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Discussion Starter · #321 · (Edited)
#158
4th Symphony
Robert Schumann
1841/revised 1851


A little controversy regarding the completion dates of Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op 120 here: Clara Schumann, Robert's widow, later claimed on the first page of the score to the symphony, as published in 1882 as part of her husband's complete works (Robert Schumanns Werke, Herausgegeben von Clara Schumann, published by Breitkopf & Härtel), that the symphony had merely been sketched in 1841 but was only fully orchestrated ("vollstandig instrumentiert") in 1851. However, this was untrue, and his close friend Johannes Brahms, who greatly preferred the earlier version of the symphony, published that version in 1891 despite Clara's strenuous objections:

"It is a real pleasure to see anything so bright and spontaneous expressed
with corresponding ease and grace . . .
Everything is so absolutely natural that you cannot imagine it in any other way . . .
there are no harsh colors, no forced effects . . .
The score has not gained by being revised . . .
It has undoubtedly lost much of its charm, lightness of touch and clarity of expression."


Robert Schumann is far more recognized for his piano works, to the unjust neglect of his orchestral output. As you can tell from this excellent symphony, that neglect is undeserved.

In the revision it appears that he deliberately sought to create a richer, more full-bodied sound to match the earnestness of his musical ideas. Most music fans must agree, as it is the final version that usually is played and recorded.

Yet that hasn't stopped conductors AND composers (including Mahler, Berlioz, Gounod, Hans Pfitzner, Stravinsky, and Bernstein) from attempting to rework Schumann's orchestrations.

Here's Leonard Bernstein in a legendary performance with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

Bernstein observes Schumann's wish that there be no 'gap' between movements.

I. Andante con moto; from 00:00
II. Romanza: Andante; from 11:48
III. Scherzo: Presto; from 17:03 (!)
IV. Largo - Finale: Allegro vivace; from 22:32


One more thing - the Finale is generally well regarded. The final movement, like the first, has a slow introduction; in this case it serves as a bridge from the quiet conclusion of the scherzo to the dramatically charged finale proper, which commences with a dramatic proclamation of the theme and then cites other material from the preceding movements. A bustling orchestral build-up leads to a lusty fanfare from the horns and a robust Landler-like motif (actually derived from the theme) is introduced by the cellos during a brief respite before the final rush to the exuberant conclusion.

Also . . . note that Bernstein is conducting without the use of a score. Something very showmanlike and theatrical about that.

Well, son of a biscuit. Gone. Well, here's all FOUR Schumann Symphonies with Bernstein.


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Discussion Starter · #322 · (Edited)
#159
Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat major, K. 447
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
1787


Mozart composed this for his friend and French horn player Joseph Leutgeb.

It's in the usual three-movement concerto form, with an Allegro followed by a slow movement marked Romance and a concluding Allegro in rondo form with plenty of hunting-horn atmosphere. The concerto is scored for two clarinets, two bassoons, and the usual complement of strings.

And it's short, clocking in at under 15 minutes.

Here's Radek Baborak on the French Horn with the Orquesta Sinfonica de RTVE with Jean-Jacques Kantorow conducting.

····±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±± ±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±±± ±±±±±±±±±
 

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Discussion Starter · #323 ·
#160
Symphony No. 1 "Classical"
Sergei Prokofiev
1917


Sergei Prokofiev was a Russian Soviet composer, pianist and conductor. As the creator of acknowledged masterpieces across numerous music genres, he is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century.

His Symphony No. in D major is written in loose imitation of the style of Haydn and Mozart, and is considered to be one of the first neoclassical compositions.

The symphony is in four movements and lasts about ten to sixteen minutes:

JOKE OF THE DAY: If it takes 16 minutes for 20 musicians to play Prokofiev's 1st Symphony, how long will it take using 40 musicians?

I. Allegro
II. Larghetto
III. Gavotte: Non troppo allegro
IV. Finale: Molto vivace


The first movement is a miniature sonata design that follows the traditional form but adds some quirks that would have given old Haydn himself a chuckle -- the recapitulation, for example, begins in the "wrong" key (but soon rights itself) and occasionally a beat is left out, as though the music has somewhere else to be. The sleek main theme is followed by the enormous leaps, flashing grace notes and sparse texture of the second subject.

A graceful melody floating high in the violins is used to open and close the Larghetto, with the pizzicato gentle middle section reaching a brilliant tutti before quickly subsiding.

The third movement, a Gavotte, comes not from the Viennese symphony but rather from the tradition of French Baroque ballet.

The finale is the most brilliant movement of the Symphony, and calls for remarkable feats of agility and precise ensemble from the performers.

That said, it is NOT representative of a composer who later gained a reputation as an ear-shattering iconoclast, the "enfant terrible" of 20th-century music, the master of modernity.

Here's a nice lively, sparkling, and breathtakingly sonic rendition by the Baltic Sea Philharmonic conducted by Kristjan Jarvi in 2016 at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow.

 

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Discussion Starter · #324 · (Edited)
Opera

I've been glossing over the Classical subgenre of opera for the entire list, mostly because, on the whole, they're not nearly as accessible as non-vocal works.

For starters, operas are usually sung in a classical (or 'operatic') style, which is a difficult hurdle to overcome when trying to entice someone to sample the world of Classical music in the first place.

Secondly, most of the greatest operas aren't in English (most in Italian or German), although other languages are represented.

Third, they are truly meant to be seen live . . . sure, the music may be excellent, but they are written to be enjoyed with live action.

And, fourthly, they're long.

And, of course, how can you rank them, or even compare them to each other?

Here we go . . . .

ŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒ ŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒŒ

Opera

OK, I've already included some works from operas, mostly Overtures:

#18. O Fortuna from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff
. . . . . . . . . . Ok Carmina Burana is technically an Oratorio, not an Opera. The distinction is thin: An opera is intended to be acted out, as a play in which all of the dialogue is sung rather than spoken. A cantata, on the other hand, is also a drama, but is more like a story set to music and simply sung.

#30. Overture to The Barber of Seville by Rossini

#31. Ride of the Valkyries
. . . . . . . . . . The opening of act 3 of Die Walkure, the second of the four operas constituting Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.

#67. Handel's Messiah
. . . . . . . . . . Yeah another oratorio, but this one has the Hallelujah chorus in it.

#69. Richard Strauss - Salome - "Dance of the Seven Veils "

#95. Mozart - Overture from The Magic Flute

#103. Rossini - Thieving Magpie Overture

#104. Rossini - William Tell Overture[/COLOR]

#123. Johann Strauss II - Overture to Die Fledermaus

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Opera

As far as finding 'entry level' opera, I've found that looking for the BEST opera isn't necessarily the best path.

No matter how you judge it, experts and opera lovers generally agree that Richard Wagner's Ring cycle (technically DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN), actually four epic operas running about 15-16 hours in total is the best of the best.

But I'll be leaving that until later I think. Something that long needs to be worked into I think . . . .

OK, then, I've got roughly 50 operas that ought to be noted, and I've put them in an order based mostly on how often they appear in BEST OPERA lists.

And yet, if one should ask for the ONE BEST OPERA, I'm liable to get as many answers as people I ask.

I've been the resident musical director for a small amateur opera group (VCGSRC- the Ventura County Gilbert & Sullivan Repertoire Company); we stick mainly to the operettas composed by Sir Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert. I asked one of our current sopranos what her favorite was, and she promptly replied "Don Giovanni", which is in my TOP TEN OPERAS.

______________________________

One of the really special things about opera is its raw, immediate nature.

There are no microphones. No soundboards. No special effects. Just a performer singing their soul out.

Except sometimes it's not that simple. Because unless you speak Italian, French, German, and Russian then chances are that you're going to have to choose between watching the performer or staring up at surtitles because English was a little late to the ball when it comes to opera history.

Opera has been around for centuries and it wasn't until the 20th century that operas written in English took off. Meaning that most of the greatest operas were written in languages other than English.

So what are you supposed to do if English is your only language? You can either make due with surtitles or you can check out this list of the Greatest English Operas!
 

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Discussion Starter · #325 ·
#161
The Pirates of Penzance
Sir Arthur Sullivan, with libretto and lyrics by W.S. Gilbert
1879


OK, here's the first entire Opera for the list. It's in English, which makes it just a skosh more accessible as a gateway to the world of opera.

Yes, I know - - - The Pirates of Penzance isn't even really a "true" opera. It's an operetta, or a comic opera. It has a healthy amount of dialogue.

The opera's official premiere was at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York City on 31 December 1879.

The Pirates of Penzance tells the story of a young pirate apprentice named Frederic who has come to the end of his indentured period. As it turns out, Frederic was indentured by mistake. His half-deaf nurse had been instructed to apprentice him to a "pilot" but instead apprenticed him to a "pirate". At any rate, Frederic has decided to leave the pirate life forever and, though he loves his comrades dearly, devote his life to the extermination of their kind. However, since he is until the stroke of midnight still one of them, he feels obliged to point out the pirates' weakness--they are too softhearted. Apparently, all a captive must do is plead to being an orphan and he is immediately released!

Once upon the shore, Frederic, who has never seen any woman other than his old nurse, stumbles upon a bevy of beautiful maidens. He immediately falls in love with the most beautiful of the bunch, Mabel, who graciously offers to reclaim the "Poor Wandering One." What Frederic has forgotten, however, is that there are pirates about! Suddenly his old comrades are upon them! The lonely pirates are delighted by the beauty of their captives and recognize the situation as a "first rate opportunity of getting married with impunity." But the girls' father, Major-General Stanley, arrives just in the nick of time and claims untruthfully to be an orphan, thus winning a brief reprieve for his daughters. The General is terrified that the pirates will uncover his lie, but Frederic eases his fears, promising to apprehend the band of pirates and put an end to their plundering. However, when Frederic learns that, due to a technicality (his apprenticeship contract is until his 18th birthday, not his 18th year, and as he was born on February 29th), he is still indentured to the pirates, and the complications abound.


A major Broadway revival featuring Kevin Kline (Pirate King), Rex Smith (Frederic), and Linda Ronstadt (Mabel) opened at the Uris Theatre on January 8, 1981 and ran for 772 performances. A 1983 film version featured Kline, Smith, Ronstadt, and Angela Lansbury.

The music is superb. One of the tunes has become part of our culture . . . With Cat-like Tread is now well known as Hail Hail the Gang's All Here.

Here's a video of the opening number from that 1980 pre-Broadway revival at the Central Park's Delacorte Theater for their Shakespeare Festival, although it is only the songs, and is missing the very important dialogue that drives the plot.

But, I actually recommend that you skip directly to the next video of the film version

And the link to the playlist of songs from that production:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL720944FDE2714530

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In 1983 The Pirates of Penzance was brought to the screen in a brilliant film version. The lyrics are more understandable and the revised orchestral arrangements are further revised. All the production values that cinema has to offer are utilized to their fullest advantage.

 

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Discussion Starter · #326 · (Edited)
#162
The Mikado
Gilbert & Sullivan
1885

Setting the opera in Japan, an exotic locale far away from Britain, allowed Gilbert to satirize British politics and institutions more freely by disguising them as Japanese.

The Mikado is a comedy that deals with themes of death and cruelty. This works only because Gilbert treats these themes as trivial, even lighthearted issues.

Since the 1990s, the opera, and productions of it, have sometimes drawn criticism from the Asian-American community (or, more commonly, from white folk on behalf of the Asian-American community) as promoting "simplistic orientalist stereotypes". Of course, the point of the opera is to reflect British culture through the lens of an invented 'other', a fantasy Japan that has only the most superficial resemblance to reality.

Mikado Fun Fact #1: The phrase "A short, sharp shock", from the Act 1 song "I am so proud" has entered the English language, appearing in titles of books and songs, such as in samples of Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon".

Mikado Fun Fact #2: Many productions used to add an additional character to help with the singing of the character of Pish-Tush, as some of it was set rather low in range.

This production revives the practice in a unique way, by splitting the role of Pish-Tush into two roles; Pish and Tush, although they share only one costume simultaneously.

Here's the Pacific Opera Project's 2019 production. I've worked with two of the performers in other productions.

I myself played the title role once. It's great. He doesn't even have any stage time until several scenes into the Second Act.

Oh, and the video is restricted to embedding on other websites . . . you'll have to click on the link and actually go TO Youtube to watch it: The Overture and credits start at around 14:20 (there's a very long promotional introduction).

.

In fairness, the POP production is considerably 'updated'.

Here's a far more "traditional" approach presented by the Stratford Festival of Canada. Here's Act I and Act II.


 

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Discussion Starter · #327 · (Edited)
The Mikado
addendum

The Mikado has made its way to cinema as well. Obviously, there's the advantage of reshoots, overdubs, lighting, camera angles, and considerably higher budgets which allow for higher production values overall. In the following video a couple numbers have been cut, and the director chose to include a 15 minute expositional prologue. The prologue works cinematically, as in the stage version all of the information related here is presented in real time rather than as dialogue about what happened earlier.

Here's the 1939 version of The Mikado. Although it's an American production it was shot in England using mostly English actors from the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, well known for its staging of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.

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A 1966 stage version of The Mikado by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company was adapted for a 1967 cinematic version. In this case, the performance of stage actors without the interaction of a live audience robs this performance of some of the theatrical magic, leaving it a bit dull and lifeless.

There is also a 1987 version with Eric Idle in the lead role of Ko-Ko, although his schtick is mostly stolen from a 1960 Bell Telephone Hour production starring Groucho Marx.

Here's one duet, There is beauty in the bellow of the blast, featuring Groucho singing with Helen Traubel:


The 1987 Eric Idle TV version is a wonderfully droll live version that dispenses with almost all references to its original setting in a fictional Japan, instead apparently placing it in a 1920s Edwardian Art Deco seaside grand hotel. ("Almost all references": there are a few moments at which the actors were told to make racially insensitive hand "*********" gestures that must have seemed awkward even in 1987 and are downright offensive now.)

Except for the amateur singing of Idle, the voices here are top notch.

This version, however, appears to be lifted from a far superior 1983 stage version starring William Conrad and Clive Revill.


Ya still with me?

1995. Australian version.

Here's the "megamix" finale. Very modern.

 

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Discussion Starter · #328 ·
I'd be remiss if I were to fail to mention that there is also a reworked and reorchestrated 1986 version titled

HOT MIKADO,

inspired by a 1939 version titled THE HOT MIKADO, of which very little had survived.

Visually it's sort of a mixture of Japanese architecture and The Cotton Club, but the arrangements are what make this a such a successful adaptation: The score uses much of Sullivan's original music but is reorchestrated using 1940s popular musical harmonies and arrangements and a wide range of styles, including jazz, hot gospel, blues, rock, Cab Calloway swing, and torch songs.

Here's the Three Little Maids number [after a vampy first half it turns very Andrews Sisters]:


And the retitled "Swing a Merry Madrigal" (it stays traditional for the first minute, then breaks into swing, with some decent scatting):


Here's the American Musical Theatre of San Jose's 1998 entire production, although both the video and audio are somewhat substandard:

 

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The Great Courses Classical Music Lectures: Robert Greenberg, Ph.D

I recommend his work to all who want to learn about Classical Music...

One can stream his presentations on Wondrium.com for a monthly fee. He is very entertaining and he is a musicologist/composer/conductor in the SF Bay Area. I have benefited from watching his stuff, and there is a lot of material to be consumed. It's a great place to start!
 

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Discussion Starter · #330 · (Edited)
Gilbert & Sullivan squirrel chasing

Yes, I'm a G&S fan!

So, like many artists that specialize in comedy, Sir Arthur Sullivan really felt comedy was beneath him, and wanted to be taken seriously as a composer. For many, many years he had a dream of composing a breathtaking Grand Opera.

Sullivan eventually go his chance in 1891 with Ivanhoe. He initially asked his longtime librettist WS Gilbert to supply a libretto, but Gilbert declined, but recommended Julian Sturgis. At the time the legend of Ivanhoe was all the rage, and the Grand Opera was quite successful at the time

Our Artistic Director for the Operetta Troupe (of which I'm the Musical Director) despises Ivanhoe passionately. I've suggested we present it (both seriously, and in 'jest') on several occasions, and have been met with derision and scorn, even when suggesting it as merely a concert presentation.

From what I've read (and the little I've heard) it's really not suitable for presentation any more. When originally presented the story of Ivanhoe was well-loved and well-known, and this Grand Opera used that to its advantage . . . librettist Julian Sturgis evidently cherry picked the best parts of the story and that's what was set. Unfortunately, they left out a great deal of the plot, which makes it difficult for modern audiences, now unfamiliar with the tale, to follow along. The opera intentionally dramatizes disconnected scenes from the book and does not attempt to retell the whole story.

That is why I've been advocating for a concert presentation. The music, from what I've heard and read, is top notch stuff. It's a bit stuffy in places, as it's heavy with ballads and hymn-like numbers, but that's outweighed by the wonderfully complex and dramatic music. There's a brilliant double chorus in the jousting scene, and some wonderfully Wagnerian arias. And in a concert presentation of an unknown operatic work no one will notice if we made any judicious 'trimming' of the score.

Also in its favor for presentation, is that it's likely it might actually be a premiere presentation out here, leaving a possibility for advertising it as such. The "Lost Arthur Sullivan Grand Opera", "West Coast Premiere", "rare opportunity to hear the score from one of Great Britain's most celebrated composers", the opera that broke attendance records on its original run in 1891 (a consecutive run of 155 performances, a record for a grand opera, a record that is STILL unbroken in England). We just passed its 130th anniversary in 2021.


Which brings me to Gilbert & Sullivan's fourteenth and last opera together, The Grand Duke.

Almost nobody has heard of it, but it's truly lovely. Who can resist an operetta with a statutory duel whereby the loser is declared legally dead; an aria about a sausage roll; an increasingly drunk chorus; a "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.[/QUOTE]

We presented The Grand Duke a few years ago.

There's some great moments in The Grand Duke, but there's also some headscratchingly awful settings of Gilbert's lyrics. It seems to have been a slap-dash affair with Sullivan, as though he were just too busy to be bothered to get the lyrics to fit correctly. But even Gilbert was critical of his own libretto, calling it "an ugly misshapen little brat".

In spite of that, it still manages to make some forays into actual Grand Opera. There's some great melodies, and some great dialogue. But there's also filler, unjustified comedy, a complex yet thin plot, and, again, some awkward lyrics.

That doesn't mean it's justifiably neglected in the canon of G&S . . . It's quite a jolly romp with some dramatic moments, even though I suspect the intention was to present a dramatic splash with some comedic moments: In effect, this operetta doesn't really know WHAT it wants to be.

I like it. It's not my favorite, and it's far from perfect, but I like it anyway.

And the similarly undersung Princess Ida has some of Sullivan's best music.

Yes, Princess Ida is also amusing, although I still don't understand the Brits' obsession with cross-dressing. Whatever.

The lead role, in the hands of a capable actress is a tour de force. The ending (like many of their endings) unfortunately seems arbitrary and rushed, which works for most of the other G&S operettas, but not so much in this one. In this case, with the feminists all caving in to the mens' world at the end seems astonishingly outdated, but it is what it is.


 

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Discussion Starter · #331 ·
I recommend his work to all who want to learn about Classical Music...

One can stream his presentations on Wondrium.com for a monthly fee. He is very entertaining and he is a musicologist/composer/conductor in the SF Bay Area. I have benefited from watching his stuff, and there is a lot of material to be consumed. It's a great place to start!
Thanks for the link.

Yes, there are many ways to "learn about Classical Music", and I'm sure that learning from an actual scholar would be a wonderful way to learn.

You could also follow this thread, or just poke around on this site here and there watching for recommendations. One could also Google "100 best Classical Music works".

Community Colleges here in California have free tuition for residents, and most offer a class in Music Appreciation.

And you're right: There IS "a lot of material to be consumed".
 

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Discussion Starter · #332 · (Edited)
#163
Porgy and Bess
George Gershwin
Libretto by author DuBose Heyward and lyricist Ira Gershwin.
1935


Hailed as a true American opera, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, the plot is about the crippled Porgy and his Bess in the poor American deep south. Every folk-jazz inspired number is a hit: A Woman is a Sometime Thing, Leavin' for the Promised Land, Bess, You is My Woman Now and, best known of all, Summertime.

Hailed as the first great American opera (although Gershwin preferred to refer to it as a "folk opera"), it premiered on Broadway on October 10th, 1935.

Even though it received mixed reviews after its premiere, the fact that some of the most popular songs in American musical history, like "Summertime" and "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'", came from this show speaks to how great it is. Janis Joplin famously released a cover of Summertime. Actually, "Summertime" is one of the most popular songs in the history of recorded music, with more than 33,000 covers by groups and solo performers.

Even though the show hadn't been performed in full from its debut to a 1976 revival by the Houston Grand Opera it is still the standard for American opera. Not only is Porgy and Bess a great opera, but it was revolutionary for casting an all African-American cast in the 1930's.

But if you thought The Mikado had some racism issues, it took Porgy and Bess around 50 years to shake off the charges of racism, and by then, the opera was considerably outdated. It didn't help that the opera wasn't presented in its fully intended operatic format; it was trimmed, truncated, the recitatives converted to dialogue, and in Europe, performed by white actors in blackface.

But PORGY AND BESS has, to date, been produced on Broadway seven times: in 1935, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1953, 1976, 1983, 2012, and The Metropolitan Opera production opened September 2019, and closed February 15, 2020.

So, the first filmed version was in 1959, with Sydney Poitier playing Porgy, although Harry Belefonte was the producers' first choice. This was more "Musical" than an Opera.

As Poitier was not a singer, his singing voice was dubbed by Robert McFerrin, the father of Grammy Award winner Bobby McFerrin. The film won one Oscar for Andre Previn for Best Adapted Score.

So . . . it's long . . . the original version is around four hours.

Here's a very short sampler, featuring the incomparable Audra McDonald in a Broadway version:


. . . and the highlights from the San Francisco Opera (unfortunately, you have to click through to Youtube to view it)




Like that?

Here's the entire 2002 Lincoln Center production. Although this is downloaded from a videotape, the sound is excellent, and the production quite good. Even the Overture is 'kickin'".

Marquita Lister as Bess
Alvy Powell as Porgy




And the unfairly maligned yet visually stunning Trevor Nunn film version, a 1993 television adaptation of Nunn's 1986 production. What's nice here is that it was based on the "complete" score.

Willard White (Porgy)
Cynthia Haymon (Bess)

 

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Discussion Starter · #333 · (Edited)
#164
Part 1 of 3
Don Giovani
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte.
1787/1788


Its full title: Il dissoluto punito ossia il Don Giovanni - Dramma giocoso in due atti (The Rake punished, or Don Giovanni, a dramma giocoso in two acts)

An opera of perfect proportions, both thematically and musically balanced. The opera of all operas.

Mozart's art has often been compared with Shakespeare's, above all perhaps for the composer's complete and lifelike blend of the comic and tragic: their co-existence is actually the essence of all Mozart's operatic masterpieces, and Don Giovanni - aptly labelled a dramma giocosa - is the work in which they are most intimately woven together.

People's long fascination with the Don Juan legend, first made into a play by some Spanish poet-monk in the early 17th century, meant that by Mozart's time there were countless Don Juan shows around. But Mozart - whose music would have been impossible without alchemy of Da Ponte's words - gave life, as it were, to the supernatural, in the form of the Commendatore's statue.

In Leporello's Catalogue Aria he created a piece unlike anything else in all opera. The work that Rossini claimed he would most liked to have composed himself is driven from start to finish with timeless power and brilliance.
Mozart's masterpiece mixes comedy and tragedy in equal measure (he called it a 'merry tragedy') and has one of the most powerful finales of any opera ever written. Womanizing nobleman Don Giovanni thinks he can outsmart the devil; and even when hell opens to claim him, he still resists with all his strength. If you've ever cried out against fate, or dreamed of living a life of pure id, then this is the opera for you. Highlights include Giovanni's charming serenade 'Deh Vieni All Finestra' ('Come To The Window') and the epic, spine-tingling Finale.

This is Mozart's 19th opera (although three of his earlier operas were 'incomplete'). Reports about the last-minute completion of the overture conflict; some say it was completed the day before the premiere, some on the very day. More likely it was completed the day before, in light of the fact that Mozart recorded the completion of the opera on 28 October. Mozart left finishing Don Giovanni until the very latest deadline; legend has it that the scores handed to the orchestra minutes before curtain call were still wet.

Synopsis: Don Giovanni, a young, arrogant, and sexually promiscuous nobleman, abuses and outrages everyone else in the cast until he encounters "something" he cannot kill, beat up, dodge, or outwit.

The plot is long and involved, and best left as a link: https://www.metopera.org/discover/s...A1MOZPq9MdGDriBRdHgaAu5BEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

So let's start with the Overture, shall we?

Before the premiere, it was mentioned to Mozart that there was no overture. He reportedly said "Don't worry. It is here," pointing to his head. He went to his desk well after midnight and spent the entire evening composing, as his wife helped to keep him awake with punch and poetry readings. There was no time to write a score, so he wrote out the individual parts without one! A copyist had been ordered at 7 a.m., and at 7 a.m., the overture was finished. The work is virtually the first movement of a symphony and contains no themes from the opera. At the end, the music quietly glides into Leporello's first aria. For the benefit of concert performances, Mozart provided a louder ending.

Here's Manfred Honeck
conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
in 2006, at the Estates Theatre, Prague
.


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"The Champagne Aria": Giovanni's one attempt at self-expression in the Act I aria 'Finch'han dal vino' (aka the Champagne Aria for the tradition of having Giovanni swig champagne before singing and throw away the glass at the end). The great seducer's tongue-twisting aria reveals his irrepressible energy and love of life. Don Giovanni rattles off instructions to Leporello at top speed: he must prepare a great feast, with enough wine to make everyone drunk, he must find more girls to attend and he must organize dancing.


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"La ci darem la mano."

Clever musical touches can be found in the well-known duet "Là ci darem la mano" in Act I. As the duet begins, Giovanni and his prey have alternate verses, but, as the conquest ensues, they begin to blend in harmony, the music reflecting their emotional unity.

Here's Rodney Gilfry (Don Giovanni) and Liliana Nikiteanu (Zerlina) performing the recitative and aria (the aria proper starts at 2:48).

Just remember - if he seems a little sleazy, he's SUPPOSED to be. He gets dragged off to Hell for that later.


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'Deh Vieni All Finestra' ('Come To The Window')

Here's Erwin Schrott. Recitative and Aria (which starts at 0:55)

 

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Discussion Starter · #334 · (Edited)
#164
Part 2 of 3
Don Giovani
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte.
1787/1788


Of course, the most memorable part of the opera is the Dinner/Descent into Hell sequence at the end. Bernard Shaw is right: This really is “beyond all comparison the most wonderful of the wonders of dramatic music”.

There are an astounding breadth of ways the entrance of the statue and Don Giovanni's descent into Hell are theatrically handled, and varies according to the artistic vision of the director as well as the production costs associated. For a theatre with a trap door, he can actually 'descend' to Hell, others can make him 'vanish' using lighting and visual tricks.

There are three I will not be embedding here . . . one (from the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma) where The Commendatore's statue appears instead as a cartoon version of Michaelangelo's Hand and Finger of God from the Sistine Chapel, which is lowered onstage (much like the animation from an episode of MONTY PYTHON), and instead of being dragged to Hell, Giovanni breaks the plywood finger off, throws it down, and exits stage right.

Another is where he falls into the pit of Hell, but a bit of him bounces back into view.

The last has the statue wielding a flaming sword. Yes, it's actually on fire. It's not the worst thing ever, but it reminds me too much of a light saber from Star Wars.

Indeed, it's been a lot of fun finding all the different videos of this online:



Here's a longer clip that gives the preceding scene previous to the statue's entrance, which occurs at around 8:37 in this clip.

This is from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music's production of Mozart's DON GIOVANNI







/



But here's another impressive production with Kurt Moll as the Commedatore.

There are English subtitles, and while they are not the best translation (more of a paraphrasing), it's fairly actually appropriate.



 

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Discussion Starter · #335 · (Edited)
Here's the most visually impressive of the lot. [Unfortunately this version has no attribution/credit, but I believe it's a 2011 production from the Metropolitan Opera Company and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. The Commendatore is a singer from the Slovak Republic - Stefan Kocan. Mariusz Kwiecien is in the title role of Don Giovanni and Luca Pisaroni is Leporello.

They're singing in Italian, and the subtitles are in French.


,



Here's that Franco Zeffirelli production.

 

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Discussion Starter · #336 ·
#164
Part 3 of 3
Don Giovani
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte.
1787/1788


Don Giovani
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart





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A screen adaptation of the opera was made under the title Don Giovanni in 1979. It appears to be quite awful, in spite of the excellent source material.

But, if you're up for it, here's the full opera, all three hours, with English subtitles. This is the Zurich 2011 production with Rodney Gilfry as Don Giovanni



 

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Discussion Starter · #337 ·
#165
TRISTAN UND ISOLDE
Richard Wagner

1860 (premiere delayed until 1865)
German

Wagner
doesn't just rip out your heart, he beats you with it, makes you eat it, all the while kicking you in the sides.

The ultimate, transcendent, no-holds-barred "love in death" experience, ending with Isolde's Liebestod. As usual, Wagner wrote his own libretto. Isolde is betrothed to King Mark. After a mix-up, she and Tristan drink a love potion and fall cataclysmically in love. This is "extreme opera", full of ecstatic thrills in very slow motion, but worth every note. Be prepared.

A revolutionary chord (commonly referred to as the "Tristan chord") heralds the start of modern opera and a new way of thinking.

Around 1857 Wagner, reaching a creative block with his Ring opera cycle, decided meanwhile to compose a popular, easily performable opera based on the Tristan legend. Being Wagner, what he came up with was a vastly profound psychodrama whose very opening chord challenged traditional harmony, inspiring and liberating a subsequent generation of composers. So much so, that Tristan has been called ‘the first modern opera’, a unique watershed beyond which music changed for good.

Very little actually happens onstage, in the manner of Wagner’s beloved Greek tragedies. But the score is vibrantly alive both with the lovers’ passion and a more transcendent yearning, for surcease, rest, escape from a cruel existence. Its score intertwines motives in darkly sensuous chromatic harmonies which find resolution only in death.

It undoubtedly reflects Wagner’s personal unhappiness, and his affair (probably more idealised than real) with Mathilde Wesendonck, but also his interests in Buddhism and Schopenhauer’s philosophy. It’s never been his most popular work, but its power is enormous, even overwhelming – which for some devotees is the point – and its greatness undeniable.

I'll skip the SYNOPSIS, as it can be found elsewhere online. For instance, there's a fairly thorough synopsis on the Wikipedia entry.
Or HERE in this short Youtube video: Wagner's 'Tristan und Isolde' Told in 3 Minutes



.


So . . . here are some highlights, smaller digestible snippets from this work.

Here's a 71-second snippet of the gorgeous Liebestod conducted by Dudamel.








And the entire 23-minute Vorspiel [Prelude] und Liebestod, played by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andres Orozco-Estrada






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Of course, these are orchestral, and opera is vocal. Probably the most incredible part of Tristan und Isolde is the ending of “Tristan,” simply because of the sense of release and this very transcendence that cannot be found anywhere else in opera. After several operas of unresolved harmonic development, we finally get to that glorious B major chord we’ve been waiting for. This is arguably the longest and greatest payoff in all of art history. And of course, playing only this ending betrays its greatness by failing to include everything in the opera that makes the pay-off so marvelous. You really must sit through the whole thing to appreciate the ending.

Somehow, in today's culture, it seems overly daunting to commit
four hours of time to simply sit and listen (and in this case, watch as well) to one of the finest operas every composed.

Yet we'll willingly sit through yet another football game, or binge-watch 8 episodes of Game of Thrones.

Consider:

"No healing, no sweet death can ever free me from the pain of yearning:
Nowhere, ah, nowhere can I find rest.
Night casts me back to day,
So that the sun can for ever feast its sight upon my suffering."


So, instead of highlights, here's the full 4-hour 1983 production from the Bayreuther Festspiele, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, with Rene Kollo as Tristan and Johanna Meier as Isolde, and King Marke sung by Matti Salminen. The credits roll for the first minute of this video, but it's worth playing through it to let the silence settle you in.

BTW: This video has subtitles available in German, French, Spanish, and English. Click on the "setting" icon at the bottom right of the screen, and select.





 

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Discussion Starter · #339 ·
So, there it is. A short wade into the OPERA pond.

To recap – I’ve taken a few sojourns into some opera and operetta (and oratorio) music:

#18. O Fortuna from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff
#30. Overture to The Barber of Seville by Rossini
#31. Ride of the Valkyries (Die Walküre)
#67. Handel's Messiah
#69. Richard Strauss - Salome - "Dance of the Seven Veils "
#95. Mozart - Overture from The Magic Flute
#103. Rossini - Thieving Magpie Overture
#104. Rossini - William Tell Overture[/COLOR]
#123. Johann Strauss II - Overture to Die Fledermaus


. . . And five operas (and some wandering off the path)


#161. Gilbert & Sullivan - The Pirates of Penzance
#162. Gilbert & Sullivan - The Mikado
The Hot Mikado
Ivanhoe
The Grand Duke
Princess Ida

#163. George Gershwin - Porgy and Bess
#164. Mozart - Don Giovani
#165. Richard Wagner - Tristan und Isolde



Obviously, there is far more to Opera than just these. Many wouldn’t even bother putting the Sullivan operettas on a Top 10 list of Best Operas.



So I’ll wrap up the opera genre for the time being with the rogue-ish San Francisco Opera list of The 10 Best Operas of All Time



10. Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie, 2000
9. Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin, 1935
8. Dialogues of the Carmelites by Francis Poulenc, 1957
7. Eugene Onegin by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1879
6. The Barber of Seville (Il barbiere di Siviglia) by Gioachino Rossini, 1816
5. La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini, 1896
4. La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, 1853
3. Die Walküre by Richard Wagner, 1870
2. Tosca by Giacomo Puccini, 1900
1. The Marriage of Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1786



I applaud SFO for their choices to include 3 from the 20th Century, and one from the 21st Century. I’m actually unfamiliar with the two most recent on their list, but there’s no denying that the rest mentioned are certainly excellent operas. I find it interesting that Puccini twice found his way on their Top 10 List, both in the top five.



Gramophone has their own list of “starter-pack” Top 10 Operas, which shares some entries with the SFO list. They’re in no particular order:


Mozart - The Marriage of Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro)
Puccini - La bohème
Puccini - Tosca
Beethoven – Fidelio
Wagner - Tristan und Isolde
Janáček - The Cunning Little Vixen
Verdi - Aida
Verdi - La traviata
Mozart - The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte)
Bizet - Carmen



If you find that the Opera genre interests you, whether it be the ones I’ve mentioned, or others, seek out more, and explore others from the composers that you like the most (unless it’s Beethoven; he only wrote the one). There are plenty.




 

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Discussion Starter · #340 · (Edited)
Intermission

Suggested by HammeredKlavier

Missa pro defuncto Archiepiscopo Sigismondo
Johann Michael Haydn
1771

Well, Michael Haydn has generally been given short shrift by the Classical community, as he's certainly been overshadowed by the other composers of the time, most notably his older brother Joseph Haydn, but that assessment has changed favorably in the last few decades. Although Michael Haydn's sacred choral works are generally regarded as his most important, it should be noted that he also composed secular works, including 41 symphonies and wind partitas, and many concertos and chamber works.

But this sacred Requiem Mass was written when Michael Haydn was Director of Music for the Archbishop of Salzburg. The Mozart family were active in Salzburg at that time (he was employed there for 44 years), and this Requiem likely had a profound effect on the young Mozart, whose own Requiem of some 20 years later shows the influence of this earlier work. Evidently both Leopold and his son Wolfgang were present at the first three performances (some say they were both playing in the orchestra at the premiere).

1. Introitus et Kyrie
2. Dies Irae
3. Domine Deus, Jesu Christe
4. Quam Olim Abrahæ
5. Hostias
6. Sanctus
7. Benedictus
8. Agnus Dei

9. Cum Sanctis Tuis and Requiem Æternam

Technically, there are 11 sections, and, depending on the recording, they may be lumped together in different variations in as little as five sections.

For all of its influence, stylistically it is rooted firmly in the Classical tradition (and, I suppose, some Baroque tradition as well), and artfully stays "inside the box" in a friendly and graceful manner, except when it goes somewhat rogue, with some real bang up thunder-in-your-face sections, like in the Kyrie and Dies Irae. The fugal sections (in the Quam olim abrahæ and in the Cum sanctis tuis) are of special note, and the second and first themes first heard in the Introit and Kyrie are artfully reprised in the Requiem Æternam followed by a surprise recapitulation of the Cum sanctis tuis fugue to wrap it all up nicely.

This Requiem is also quite reminiscent of, and surpasses, his brother's choral works. Comparatively, when it comes to sacred choral works, the common feeling is that Michael really outshines his older brother. I'm struck by the very masterful interplay of brass and strings against each other, as well as against the vocal quartet and choir. I also find it interesting how M Haydn manages to bounce between Baroque, Classical, and proto-Romanticism on a dime.

It's also reminiscent of bits of Handel's Messiah, whom may have been an inspiration.

Here's the Liszt Ferenc Chamber Orchestra and the Hungarian Radio and Television Chorus, conducted by Helmuth Rilling.

 
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