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I have a confession to make.

I have enough trouble liking/loving opera, which is ironic as I'm the de facto decades-long musical director of a Gilbert & Sullivan repertory group that generally presents two G&S operettas every year, as well as a summer concert series.

Opera is a long-form musical art form, with operas lasting 90 minutes or more.
Most of the really truly great operas are in languages in which I am not fluent.
I'm not a fan of traditional opera solo vocals, with exceptions. Honestly, I prefer "pop opera" voices.

I've accompanied several "legit" singers performing Schubert Lieder, and, man, they are unlikable. The Lieder, not the singers. The best thing about them is that they're short. The Leider, not the singers.
Yes that is a big problem for me. Italian operas and German operas would be less interesting because I can’t hear what they’re saying. Also it’s so long that it would take about 12 hours or more before you kind of know an opera at a basic level
 

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this is the first I've ever heard of Franck. I really like his Level 3 stuff (Sonata FW 8, Symphony in D). The Symphony recording by Muti/Philadelphia even came with a bonus track: Le Chasseur maudit and even that one is up my alley.

Strong week all around!

Hopefully I'll have some extra time to peruse the Level 4 works too.
You should try his violin sonata and I would recommend Walter’s iconic recording of his symphony
 

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i think most of us have good memories re tchaikovsky; I am addicted to the string serenade i heard at school as a six-year old; this composer might not be a genius like beethoven but then you cannot stop listening to the violin cto (one of the best), several symphonies (1, 4, 5, 6), beautiful chamber music, the first piano cto, swan lake, onegin etc...; dvorak is a different case for me as i cannot listen to some of his works anymore (9th symphony, cello concerto) and the reason is we have been over-exposed to these works, so i'll keep the 7 and 8th symphonies, the string quartets, rusalka and his sacred music; regarding the versions of these works i do not listen to old versions any more as we have fabulous conductors and performers who understand the music much better than their elders because of the benefit of hindsight; i like karajan in this repertoire, but then we have conductors like belohlavek (dvorak), nelsons, pappano, honeck who have great insights and great orchestras.
I don’t agree that newer conductors understand the music better than newer conductors. Especially when conductors new the composer of which they conduct the music. A good example is Bruno Walter who knew Gustav Mahler and played I believe the violin(?) for Johannes Brahms. They grew up with the tradition, who better to understand the music than them? I agree with you if we would be talking about older classical music, like baroque and classical periods. However from the later half of the 19th century and onwards I like older conductors better
 

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I'll be kind to you and just tell you that you have a problem with the word "new". I believe historical records have immense value and should be cherished, even if I have difficulties with the sound quality. But Mahler's vision of the 9th symphony for example with extreme speed is the vision of a great artist, but possibly not the ideal one for his masterpiece. I also believe in the diversity of possible options. This is also why i said that recent conductors benefit from hindsight; they certainly all will have listened to Bruno Walter's take which was made in a rush and which Mahler never heard. But many other great conductors like Horenstein, Karajan, Chailly, Vanskä and the contemporary ones deliver an aural and intellectual product that should IMHO logically be superior to the early versions.
That being said there will always be miraculous versions, even old ones, where all the conditions were right and the sound is still acceptable today. This is my experience and I hope yours will be a happy one as well.
I don’t think I have a problem with the word “new”. I do think we are talking about different kind of “new’s” here. I was thinking more 21st century conductors, but if you include Karajan that means that for you “new” means basically from 1960 to now. To clarify I think the golden age of conductors was in the 60’s so we are kinda on the same page. And Mahler might have never heard Bruno Walter’s 1937 performance of his 9th but he certainly heard Walter conduct the premiere in 1913 (dates could be wrong) and he probably gave Walter some instructions on how he wanted it to sound like
 
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