Revealed: why other people love opera

…but might have an issue with Madamina, il catalogo e questo and possibly Mozart comedy in general. Time to unsheath the sword.

I wish this blog was still active, because it’s a very different take than the kind the readers of this blog and I have and would have liked to engage. Though I rarely agreed, I found myself reading on because it is so different. Example:

The transcending appeal of the Ring Cycle can definitely be compared to that of the The Lord of the Rings books. A big reason why the latter became more than “just fantasy” in the public imagination was because of the beautiful film adaptations that came out in the early 2000s. They were made by someone  who loved the books. He spared no detail in making the movies, and almost by default they were amazing. It was a big story, and he wanted to do it right. (from Why do we LOVE the Ring Cycle?)

As a self described “opera lover” who doesn’t care about the Ring Cycle and who’s (unsurprisingly) suffered impatiently through the neverending journey into hobbit imminent annihilation maturity, I found the post interesting. Whenever something bores me to death I want to understand why anyone puts up with that sort of thing. I think the last two phrases sum up the appeal of both: lots of details, big stories.

People go nuts over the Ring Cycle. As in Woodstock crazy. It’s the kind of event that young opera lovers like me dream of attending. It is an initiation into opera craziness like nothing else. (from the same post as above)

Heh. I have one word for you: contraltos 2017 (one word made of two words 😉 ). No need for lavish sets. Someone pass around the rainbow bandanas 😉

So that’s a short write-up on why opera freaks love the Ring. If you want to be a “true” opera fan, it pays to at least check it out. Which leaves folks like myself and the Opera Teen who haven’t yet seen it in a weird spot. But that craving for the Ring Cycle lingers within us. We want to see it and experience it with a desire uncommon to most works of art. (from same)

legit trv kvlt.

Ring fandom is difficult to comprehend because the Ring is so far removed from all negative stereotypes associated with opera. (from same)

😀 😀 😀

As an audience member at the opera, I may  get bored if some prat in an opera is whining onstage about how many women his master’s slept with. (from The Billy Connolly Problem (or, Why Opera Is Boring))

Interesting. Someone can sit through a 50 hour plot recapping opera mini series but gets bored by one of the most hilarious arias out there (though her example is from the Met production; ’nuff said). To be fair, she goes on to say:

But if he’s emphasizing the repetition with his body, using the language as an acting tool and not just a script to sing out, entertainment is achieved. (from above post)

So the conclusion is, we need a good director+actor if the music is boring. Agreed here but poor Mozart. Seriously, people think that aria is boring?! She did sit through Come scoglio on a different occasion and her comment was:

Miah Persson is excellent as the (mostly) faithful Fiordiligi, but her aria is the Billy Connolly Problem incarnate. She plants herself on stage and never only seems to alter her facial expression twice throughout the entire number. In earlier and later scenes, Persson lends a gravity to her character that few could ever conjure. But in her aria, she settles into being a diva. (from Review: The Glyndebourne Festival’s Cosi Fan Tutti)

Heh. The aria is called Come scoglio, after all. I suppose the subtitles were on? Otherwise, I have a feeling google translate will side with Persson. Also it’s a comedy. Mostly. I think it might have been more of a comedy in the 1790s than it is now. But there is only so much serious in a libretto that centrally features boyfriends disguised with only ‘staches.

It seems to me that a certain part of the opera going public might need a bit of adjustment to comedy before 1800 (wait, was there comedy in the 1800s? Oh, yea, Rossini, Offenbach 🙂 sorry!).

This is definitely a fluffy Romantic opera

(from the post quote above)

This is why it’s good to read up on your opera before commenting. I hope she meant Romantic in the “Romantic comedy” sense. Because it’s definitely not a Romantic opera in the Verdi sense. Nor is it as fluffy as it may seem.

Captain (18th-Century-Opera) Obvious’ Mini Lecture

It’s funny to hear an opera seria aria sendup like Come scoglio in the middle of a comic scene. That’s what Mozart and DaPonte are doing, making fun of the upright opera sentiments (here costanza) come down from Papa Metastasio (changing mores are a very important reoccurring theme in Mozart operas). This is one of those meta moments when if she looks like she’s doing a shit job at acting she’s actually acting well.

(end lecture)

Then there’s the issue of repetition. I don’t think anyone who’s ever hummed a contemporary pop song has a leg to stand when complaining about someone else using repetition in music. Not that repetition is necessary a fail. Repetition is not only widely used  in all art but it appears in nature and, by extension, everyday life (don’t tell me you woke up today at the usual time, had a cup of coffee/tea and then went to work? Was this what you did yesterday? And the day before? Like, wow).

But! Remember Statira’s aria with the endless repetition of birds chirping? Even back in Vivaldi’s time they knew repetition could be used to amuse not just in earnest. Ponnelle here uses that trick brilliantly for Come scoglio (and Gruberova is just wonderful).

I can see how people who enjoy through composed opera may be adverse to the concept of simple tune. I mean, it is simple. After all, we’ve established earlier that LOTR is not just fantasy. It’s… complicated fantasy (ok, ok, there might not be any other kind 😉 ). Like one of those dreams in which you’re trying to get out of a building only to have one corridor turn into another and then another.

Whilst we’re on the Glyndebourne Così, check out Vondung’s ending to È amore un ladroncello. I did not expect her to end so well based on how she started but I found myself in love with her (repeated, ha) “così” at minute 2:45. Splendid sound, even aside from her dramatic commitment to a breathlessly satisfied Dorabella. Now that I think about it, “chiede” at minute 2:39-2:41 is great too. That’s how you do sexy vowel ending. She earned that cake!

About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on November 15, 2017, in acting in opera and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. Chuckle, marvellous choice of demonstration videos, I’ve been attempting to get some work done this afternoon, but no chance…
    Pisaroni is also hilarious in that Glyndebourne Cosi, I need to get hold of the full version!
    That’s the thing about the ring, it is usually not very funny (though the recent staging I saw made some attempts I was very grateful for). A different perspective on things at least fuels discussion, hehe, I can see why this blog was amusing.

    • thank you 🙂 I’ve watched those many times.

      lots of operas aren’t funny but in this case there are three things that make me antsy: 1) too long, 2) too many characters, 3) mythology.

  2. If I wanted to be one of THOSE elder opera nerds, I’d say Jeezus, both of you, what’s really cool about the Ring (as with all operas, including Mozart’s) is the score.

  3. just when i gain steam reading the post ends! you need to keep writing!
    (same sebtiment about that cool Alcina’s write up!! am migrating over there later to make more comments too)
    (and have been musing.. we must have been so abnorm to not crave for such things described so passionatelt here.. imagine us, giggling over boring Statira’s bird song)

    • ah, sorry 😉 that’s how I felt about the blog – there are only a few posts and then she quit writing. There is another post I wrote a bit about and wanted to add here but then I changed my mind.

      I guess I have to go back to act III of that Alcina and see what else I have to say 😉

      I think if she saw more European opera she’d have had more fun. I saw quite a bit of that DG from the Met and even with a very good cast is very conventional.

    • But Wagner fans are also somewhat fascinating in their dedication, even if a lot of them probably like it for questionable reasons (I had to work for a horribly narcissistic clinic director as a student who was boasting about Wagner during surgery). But from what I hear there are also a lot of people who simply love the music very much and come from all kinds of backgrounds. I guess for some the fantasy aspect is appealing (yawn)? I think it is music you need some time to get into. In my case, I enjoy it in the house, but don’t go crazy about it otherwise, it’s also simply too exhausting to listen to without paying full attention.

      • When it comes to Wagner I agree with Rossini: every nice 15min is followed by boring 45min. I don’t want to wait 5 hours for chord resolution! Then there’s the issue of what he wants from singers and/or what conductors want from singers. I remember listening to a much praised Valkyrie with Flagstad, which was all right until she started shrieking at which point I couldn’t take it anymore. The overtures aren’t bad, especially the Valkyrie one. Tannhauser sounded like pretentiously beefed up belcanto. So all I wanted was to take out the brass and truly enjoy it. I guess there comes a point when you have to admit some things aren’t made for you (like reggae, I really dislike reggae).

      • Hmmm, what to say, what to say….I can say it isn’t the fantasy element that’s the attraction (in those operas where one might assume it would apply), at least not that I’ve ever heard from anyone who was serious as opposed to just vacationing (ie metalheads slumming, and teenagers who have discovered Tolkien at the same time and in that very brief period in life when every thing is new and connections between things are minimal and therefore explosive.) I can say the five hours prior to that chord resolution has a lot going on and, under the right circumstances, are entirely worth it. I can say Tannhäuser sounds like beefed up bel canto until it emphatically doesn’t, which is sort of the point, and btw check out that choral layering when everything goes off the chain at the end of act 2. And, were we to haul out the ouija board, my grandad would probably tell you Flagstad recorded way past her prime but was spectacular in the house in her day, whereas I would tell you no sopranos are up to the task except the one in your head, so that each person’s ideal performance is always in the future. Which is a quandary, but only until you realize that ideal performances kill a piece dead, and then it’s like Yay! 🙂

        In case any of you were really wondering LOL

        • I was wondering, yes. I don’t know that I agree with you that there isn’t a lot of mythology interest in there. Why would you put up with all those gods making rubbish decisions for hours on end? Though, if he shares fans with Mahler it’s probably abound the ponderous sound as much as anything.

          I can say Tannhäuser sounds like beefed up bel canto until it emphatically doesn’t

          emphatic being the brass loaded up on top, I take it.

          apparently that particular recording was when she was young but I’m not going to overargue the point, not being a Flagstad person. I’m sure the ideal is in our head but I don’t like the general ethos of what he wants/seems to want from singers.

          • For the same reason you’d put up with hours-long depictions of fictional people making fictional rubbish decisions in any other form of theater, whether it’s Aeschylus or Ibsen or The Wire.

            [insert pedantic lecture on form and harmonic structure here] I can tell you weren’t really wondering about this one 😛

            I’m not “a Flagstad person” either — recording tech being what it was at the time, I’m not sure anyone legitimately can be who didn’t hear her live, hence my invocation of the Shade of Raymond Samuel. But the singer doesn’t make the composer, no matter how good they’re thought to have been. As for what Wagner asks from the singers…[shrug] …how is it different from what Strauss asks?

            • perhaps Strauss makes it easier for the soprano? I don’t know, all I can tell you is that I have no trouble tolerating Strauss sopranos yet I can’t take the Wagner singing.

              re: rubbish decisions: perhaps it’s the supernatural angle more than the decisions. I like Ibsen, can’t take much of anything written BC, haven’t seen The Wire.

              • Well, yes, we probably owe that to Pauline.

                ‘You’ meaning ‘people’. I’m just trying to explicate the Other, and those are random examples I came up with at 4am, not the be all and end all of human cultural experience. Step awaaaay from the literal 🙂

                And now I shall go clean up some cat vomit from under the bed, which is a perfect metaphor for my day thus far. W00t!

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