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Thread: Your "journey" to Opera

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    Senior Member Dulova Harps On's Avatar
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    Default Your "journey" to Opera

    As i have only recently become interested in Opera. I would very much like to hear some of you describe how you came to love opera. Your "journey" so to speak. Have you always liked opera? Is there something that lead you to becoming interested in it? I had always resisted Opera and am still just a novice in terms of my listening experiences and understanding of it. I came to it only recently. I got to this point by listening to Oratorios (mainly Handel) and Bach's Cantatas.This then led to Schubert's Lieder which i was exploring recently.Plus some bits and pieces of Rimsky Korsakov's operas.The Schubert and Bach gave me a taste of arias and lieder in german etc. My first complete Opera listening experience was just a few weeks ago.It was Mozart's Die Zauberflöte and i really enjoyed it. I am now exploring Don Giovanni. So that's my "journey" to opera in brief. What's yours?
    Last edited by Dulova Harps On; Apr-25-2020 at 08:26.

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    Senior Member ldiat's Avatar
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    Hi! i was into the late 60's and early 70's music. the 80's main music i did not like, so i go into jazz fusion. but i always liked classical music. at bad camp in high school the one fellow would sing in jest by Bach and sing 'one meat ball to make your mouth a wattteerring' "two etc". So one time (since the 2nd wife didn't like classical music) i went to the Opera by myself! Rigoletto. and ever since i love the opera. i am not as schooled as others are like Rogerx and so many more experts are on this forum.
    my story

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    Senior Member adriesba's Avatar
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    I had heard the Habanera from Carmen on TV or in movies or whatnot. I liked it and so decided to get Carmen on CD. I couldn't just get an opera highlights CD even though that's basically all I thought I wanted was highlights. I had this strange need to have everything complete. I was weird that way for awhile. I needed a CD set of complete Beethoven piano concertos, a set of complete Liszt Hungarian rhapsodies (even though to this day I only listen to no. 2 ). So naturally, I needed the whole of Carmen on CD. I basically thought, "Oh, opera's just a few fun highlights with a bunch of boring stuff in between." I got the Maazel recording of Carmen with Migenes and started listening to it. Boy was I wrong about opera! I loved all of it. Soon, if I wanted to listen to just my favorite parts, it would end up being half the opera or more! And that's how it started. There's still a lot of opera I have yet too explore though. I haven't really even dipped into Verdi. I find it odd that I drifted over to Wagner basically right after Carmen. What a jump! It wasn't hard to overcome though.

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    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    Some time ago I didn't like opera at all but at one point I felt I'm just missing out a lot (this forum enhanced the feeling...). Since early childhood I've known that Wagner is this "heavy" and "difficult" composer and so I felt that this was exactly the place to start from (first great decision). My second "great" decision was listening to Die Walküre without libretto and without really understanding the whole plot of the Ring. Third one was listening to Götterdämmerung (*cough cough* skipping both Siegfried and Das Rheingold), mind you, still without libretto and without understanding the plot. After I had listened to Die Walküre I remember thinking that "Oh my goodness, I like this!" From there I developed a Ring obsession and I didn't listen to any other opera composer (or maybe any composer...?) but Wagner for quite some time. Wagner also felt intellectually very appealing and super interesting. Only now when this quarantine thing started I've been knowingly giving more attention to Italian and French opera, although my recently developed fanaticism toward historical Wagner recordings hasn't helped with that too much. I can still admit that I really really like Verdi, Donizetti, Rossini etc. so I think I'm off to a good start with the Italians as well.
    Last edited by annaw; Apr-25-2020 at 12:06.

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    I don't remember what was my first intro to opera - could be Il Barbiere di Siviglia. It feels like the opera has been with me all the time. I started to listen it more when I was able to buy CDs in 1990's. My first "blown away" experience was listening Boito Mefistofele at my friend's super stereo system. Soon I bought this CD box and so it went.
    Actually I have not been in too many (live)operas at all - mostly recordings(CD, LP, video) but I love this genre a lot. The experience in theatre differs from recordings a lot. In live you have the atmosphere and reality(with interruptions after arias) but with recording you have the best possible seat and well balanced mastering. Love them both.
    Last edited by erki; Apr-25-2020 at 19:55.

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    Senior Member Art Rock's Avatar
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    I had listened to classical music for about ten years, when I decided I had to try opera (we're talking mid 90s now), I bought a couple of CD's (the usual suspects), and my father gave me the Solti Ring box (which at the time was well over 100 euro). I found that I really liked Wagner and Puccini, and also enjoyed Britten, Strauss, Donizetti, Bellini, Rossini and Boito. On the other hand, Mozart and Verdi did nothing for me. I listened to these CDs with the libretto in front of me to better follow the developments.

    In 1999 I moved to Singapore and could not take my CD collection with me. I stored most of it, but decided at that point that opera all things considered did not score very high compared to the rest of classical music. As my nephew expressed a keen interest in opera, I gave him my opera CD's.

    About 5-10 years ago, I tried once more to get into opera, and this time it clicked better. Since then I've collected lots of opera CD's, taking advantage of thrift stores sales - I remember I once got a moving box full of opera CDs for 10 euro. I still have not come to terms with Mozart (basically anything pre-Rossini does not do it for me) and Verdi, and by now I accept I never will.
    I treat my music like I treat my pets. It’s something to own, care about and curate with attention to detail. From a blog by hjr.

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    I had piano lessons as a child and so experienced classical music from quite a young age. When I was about 12 I came across a production of the Mikado on TV and I was hooked. There was something appealing about watching a story unfold with characters in crazy costumes and MUSIC!

    When I was in my teens I collected a series of classical albums that had various famous pieces on and each album had a couple of opera arias on and I liked most of the music on those albums (I think there were about 8 of them). My Nan also had a set of opera highlights from about 14 operas and I would listen to some of those with her (again they were all the best known operas and it was all the 'happy on the ear' stuff: Carmen, Mozart, Verdi and Puccini. It didn't include Wagner or Turandot or any Russian opera, it was definitely opera pops (although the recordings were decent ones from Decca's catalogue). She also had a Callas set of about five albums - but I got into those later. My Nan gave me the more serious records from my grandad's record collection, which were all symphonic music, so I was listening to that too.

    Now that I had a body of recordings I would listen to I started going to concerts, opera and ballet and I could see all fairly close to home, but didn't venture up to London, which was the closest place which had an opera house with a year round programme. Whilst I enjoyed concerts and symphonic classical music opera and ballet gave me so much more as I love a good story. Whatever you think and can comment about the quality of the music, that bit you like in one of Beethoven's symphonies is just that bit of music you like, whereas Rigoletto's part in the duet with Gilda is the expression in music of his emotional state. That's what does if for me and why I listen and go to more opera than other forms of classical music.

    N.

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    Senior Member NLAdriaan's Avatar
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    My first opera experience was when my dad took us to 'the Meistersinger' in my teens and later to an outdoor Aida while on holiday in Italy. Later on I occasionally visited live opera, like Pelleas & Melissande, Wozzeck, Moses & Aron, Parsifal, Tristan and last year Madam Butterfly.

    However, I never fully embraced the genre. A few reasons: I often find the action distracting from the music. And another very simple reason might be that the Dutch national opera is too expensive. I noted this when visiting Vienna last year to find out that you can get standing tickets for the Staatsoper for only €10 and for the VPO in the Musikverein for only €5.

    On record, I love the Monteverdi opera's, Mozart's Zauberflote, Purcell's King Arthur, the opera's by Prokofiev and Mussorgsky, most of Puccini, Eugen Onegin, Carmen, der Freischutz, Parsifal, Ring, Tristan, Meistersinger and Falstaff, Rosenkavalier, Die Frau Ohne Schatten, Pelleas & Melissande, Wozzeck, Porgy & Bess (musical?).

    Quite a list, actually, for a non outspoken opera fan I am quite surprised myself. But as you see, most Italian opera's are not on the list, a matter of taste. I am probably more into Nordic opera

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    When you have a soprano mama who goes around singing "Depuis le jour" along with Dorothy Maynor every single doggone day, it starts to become a part of your soul.

    Fast forward to my high school music buddies when we all got tickets for Patricia Neway in The Consul - that just about did me in. I was never so taken with an opera in my life, to the extent that to this day I can sing just about every single part and the score.

    Then a close buddy played me "che gelida manina" from La Boheme with Richard Tucker hitting the most sublime "la speranza" high note I have ever heard, and from that point on I became an operaholic and purchased every single LP I could get my greedy hands on with Puccini leading the parade.

    The icing on the cake that finished me off was in college when The Great Caruso came to town with Mario Lanza. I memorized every single tenor aria and saw the movie 24 times, skipping more classes than I'd like to admit.

    Finally in the late 1990's my mate surprised me with a weekend trip to NY where I got to see my first Met production LIVE. It was Turandot and I was sold.
    From then on we have been regulars at the Met heavily depleting our pocketbook.

    And now in my "dottage" what has come along to help me? Saturday afternoon live HD Met productions just 7 minutes away from my home.
    And that is the whole story of my magnificent obsession.
    Life's good.
    Last edited by nina foresti; Apr-25-2020 at 15:13.

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    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    The power and intensity of the operatic voice was what attracted me from the very beginning. The first time I really listened to it, as opposed to just hearing it, was in a video of young Pavarotti singing the Ingemisco from Verdi's Requiem. I liked it, but it didn't hook me or particularly incline me towards opera. I was in high school, and I had had some interest in musicals, but while I liked the emotional intensity and beautiful voice of, say, Julie Covington, I hated much of the actual music that she sang. Musical music tends to have a very self-conscious "Look at me I'm singing!" feel to it that irritates me. I came across this very clip from Puccini's La fanciulla del west, and in 1:09 I was totally hooked forever:

    Instead of vanity, it seemed powerful and intense yet sincere. That was very appealing, and I searched out every record of Barioni that I could find on YouTube. He's still a singer that, for some faults, is extremely dear to me. I discovered his Nessun dorma, Ch'ella mi creda, Or son sei mesi, Che gelida manina, and Non piangere Liu. I was introduced to Puccini as my first favorite composer, and Barioni as my favorite singer. Barioni is exceptionally good at phrasing Puccini's melodic lines, and in his prime has some of the clearest and most beautiful ringing vowels I've ever heard.

    It kept going from there, and I soon discovered a large amount of Italian and French opera. It took me a while to get into Wagner. I think the main barrier was that the singing that I heard was not so good. I mainly encountered singers from the 70s and 80s, who while having their moments, are as a whole no match for singers of the 30s and 40s, who finally convinced me on Wagner. The singers of the 30s and 40s have voices much more like Barioni, my original ideal voice, and the later singers sound thin and white and shrill in comparison to his round, burnished tone. They couldn't communicate the emotional intensity of Wagner's music because they didn't have the voices to do so, so the whole thing fell flat.

    To me opera is a magnifying glass of the soul, and the voice is the lens. That's what made me fall in love with it. My interests have widened to include the literary and instrumental aspects of opera, but without the voice there is no opera for me. I cannot enjoy most recent productions because vocal technique has changed and a different kind of sound has emerged. I experienced a whole renaissance of enthusiasm and interest in opera in discovering historical recordings and how to appreciate them, largely thanks to This is Opera!, who are sometimes cruel to be kind. There are a few singers from the 70s onward who have the sound I want, but most prefer a different sound or want but can't achieve the old sound.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    I come from a musical family and, like le Conte, studied piano from an early age, taking all my grades up to Grade VIII. My teacher wanted me to go on and try for my LRAM, but I used to get so nervous before exams that I decided I didn't want to do any more. When I got to secondary school, I started learning viola, my brother played clarinet, my mother sang (she was a contralto, though she sang mostly light classics and musical theatre songs) and my father was a conductor of operettas and musicals. He was the musical director of most of the operatic societies in my area.

    My parents used to take me to the opera whenever touring companies like Scottish Opera, English National Opera and Glyndebourne Touring came our way but, though I quite enjoyed going, I wouldn't say I was completely hooked. There were two things that got me hooked though. The first was hearing records of Maria Callas, who somehow "spoke" to me in a way no other singers quite did, and the second was iwhen n my late teens I left home to study at Newcastle-upon-Tyne university. I remember queuing to get into a performance of La Boheme by Glyndebourne Touring Opera. There were no seats left, but I and the three other people I was standing in the queue with decided to share a box, which had quite a restricted view of the stage. It was a traditional production but the cast was believably young (Linda Esther Gray was the Mimi) and the performance moved me so much I started crying, and that was in the first act. Thereafter I tried to see everything I could. The fact that we were restricted to touring companies who would just come for a week or two at a time, meant that I would try to see everything they did, whether it was something unknown, something new or something popular. This way I got to see a massive range of different operas, from twentieth century opera like Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers to popular operas like La Traviata. I would also travel to Sunderland, Leeds or York if I got the chance and it was something that wasn't coming to Newcastle.

    When it came to collecting opera recordings, I was led first by Callas. It may seem strange, but most of her recordings had been deleted at that time, so I either ended up listening for the first time by borrowing from the university library or scouring second hand and specialist outlets. In some ways this was a good thing, as I could get to know each opera thoroughly before moving onto the next. Schwarzkopf was also a favourite and she introduced me to the operas of Mozart and Strauss.

    During my twenties, opera and opera singers (especially female singers) were my passion. I subscribed to Opera Magazine and would read it avidly from cover to cover. I also read extensively about my favourite subject.

    Nowadays I suppose I tend to listen more to non vocal music, partly because opera requires more of a commitment, for me anyway. I prefer to listen to a whole opera (or at least an act at a time, especially if it's Wagner) than just extract odd bits, and that requires total concentration. I listen to more than I watch, though I do still enjoy seeig it live in the opera house. I just wish it wasn't so expensive!
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Dulova Harps On's Avatar
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    Thank you to everyone for your replies so far. It's wonderful reading all of your anecdotes!

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    Senior Member MAS's Avatar
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    A single aria was the catalyst to beginning a journey of discovery: “Una macchia è qui tuttora, “ from Verdi’s Macbeth. Hearing that -on a compilation recording - was an eye opener. I am not sure why it seemed so right, so complete; but it made me realize that there was something more to opera. It was in the way the aria was being sung. I did not think about the voice, but I became interested in the singer. It was, of course, Maria Callas!

    I wanted to hear more opera! i couldn’t afford to buy Callas recordings at the time, so I bought budget labels, like Victrola and Columbia Odyssey, and Seraphim. So I got Clara Petrella in Madama Butterfly, Roberta Peters in Lucia di Lammermoor, Everest’s La Gioconda highlights. I listened to suicidio! every day for months on end.

    Later, when I got a student loan for college, I bought a slew of Callas LPs ($7.99 or $12.99 per set at Discount Records) - the “entertainment” allowance for the period.

    Later, I joined the San Francisco Opera as an usher and was in pig heaven seeing everything I could, all the while not realizing I was unwittingly looking for another Callas. My love for her still endures.
    Last edited by MAS; Apr-25-2020 at 21:22.

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    Senior Member vivalagentenuova's Avatar
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    So I got Clara Petrella in Madama Butterfly
    Petrella is one of the most underrated sopranos. Butterfly isn't even her best role. (That would be Giorgetta)

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    My introduction was in my mid to late teens when my dad was flicking through the tv channels and put on a bbc4 showing of the marriage of figaro. I think possibly to annoy my mum, I has a hardened metalhead at the time was quite taken.

    A little later I got to watch a Rigoletto production on tv and found it fascinating. Then I stopped with opera.

    Then about 8 years later I was browsing Itunes looking for music to buy and I couldn't find any metal albums that sounded good ( I had quite the collection by this point) I remembered I sort of liked opera and decided to see what all the fuss was surrounding Wagner.

    So I ended up with a budget issue of the Furtwangler Rome Ring and a 1949 Hamburg Radio Performance of Tristan und Isolde starring Max Lorenz. I listened to Tristan first and from the first note I was hooked.

    From that point on all my other music sounded bad so I jumped ship and began my exploration of opera.

    Now nearly 5 years later I have some 345 opera recordings.

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