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Thread: Do you consider Opera music to be classical music?

  1. #46
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    I do wonder whether those who think opera is not classical music or is in a category with film scores actually listen to operas, whether they know them and have seen any of them? I suppose they must have but then I'm at a loss to explain how they feel that it isn't things musical that lead everything else - the voices, the forms used, the role of the orchestra all come first. Without the music we would have miserably failed plays with unbelievable characters and feeble story lines. Having the drama supported by background music - music that often subsides when someone says something - would not save it.

  2. #47
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthusiast View Post
    I do wonder whether those who think opera is not classical music or is in a category with film scores actually listen to operas, whether they know them and have seen any of them? I suppose they must have but then I'm at a loss to explain how they feel that it isn't things musical that lead everything else - the voices, the forms used, the role of the orchestra all come first. Without the music we would have miserably failed plays with unbelievable characters and feeble story lines. Having the drama supported by background music - music that often subsides when someone says something - would not save it.
    I propose a more appropriate thread title: “Should Opera subsection be joined with Non-classical Music subsection?” and any mention of Wagner’s name in Classical Music Discussion should be regarded as an utter heresy .
    Last edited by annaw; May-23-2020 at 14:35.

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  4. #48
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    Opera - or more precisely - opera music is certainly classical music. Not being an opera fan by the way I have to admit, that I enjoy opera music the most, when I am unaware of the plot and ignore the words.

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  6. #49
    Senior Member JAS's Avatar
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    I don't think that anyone in this thread has really suggested that opera, in general, is not, broadly stated, within the realm of classical music. The purpose of the thread, it seems to me, is somewhat akin to a science fiction story, where the idea is not so much to study space ships and aliens as it is to examine a concept in a context that removes it from the common set of assumptions that we make in our own lives, and makes us look at it with fresh eyes.

    What the the thread has questioned is the arguments used for including or not including certain kinds of music. What it shows is that some people who present themselves as having logic on their side, are actually doing something pretty arbitrary and based on little more than personal preference.
    Last edited by JAS; May-23-2020 at 14:30.

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  8. #50
    Senior Member Marc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by norman bates View Post
    Using some of the arguments used in the thread about film music it seems it's not.
    […]
    And like film music it's also music that it doesn't exist alone, but many times it's more a background for the dialogues and the action.
    Background, yeah.

    Well, it's at least funny to know that one of the 'most popular opera compsers of today' seems to have no clue watsoever about his own art.
    (And I even think that many film music composers, 'popular' or not, will be offended by it.)
    Last edited by Marc; May-23-2020 at 14:27.

  9. #51
    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    You seem to have to misstate my position in order to object to it. Am I being unclear?

    Opera is a multi-art form in which music is the primary vehicle of expression. Music is the essential core, the principal locus of meaning, and the main attraction in opera. It is the only one of the arts involved in opera that opera can never do without. Words are expendable: an opera about mutes could be hummed throughout and the story mimed. Plot is expendable: the singers could occupy a single, static situation and, as characters in costume, express their feelings for each other. The stage is expendable: an opera could be written for recording only. But in all cases there is music. We identify operas by their composers; few people know who the librettists are. We remember performances mainly for their singers; I attended Tristan at the Met on the specific evening I did because Birgit Nilsson was singing Isolde, and when Callas sang at the Met for the last time people slept overnight on the sidewalks of New York. We care about operas primarily because we love the music and love great singing, not because the librettos are literarily interesting. A poetic libretto isn't necessarily an advantage, or even noticeable when sung. More often than not, the simpler the text the better for music to do what only music can do, and the better for audience comprehension.

    My statement that people attend or listen to operas mainly because of the music seems so obvious as to need no proof. No one is suggesting that nothing but the music matters, but in fact the content of the central operatic repertoire, where we find a lot of great music and a lot of flimsy and even absurd stories that music transforms into art, suggests that that is very nearly the case.
    Prima la musica, dopo le parole!xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    "...it is said that first your heart sings, then you play. I think if it is not like that, then it is only just combination of notes, isn't it? " - Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Master of the Sitar.

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  11. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by premont View Post
    Opera - or more precisely - opera music is certainly classical music. Not being an opera fan by the way I have to admit, that I enjoy opera music the most, when I am unaware of the plot and ignore the words.
    Indeed. I very rarely listen to opera, but then (i) if I listen to vocal music of any sort I prefer not to know what the words mean, (ii) I usually listen to music with my eyes closed, and (iii) I don't like the idea of a "plot" - if I wanted a plot I'd read a book or watch a drama (preferably without much intrusive music to distract me). Opera becomes a bit ridiculous as an art form if you don't want to look at it, you don't want to understand what they're saying, and you don't want a storyline.

  12. #53
    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    I remember discussing this with the OP sometime ago:

    Quote Originally Posted by norman bates View Post
    "easy sentimentality"?
    I'd say that there's a romantic feeling in the music, altough simplified and depured from all asperities and turbulences, making it closer to new age that tries to have a calming effect on the listener.
    I could make a new thread for this, I think new age is damn close to being part of classical music, (even more than film music is) if you consider its elements:
    -Is it regularly performed in concert halls with classical instruments and ensembles, attracting large numbers of audiences? (Yes)
    -Does it use notation and "final products of composition" in the form of sheet music like classical music? (Yes)
    -Does it have classical influences? (Yes)


    Last edited by hammeredklavier; May-23-2020 at 20:00.

  13. #54
    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    Film music covers a variety of genres, including non-classical sources. If we call every kind of music "classical music", what would be the point of keep using the term "classical music" instead of just "music"?
    it's obvious that there's a lot of music for films that does not have anything to do with classical music.
    And I agree with the fact that a distinction of genres is (even if with all the limitations of putting a label on everything) at least useful.
    But the discussion in another thread wasn't about films with pop/rock/jazz/electronic music or whatever other genre appears in a movie. I think that everybody there would agree that those soundtracks aren't classical music. But I think it's more problematic when people say that even when a classical composer writes a score that is clearly in a classical style that is not classical music.
    What time is the next swan?

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    Senior Member SONNET CLV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    You seem to have to misstate my position in order to object to it. Am I being unclear?

    Opera is a multi-art form in which music is the primary vehicle of expression. Music is the essential core, the principal locus of meaning, and the main attraction in opera. It is the only one of the arts involved in opera that opera can never do without. …

    I don't want to belabor this, and I'm not being argumentative. I just don't want my argument misunderstood or distorted. I don't agree that the subject is absurd. It's one all serious composers of opera are confronted with, because answers to the problems it raises are fundamental to success in their art.
    Of course, I never want to be argumentative with a Tito Schipa fan, and Woodduck posts rank among those on this board that I most cherish for fine thought and fine expression. Still, I maintain I see an absurdity in the notion that music is the primary vehicle of expression in an opera. Certainly opera is a multi-art form, but the music remains just one component of the multi-arts involved. Without the music one doesn't have an opera. But one doesn't have an opera without the libretto, either, silly or complex as the story line may be. Musical extracts from the opera makes sense, but musical extracts from the opera are not opera.

    If most folks go to operas to experience the music, that does not change the dynamic that opera is comprised of certain components, none of which is truly primary, all of which are necessary to have "an opera".

    An opera performed by humming mimes seems somewhat on the verge of ballet. Ballet, it seems to me, depends upon the dance, whether that dance tells a story or is comprised of abstract movement. To take the dance away from a ballet leaves one with ballet music, not ballet. (Interestingly enough, I can actually conceive of a ballet without music, a ballet with only dancers working in silence. I find this an uncomfortable notion. Could this be a different form of art from ballet?)

    My only notion here is that, as you say, opera is a multi-art form, but in such forms there really is no primary art. I've never written an opera, but I suspect that if I did undertake such a project, I would begin with a story rather than with a musical concept. So in that sense, the "primary" or "first" art would be the story, the libretto. But that's stretching a definition. And that's also just my own idea of approaching an opera. Maybe in the end the music would be superior to the libretto, but I suspect that there are instances of great librettos set to lesser music. Still, I remain uncomfortable thinking in terms of music being the primary aspect of opera; it is one aspect, but to be an "opera" other aspects are just as critical or the very definition of the form melts away.

    Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer's "choral opera" proves an interesting project.

    https://delosmusic.com/a-choral-opera-a-what/

    Here the idea of a type of musical presentation (chorus singing everything) overrides the approach of either story first or music first. Here it is performer first. Intriguing. (As a theatre person I find this fascinating; I'm all for the idea that acting is another necessary component of opera. Without the acting element, one may have an opera soundtrack, but not the opera as a true art form.)

    All the best ….
    Last edited by SONNET CLV; May-23-2020 at 20:52.

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  16. #56
    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by consuono View Post
    To muddy the waters further, what exactly is it that makes a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical not "classical"? How about West Side Story? Cabaret? I can understand excluding The Who's Tommy -- although "show some respect! It's a f***in' OPERA!" --but yet back when there was such a thing as record stores when I was young, a record of Kurt Weill music was always in the "classical" section. I could never figure out what exactly the dividing line was.
    that's a very good point... if one accepts the orchestral works of a Gerswhin like classical music, it's hard to see a clear distinction between opera and many musicals.
    What time is the next swan?

  17. #57
    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marc View Post
    Background, yeah.

    Well, it's at least funny to know that one of the 'most popular opera compsers of today' seems to have no clue watsoever about his own art.
    look, you could disagree with what he's saying (altough it's not very clear with what you're disagreeing with), you could even dislike his music, but to think that a opera composer (and an extremely successful one) does not have a clue about how opera works is simply an absurdity.
    What time is the next swan?

  18. #58
    Senior Member norman bates's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SONNET CLV View Post
    I've never written an opera, but I suspect that if I did undertake such a project, I would begin with a story rather than with a musical concept. So in that sense, the "primary" or "first" art would be the story, the libretto
    in the video I've posted at the beginning of the thread Heggie discusses also about this. Ok, he's not answering to any specific question, but basically he says that when he started working for operas everything began indeed with an idea or more exactly in his case, a book: dead man walking, moby dick. I'm not sure if every opera composer works like that, but that is exactly the starting point for him.
    Last edited by norman bates; May-23-2020 at 21:15.
    What time is the next swan?

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    First off, calling most non-vernacular music "classical" is in my view a bad idea. It's confusing because it also refers to a very specific era from ca. 1750—1820; plus, it gives prospective listeners the wrong idea about a genre that is still thriving. We should have done away with this term a long time ago, but now it's here to stay. Personally, I like "concert-hall music," which incudes film suites (but perhaps not film scores) and early electronic works like Gesang der Jünglige and Music for Solo Performer that were meant to be heard live. Silver Apples of the Moon, however, would not be "classical" by this definition because it was originally meant to be heard on a Nonesuch Records disk. Then there's the definition that others use of music adhering to a certain tradition, which gets fuzzy real fast because it is very subjective. Electronic music stems from the "classical tradition," but when does it become a distinct genre (if ever)? Stockhausen, Lucier, and Subotnick all started out in this tradition, the latter two's early works being in Copland's neoclassical aesthetic. Francis Dhomont studied with Koechlin and Boulanger! It's only with younger "second generation" figures like eRikm that you start to see the music headed more in the direction of trans-idiomatic improvisation.

    Anyways, I (and the rest of us on this godforsaken thread) can type paragraphs upon paragraphs and still not come up with a definitive answer to anything...
    Last edited by Portamento; May-23-2020 at 21:41.

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    Senior Member Flamme's Avatar
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