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The first opera where opera made sense to me was The Rise & Fall of Mahogany - and this was a broadcast from The RoH.

I think the reason for this was the fact that I'd seen and read Brecht's plays. So, this opera allowed me to see how opera and drama were similar, and different.

It was also more relevent. I'd struggled with Wagnarian dragons and dwarves and god's, and The Magic Flute had me baffled (it still does).

Operas that have got friends and relatives into the genre were a modern version of Don Giovanni, where DG -enters- in a car with a rocking suspension, and the update if Marriage of Figaro to the 1930's.
 

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I wasn't fascinated by opera in my childhood, but classical music attracted me. Finally I came to opera and the most of non classical music seemed too shallow.
There were two very different operas watched live in several days during the tour in my town: Macbeth and The love to the three oranges. I was chuffed but didn't become a regular opera-goer, rather began reading and listening more.
I was intrigued who was that dazzling beautiful woman - Maria Callas and couldn't stop listening to her singing.
Than more you listen and watch, than more you discover and want to know.
When I removed to another city I started to visit the theater regulary and since that became familiar to the most of repertoire. One of the first was Onegin in good traditional production, well sung and played (otherwise Tchaikovsky isn't possible). I also began traveling, my first experience of that kind was Falstaff in La Scala. Now it's not so easy, but I hope that nothing lasts forever.
 

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Even when I started to listen classical music seriously around the age of 19 with Tchaikovsky symphonies, opera most definitely didn't feature. However at school, I sang in and completely fell in love with Iolanthe, finding it a great tragedy and didn't understand that G&S was only supposed to be witty light entertainment. A few years later, a friend played me a recording of a strange opera which was mainly about animals. Listening to the "Cunning Little Vixen" was probably the first time I had ever listened to an opera all the way through from a record. It soon became my favourite work and has remained by far the most influential on my own composing. Although this developed into a great love of Janacek, I remain rather sceptical of mainstream opera in general and have relatively few works by non-Slavonic composers in my collection (the two greatest operas for me not written by Janacek are Weinberg's "The Passenger" and Shostakovich "Lady Macbeth").
 

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Beethoven's Fidelio, the Bernstein DVD. That tipped the scales and I became an operaholic from there on out.
 
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OMG! That same aria had quite an effect on me too. I was already a Callas fan, but the Verdi Arias disc was no longer available and a friend lent it to me. Even knowing Callas as I did, I was staggered and I've never heard anyone else realise that scene with anything like her insight. Verdi's setting itself was quite a revelation, but it was Callas's incredibly detailed interpretation that stunned me. She has a different colour for every single thought that flits through Lady Macbeth's fractured mind. Close inspection of the score reveals that it is all there in Verdi's instructions but how many other singers have carried them out so brilliantly? I can't think of a single one. Part of the miracle is that, even with all the detail she reveals, there is no artifice and the end result sounds totally spontaneous. This really is the art that conceals art and it is one of the arias I would play to friends if they doubted Callas's pre-eminence as a vocal actress.

A friend of the critic John Steane once said to him about Callas, "Of course you had to see her," to which he replied, "Oh, but I can! And I do!" I know exactly what he meant.

I've said this before, but there are quite a few new posters and so it's worth repeating. I am familiar with most of Callas' recordings, both in the studio and live (although some of the live material I have only heard once) and her complete recording of Butterfly has long been a favourite of mine. I never saw Callas live and have never been to Chicago and her only run as Cio-Cio San was over twenty years before I was born. However, when some footage of her as Butterfly from one of the rehearsals in Chicago was released in colour a few years ago, I had the sensation that I had seen it before, despite knowing that it was totally new for me (it was known to exist and was probably on YouTube in black and white, but I hadn't seen it). I then realised that the reason it felt so familiar was that the way that Callas sang the part, could only be accompanied by those movements. There really was a totality to her art whereby the drama of the opera was expressed as an organic whole made up of both movement and vocal delivery seamlessly fused together.

N.
 

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Beethoven's Fidelio, the Bernstein DVD. That tipped the scales and I became an operaholic from there on out.
An operaholic and Fidelioholic if we go by your posts on TC!

Fidelio was the first complete opera I saw and whilst I enjoyed it, it's never been a work to sweep me off my feet. The reason why I asked my parents to take me to see it was that I had an old 45 rpm record (remember those?) which had the overture and Prisoners' Chorus on it.

What really got me into it though, was Il Trovatore on the radio, which was closely followed by the chance to see a performance of the opera at a small, local theatre. There were no surtitles back then and whilst knowing the story, I didn't know Italian or the opera well enough to understand the words that were being sung. Azucena had me transfixed though. You didn't need to know what the words were, it's all there in the music.

N.
 

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I've said this before, but there are quite a few new posters and so it's worth repeating. I am familiar with most of Callas' recordings, both in the studio and live (although some of the live material I have only heard once) and her complete recording of Butterfly has long been a favourite of mine. I never saw Callas live and have never been to Chicago and her only run as Cio-Cio San was over twenty years before I was born. However, when some footage of her as Butterfly from one of the rehearsals in Chicago was released in colour a few years ago, I had the sensation that I had seen it before, despite knowing that it was totally new for me (it was known to exist and was probably on YouTube in black and white, but I hadn't seen it). I then realised that the reason it felt so familiar was that the way that Callas sang the part, could only be accompanied by those movements. There really was a totality to her art whereby the drama of the opera was expressed as an organic whole made up of both movement and vocal delivery seamlessly fused together.

N.
This isn't a thread about Callas, but we are talking about our operaratic breakthroughs and it would appear that for many the voice of Callas was one of those breakthrough moments. Many of Callas's contemporaries would no doubt agree that she was known for her acting skills, but the point they often make is that she was her acting was musically conceived. It was the way she interpreted the music. She needed music to inspire her. I often think her equivalent in the dance world would have been Margot Fonteyn, who was a wonderfully musical dancer, her acting coming as a response to the musical impulse.
 

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This isn't a thread about Callas, but we are talking about our operaratic breakthroughs and it would appear that for many the voice of Callas was one of those breakthrough moments. Many of Callas's contemporaries would no doubt agree that she was known for her acting skills, but the point they often make that she was only an acting was musically conceived. Her acting was the way she interpreted the music. I often think her equivalent in the dance world would have been Margot Fonteyn, who was a wonderfully musical dancer, her acting coming as a response to the musical impulse.
Callas was also an influence on my opera listening too, although she came after the live Fidelio and Trovatore I saw. I think the first thing I heard her sing was Un bel di from Butterfly, heard on the radio and then I had a cassette I made from random arias. The first complete opera I heard her in was either Cav (I got the Cav/Pag complete LPs out of the library) or Rigoletto (heard on the radio). The first of her recordings I actually owned was the first complete opera I had on CD: The De Sabata Tosca.

Funnily enough I was thinking about Callas' unique talent earlier after posting and thinking that there must be an actor or actress with a similar way (their interpretation is so vivid that if you hear them you can also see them). However, I too thought first of a dancer, Lopatkina. Her Odile in Swan Lake was something superhuman. Every movement of the leg meant something, in a similar way that Callas shaped coloratura so that it became part of the character's emotive state.

N.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
It is interesting, that Callas was a factor for you guys in liking opera. I am glad I "discovered" her recently on youtube and she is the best Norma ever. But she played no role for me in getting to like the opera. Maybe the problem was availability. I was born in 1976 (now you know ;-) ) and in an Eastern European country. We did not have her recordings at home, nor do I remember seeing them in the stores, although there must have been some. But not many, I guess.
 

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First real exposure to opera for me was as a pit musician in my school's production of The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar. Began to develop an appreciation for it but didn't go beyond a slight curiosity.

I did not listen to opera for years until I finally decided to do a 2-week binge to get through Wagner's Ring Cycle. That was the set of operas that set in motion for my love and appreciation of opera. Haven't been the same since lol.
 

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It is interesting, that Callas was a factor for you guys in liking opera. I am glad I "discovered" her recently on youtube and she is the best Norma ever. But she played no role for me in getting to like the opera. Maybe the problem was availability. I was born in 1976 (now you know ;-) ) and in an Eastern European country. We did not have her recordings at home, nor do I remember seeing them in the stores, although there must have been some. But not many, I guess.
I have a similar experience, albeit born in 71. I grew up with Opera and other classical music generally. I had my first violin by the time I was 5, and have been playing instruments of one form or another ever since. My parents had no Callas recordings, although I do recall quite a lot of Sutherland, Tebaldi, and Schwarzkopf. I still have quite a fondness for Schwarzkopf's voice now, as you can tell if you see my poll votes! Sadly they binned all of their Vinyl after I moved out and they changed to a CD system!

I have a bit of a love / hate thing with Callas though. When she's good, and the recording is good, she's great. My own preference from that era is undoubtedly Virginia Zeani, although there are sadly too few recordings of her and I don't think she ever truly received the recognition that she deserved.
 

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My own preference from that era is undoubtedly Virginia Zeani, although there are sadly too few recordings of her and I don't think she ever truly received the recognition that she deserved.
Like it or not, it is difficult to be recognized Internationally without the imprimatur of the Metropolitan Opera and/or a major recording contract. Zeani was not well reviewed at her 1966 debut (La Traviata) at the Metropolitan, a surprising development given her long experience in that role. She repeated that opera and then had one more role - on the tour - in
I Vespri Siciliani.

Most of her performances were limited to Italy possibly by choice. Though there were forays into the rest of Europe, South America and Africa, these were probably nibbles and mostly as Violetta, Mimi, or in exotic fare, such as Il Piccolo Marat, Thais, Giulio Cesare or a bel canto work like Maria di Rohan or even Lucia di Lammermoor which had more well-known interpreters. These were successful but of a momentary nature. I think versatility might have worked against her in a way, except for Violetta.

i thing she received well-deserved recognition, but when it mattered most, which was during her long career.

I read somewhere that there are close to sixty “pirated” performances besides the two studio operas (La Traviata and Tosca).
 

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Seeing Domingo singing "Vesti La Giubba" on TV when i was a kid .It made me realise i might enjoy opera someday.
It's Puccini's Turandot that really inflicted the addiction.
 

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Which opera was your first, which made you like the genre ?
Also, do you have stories about operas which worked well for "recruiting" your friends or loved ones, otherwise new to opera ?
And finally, do you have a story about an opera, which renewed your interest after a longer period of time, when you did not care ?
Manon Lescaut (Puccini).

I don't remember the reason I decided one day to investigate opera, but it was probably an outgrowth of my strong interest in Broadway musicals. I was living in NYC at the time and checked out dozens of LP sets from the library and taped them (which I retained long after I'd replaced them with CDs). My wife and I began with a subscription to the New York City Opera, and then graduated to The Met.

All of Puccini's operas remain favorites, as well as a the major works by Verdi, and last year I had a breakthrough with Der Ring.

But my interest goes in spurts, i.e. listening to opera everyday for weeks then not at all for months.
 
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