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Thread: The Greatest Opera Ever Written

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    Default The Greatest Opera Ever Written

    Richard Wagner's Der Ring Des Nibelungen takes this slot.
    Das Rheingold, the Prelude, is magnificent. Richard Wagner wrote this mammoth cycle in a period spanning 26 years from 1848 to 1874. He intended the audience to watch the entire four musik dramas (Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung) on four successive nights without a break. He was disgusted when the operas were given a stand alone performance. The entire cycle demands nineteen hours of listening and believe me each second demands intense concentration. There were two by products of the Ring. They were Siegfried Idyll and Kindercatechismus for chamber orchestra.

    It is genius at the highest cadre of work. The 136 bar muted undulating drone on the E Flat Major Chord is the longest drone in the concert repertoire. Orchestrally, Das Rheingold remains my favourite opera. The opening prelude and the scintillating writing for the strings and the brass make it the prelude of all preludes in opera.
    The prelude is broken by the rhinemaidens' song and the entry of the Nibelung elf, Alberich, to the drama. He is the Nibelung the ring's story is all about. He renounces worldly lust and love and becomes the owner of the golden hoard out of which he forges the ring to become Master of the World until Loge's cunning wit and Wotan's deceit take the Ring to a full circle of the greed for power until Alberich's curse on the Ring.

    Another great orchestral brushwork by Wagner is the interlude between scene 2 and scene 3 when Loge and Wotan descend into Nibelheim where the orchestra surges into a dotted rhythm with the introduction of sixteen anvils of different pitch.

    After the departure of Fafner when he kills his brother Fasolt and disappears with the golden hoard, the Tarnhelm and the Ring, we have a majestic call of thunder by Donner (Heda Hedo) with his hammer blow followed by the Rainbow interlude and entry of the Gods into Valhalla bringing the opera to its magnificent conclusion with the wailing of the Rhinemaidens in the background.

    I have heard versions by Furtwangler, Solti, Karajan, Bohm, Levine and Boulez of this opera and I consider Solti as the Definitive version on Decca with the Wiener Philharmoniker and George London and Kirsten Flagstad. This recording of 1959 still remains as the one to beat. It is simply magnificent.
    Last edited by tahnak; Apr-04-2009 at 10:44.

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    Senior Member Bach's Avatar
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    Tristan und Isolde takes second place..

    I also think Wozzeck is rather underrated.
    Si vos agnosco is tunc vos es quoque erudio

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    Yes, I reckon Tahnak is right in naming Wagner's Ring as the greatest work in opera. Indeed many knowledgeable commentators regard Der Ring as the greatest work of art in any medium. As to the best of the four Ring operas, I share Tahnak's enthusiasm for Rhinegold but pushed to pick just one I would opt for Twilight of the gods (Gotterdammerung). It has much great orchestral music, often played in concert halls, and may be the ideal entry point for newcomers to Wagner.

    A word of caution though; it may be wise, initially, to skip the prologue by the three Norns and go straight to Act 1. Act 3 in particular is very easy on both eye and ear with a great deal of simply gorgeous music. With the right orchestra, conducter and soprana, the end of Gotterdammerung, say the last fifteen minutes, can simply tear your heart out.

    As to the best versions of the ring, few versions in the last forty or fifty years match those of Knappertsbusch, Bohm or Solti. The Solti Ring is legendary and widely regarded as the greatest achievement in recording history. It has been re-vamped and re-edited over recent years and now sounds sounds fantastic; theatrical and dramatic with a very contemporary lush sound. I have several Ring cycles and like many but still recommend the Solti/Decca to newcomers.

    As to the recommendation of Tristan as number two, I feel there is an equal or even greater case for Parsifal which, in compositional terms, has been called the fifth opera of the Ring. It contains Wagner's most mature, chromatic and experimental music and was, of course, the inspiration for much that was to come, from such composers as Richard Strauss, Mahler, Debussy, Ravel, Delius, Elgar and many others.

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    Talking This thread has earned the Chi_town/Philly seal of appoval

    When travelling the less nettlesome trail of "favorite" rather than "greatest," I said- Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Die Walküre, Götterdämmerung, & Parsifal... and don't torture me by making me choose one! However, if one is to force me into a stand on "greatest," I'll stand here with you.

    Another interesting point is that, in my perusals of message-board discussions, non-Wagnerians ofttimes find themselves pleasantly surprised by Das Rheingold.
    Quote Originally Posted by tahnak View Post
    I have heard versions by Furtwangler, Solti, Karajan, Bohm, Levine and Boulez of this opera and I consider Solti as the Definitive version on Decca with the Wiener Philharmoniker and George London and Kirsten Flagstad. This recording of 1959 still remains as the one to beat. It is simply magnificent.
    Sometime last year, BBC did "Building a Library" sessions on the Ring. My memory is that they gave Solti's Rheingold and Solti's Götterdämmerung top slots. I agree wholeheartedly. They went for Keilberth's Siegfried, and I again agree, for different reasons than the panelist gave (Keilberth's Mime chomps on less scenery). Still, reasonable folk can differ on the Siegfried, and the difference may be little more than an ant's eyelash.

    The Walküre recordings are cause for the greatest variances of opinion. BaL (as 'Building a Library' is known in abbreviated form) went for Karajan, IIRC. Perhaps I should give it another chance... but I'll admit to liking my Ring to be a larger-than-life experience. It's my belief that for years, the general impression that the Solti Walküre is the least-great of the Vienna tetrology has led to it being paradoxically underrated. Böhm has its fans... but I think that its Sieglinde is a shade less great than others. Keilberth was put on Gramophone Mag's '100 great recordings' list once- and Varnay's introductory Brünnhilde may be the most fantastic this side of Flagstad. It has one big drawback, though. Hans Hotter (Wotan), for all his vocal excellence, could have used some Ginko Biloba or something that night, so busy was the Prompter Box. They talk about the prompter getting a workout in the Böhm Siegfried... what happens there is nothing compared to this rendition.

    I've long advocated a 'take-it-how-you-can-get-it' approach to Wagner, and that view remains unchanged. If Krauss or Furtwängler or even Janowski resonate with you, I'm not going to sneer about it. I will, however, reserve my right to advocate for Solti.
    The hardest knife ill us'd doth lose his edge. Shakespeare- Sonnet 95

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    I very much like Das Rheingold, though I didn't really until hearing James Levine's broadcast last weekend. I've got the recordings of the Bayreuth broadcasts by both Bohm and Krauss, but having listened to them I never really understood the opera so well as after Levine's very animated performance (and the Alberich... hehehe).

    This being said, I may well be getting the Solti Ring cycle soon enough. Hopefully then I'll understand all this hullabaloo about the Ring a good deal better.
    You get a frog in your throat, you sound hoarse.

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by World Violist View Post
    I very much like Das Rheingold, though I didn't really until hearing James Levine's broadcast last weekend. I've got the recordings of the Bayreuth broadcasts by both Bohm and Krauss, but having listened to them I never really understood the opera so well as after Levine's very animated performance (and the Alberich... hehehe).

    This being said, I may well be getting the Solti Ring cycle soon enough. Hopefully then I'll understand all this hullabaloo about the Ring a good deal better.
    Levine's complete ring cycle is available on DVD from DG in traditional productions by Otto Schenk.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post
    Levine's complete ring cycle is available on DVD from DG in traditional productions by Otto Schenk.
    Yes, I know, but I rarely if ever have the money for whole Ring cycles. As much as I'd love to see it, I think I'll wait to see this one.
    You get a frog in your throat, you sound hoarse.

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    I would nominate Carmen. I think in terms of popular appeal, it would be pretty hard to beat. Plus it has one great tune after another.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post
    I would nominate Carmen. I think in terms of popular appeal, it would be pretty hard to beat. Plus it has one great tune after another.
    You could say that about practically anything by Verdi, Puccini, or Mozart, I'm sure.
    You get a frog in your throat, you sound hoarse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by World Violist View Post
    You could say that about practically anything by Verdi, Puccini, or Mozart, I'm sure.
    Yes, I suppose I could. But the tunes from Carmen IN PARTICULAR are well known and have appeared in countless commericals and movies and the like. I think just about anyone can hum the Toreador song without having any idea where it came from.

    I think the wide-spread nature of the music certainly helps to prove its enduring popularity, and thus, I nominate it for the greatest opera.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    Senior Member Bach's Avatar
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    Carmen is a thinking man's musical. It's not particularly serious.
    Si vos agnosco is tunc vos es quoque erudio

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bach View Post
    Carmen is a thinking man's musical.
    What do you mean?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bach View Post
    Tristan und Isolde takes second place...
    I find it a bit dark and moody for my taste....

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    The Ring Cycle, mmmh maybe if you got the time...

    ...but if your in a rush I'll have to say Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi.

    AH! I can't get enough of this masterpiece of human art.
    I mean Verdi basically beat Wagner at his own game and in less time! It took 12 hours for what Verdi did in 2!
    Verdi infused the music and drama into one coherent work. Neither is subservient to the other one both are equal. Catchy tunes, brilliant orchestration, great counterpoint, unbeatable flow of action, loveable characters, a witty text, etc.

    ah..... Darn it, now I need to go listen to it.

    No doubt The Ring Cycle is a work of genius, but I just find Falstaff to be so sublime in it's structure and fluidity. Not a note too long or too short, it's just right.
    I adore art...when I am alone with my notes, my heart pounds and the tears stream from my eyes, and my emotion and my joys are too much to bear.

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    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bach View Post
    Carmen is a thinking man's musical. It's not particularly serious.
    As usual, MMMMMEEEEEEEEOOOOOWWWW, Bach!

    A thinking man's musical? Not particularly serious. Hmmm. Well, maybe the music is "light," especially compared to Wagner, which everyone is discussing here. But light does not mean inferior, at least it shouldn't.

    A musical? Just because this opera has one toe-tapper after the next, again, should not degrade it legitimacy. Does all good music have to be meandering and less immediate?
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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