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Thread: Is there a difference between your favorite operas vs ones you like to see live?

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Default Is there a difference between your favorite operas vs ones you like to see live?

    For example, speaking for myself, there are many operas I adore but have no desire to see live and many for which seeing it live makes all the difference.

    In the former camp are most bel canto operas. They contain some of the most beautiful and elegant music ever written for the human voice, but frankly, most of the plots are absurdly boring, assuming they even make any sense in the first place which is a big assumption.

    Also in this category are most of Wagner's works, but for opposite reasons. The story is rich, compelling and far more complex than anything else in the operatic repertoire, but....there are so few singers who can do it justice. Unless there are singers out there who both have the right types of voices and the understanding to make it work, I'd much rather listen to clips of Lieder, Melchior, Flagstad, etc.


    In the latter group are various verismo operas. One which comes to mind immediately is a recent rendition of Madam Butterfly I saw in Kansas City. Both of the leads were not only wonderful singers, but they were gorgeous and created a real sense of magnetism that made the story more believable. It really made me feel something, in a way I did not go in expecting from the onset.

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    The main distinction between those two categories for me is that I like to see operas that I haven't seen. That is I'm willing to give most operas a shot.

    Though I think i take your point about Bel canto. The orchestration is often light enough that there's little benefit to seeing it in person unless there are some exceptional voices.

    On the other hand I like Wagner's orchestral writing enough that I want to see his operas performed; even if the singers aren't ideal the live full orchestra can carry the weight. There are other composers (and operas) in this category for me, where as long as the orchestra is promising, I want to be there.

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    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    I really don't get this one. I always want to see my favourite operas live.

    There are some not-so-favourite operas that I don't care to see live again, although I appreciate that's not what the thread is about.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    I'd want to see all my favorite operas live if I could expect first-rate performances, with great singers and productions faithful to the meaning of the works. But since Wagner is my favorite opera composer I have no hope of ever experiencing that, given the present paucity of great dramatic voices and the near-universal compulsion to "reinterpret" and "update" his operas and otherwise make them unrecognizable.

    Given this state of affairs, I'd prefer to see operas that make less stringent demands on singers and don't overtax the imaginations of directors or the resources of theaters. It would be nice to see operas I don't know too well, or ones that depend on clever stage action, especially comedies.

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I'd want to see all my favorite operas live if I could expect first-rate performances, with great singers and productions faithful to the meaning of the works. But since Wagner is my favorite opera composer I have no hope of ever experiencing that, given the present paucity of great dramatic voices and the near-universal compulsion to "reinterpret" and "update" his operas and otherwise make them unrecognizable.

    Given this state of affairs, I'd prefer to see operas that make less stringent demands on singers and don't overtax the imaginations of directors or the resources of theaters. It would be nice to see operas I don't know too well, or ones that depend on clever stage action, especially comedies.
    My thoughts exactly.

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    Senior Member Don Fatale's Avatar
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    I seem to have developed an informal points system for deciding which live operas I go to. I don't really use points, but if I did it would look like below. In Europe we are lucky enough to have a choice oftentimes. So here's what makes me decide whether to spend travel time and my limited resources.
    +5 an opera I've yearned to see live, e.g. Nerone
    +3 any opera I haven't seen live before.
    +3 a country where I haven't seen an opera before.
    +2 a city I haven't seen an opera in before. e.g. Lisbon
    +2 favourite singers, great cast, or someone I'd like to hear live.
    +2 a personal favourite opera. e.g. Mefistofele, Gotterdammerung
    +1 if I'm in the city and have nothing else to do
    +1 an opera I quite like, e.g. Otello, Falstaff
    +1 a venue I haven't been to before, e.g. Bayreuth
    +1 a notably good production, e.g. Barry Kosky's Zauberflote.
    -3 a director I can't abide, e.g. Bieito

    So an average cast performing La Boheme at Covent Garden?.. I'd need to be on a date, going Dutch.
    Last edited by Don Fatale; Nov-23-2018 at 16:33.

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    Senior Member Tikoo Tuba's Avatar
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    There's difference between the consistent and controlled tech space of home and the variety (for better or worse) of acoustic venues . I've been impressed with artists on tour who mid-performance will collectively adjust singing style , aspects such as vibrato and tonal color , to harmonize with the acoustics of a space - singing to space .

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    Senior Member Belowpar's Avatar
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    Il Trovatore.

    Great on disc, with one great tune topped by the next. My limited Italian allows me to listen blissfully ignoring what's going on.

    But in the Theatre, its just IMPOSSIBLE!

    Puccini offers the reverse experience. Whatever reservations I feel listening at home are swept away in the total immersion in the Theatre.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Belowpar View Post
    Il Trovatore.

    Great on disc, with one great tune topped by the next. My limited Italian allows me to listen blissfully ignoring what's going on.

    But in the Theatre, its just IMPOSSIBLE!

    Puccini offers the reverse experience. Whatever reservations I feel listening at home are swept away in the total immersion in the Theatre.
    For Trovatore you just need, as Caruso said, the four greatest singers in the world. Once you have those it probably doesn't matter what the heck's going on onstage (I'll confess, though, that I've never seen the opera and don't plan to until Caruso, Ponselle, Schumann-Heink and Ruffo come back to sing it).

    I've had your Puccini experience with Mozart. Listening to Figaro at home my interest inevitably flags somewhere in act two and I've never once managed to get through to the end, but when I saw it in the theater I found all three hours of it delightful.

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    Senior Member Tikoo Tuba's Avatar
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    Manage a response to theatre acoustics . Recordings are managed for you . Who may be the ultimate the equalizer ?

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    Senior Member Tikoo Tuba's Avatar
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    What's the perspective of only to have heard opera recordings , yet to realize a theatrical performance ? I once had this experience in very unexpected and curious way as a student public radio board operator . The Met broadcast was every afternoon , and some days it was I who to set up the tape and began the broadcast . I listened with half a mind , and still listened ... learning .

    My first illumination was years later , touched by a woman singing Korean opera . From that , I'm now able to imagine the fullness of operatic sensuality .

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    I’m an oddity. I’ll see any Mozart opera live, Fidelio, and Rossini. Not much else. Mozart, Wagner, Verdi and Beethoven are my favorite opera composers, and The Ring is one of my favorite works (second to Figaro) but I just don’t know if I can handle sitting in a cramp and uncomfortable seat for five hours. I love Puccini on disc, but when I saw Butterfly in the house, I was bored until the end. I attribute that to how hot it was in the house and how uncomfortable it was. With faster music it’s easier for me. Now if I could put my bed in an opera house, I’d see just about anything.
    Last edited by gellio; Dec-01-2018 at 17:14.

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    Senior Member Dr. Shatterhand's Avatar
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    Yes, because the dozen I want most to see live haven't been performed since the late 19th century. It's all bloody Puccini / Mozart / popular Verdi / Carmen. Excellent operas, generally - but can't we have a change?

    For years, Opera Australia's season was the same warhorses repeated again and again - with, for a change, "rarities" like Simon Boccanegra , plus Broadway musicals. This is the problem with the country's main opera company being based in one of its main tourist destinations.
    Last edited by Dr. Shatterhand; Dec-02-2018 at 06:01.

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    Senior Member BalalaikaBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NickFuller View Post
    Yes, because the dozen I want most to see live haven't been performed since the late 19th century. It's all bloody Puccini / Mozart / popular Verdi / Carmen. Excellent operas, generally - but can't we have a change?

    For years, Opera Australia's season was the same warhorses repeated again and again - with, for a change, "rarities" like Simon Boccanegra , plus Broadway musicals. This is the problem with the country's main opera company being based in one of its main tourist destinations.
    I like how you clarified "popular" Verdi. so many hidden gems in the Verdi rep which are seldom performed.

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    Senior Member Dr. Shatterhand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BalalaikaBoy View Post
    I like how you clarified "popular" Verdi. so many hidden gems in the Verdi rep which are seldom performed.
    I'm really thinking of Triv/Trov/Rig - which sounds oddly Swedish.

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