, Un Ballo In Maschera, Macbeth, Nabucco, Madama Butterfly, Turandot, Eugène Onegin, Werther, Manon, Le Cid, Pagliacci, Cavalleria Rusticana, Salomé, Elektra, Arabella, Billy Budd, Akhenaten.
    Well, I'll agree with MOST of those, but there are a few surprising inclusions and some shocking omissions. It would be interesting to hear your reasons.

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  17. #612
    Senior Member MAS's Avatar
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    Woodduck, you’d like to know my reasons for thinking the operas I listed are great? I prefer them to all of the other works composed by their composers, and to other operas in the repertoire. They hold my interest, plus they have interesting soprano roles, plus they have great melodies, plus they touch my heart and sometlmes my soul. I prefer dramas to comedies. I like parts of some operas I havent heard all operas in the repertoire, Some operas have become trite to me over the years, and I’ve become somewhat jaded.

    What omissions shock you?

  18. #613
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAS View Post
    Woodduck, you’d like to know my reasons for thinking the operas I listed are great? I prefer them to all of the other works composed by their composers, and to other operas in the repertoire. They hold my interest, plus they have interesting soprano roles, plus they have great melodies, plus they touch my heart and sometlmes my soul. I prefer dramas to comedies. I like parts of some operas I havent heard all operas in the repertoire, Some operas have become trite to me over the years, and I’ve become somewhat jaded.

    What omissions shock you?
    Those seem like reasons for liking an opera, but not necessarily for calling it great.

    Besides a number of those you mention, what about Le Nozze di Figaro, Fidelio, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Der Freischutz, Der Fliegende Hollander, Tannhauser,Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger, Parsifal, Un Ballo in Maschera, Simon Boccanegra, Falstaff, Faust, Carmen, Boris Godunov, Pelleas et Mellsande, Die Fledermaus, La Boheme, Tosca, La Fanciulla del West, Il Trittico, Hansel und Gretel, Der Rosenkavalier, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Wozzeck, Lulu, Dialogues des Carmelites, Peter Grimes and Porgy and Bess - just to name operas I know well enough to make a judgment about? I'm not necessarily fond of all these, but they all strike me as unique and outstanding works, masterpieces or near-masterpieces of musical theater which have earned their reputations and popularity.

    As for which of these, among others, might be "the greatest opera ever written," well... I don't like to engage in arguments that can't be settled. I'm inclined toward Tristan myself, for reasons I've expressed in previous posts, but if its dark, visceral, quivering agonies and ecstasies are not your thing, I won't insist.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Dec-06-2019 at 08:43.

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  20. #614
    Senior Member ldiat's Avatar
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    from Twitter:
    Eun Sun Kim will be Music Director of San Francisco Opera, making her the first woman MD at a Level 1 American opera house. A huge step forward for the industry – overjoyed for
    @sfopera
    and so proud to represent ESK!!!

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  22. #615
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    Quote Originally Posted by pianozach View Post
    7. I've musical directed every Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, all of them at least twice, some of them several times. Directed two of 'em. They're likeable, tuneful, and they're IN ENGLISH. Sullivan's one grand opera was well received in the 1880s, broke attendance records, then was practically never heard from since. Not a lot of love for operetta, is there?
    A G&S fan!

    What do you think of The Grand Duke? Almost nobody has heard of it, but I've loved it since my teens. Who can resist an operetta with a statutory duel whereby the loser is declared legally dead; the sausage roll aria; the increasingly drunk chorus; the roulette aria; and a patter song in Greek? ("In the period Socratic every dining room was Attic...") And Julia's aria in Act II is splendid.

    And the similarly undersung Princess Ida has some of Sullivan's best music - although I'm not sure I should have modelled myself on Gama Rex when young. But I can't think why.

    What's your opinion of Ivanhoe?

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