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Preview – Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi at the Metropolitan Opera (4/20)

Pieces: Giuseppe Verdi, Rigoletto

Venue: The Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, New York, NY

Performers: Conductor: Marco Armiliato, Gilda: Lisette Oropesa, Maddalena: Nancy Fabiola Herrera, Duke of Mantua: Vittorio Grogolo, Rigoletto: George Gagnidze

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-zXLKd76fk

Verdi’s opera, Rigoletto, was based on the play, “Le roi s’amuse” by Victor Hugo. The original play was about Frances I, a king of France who was basically a player and womanizer. Because of this, the play was banned after its first show. When Verdi chose this play he knew it was a risk that the opera might not be approved but went ahead with it and told his librettist, Francesco Piave, to find an influential person to get permission to use “Le roi s’amuse”At the time, Austria controlled most of northern Italy and when they heard about Verdi’s opera, they considered it scandalous and refused to let it go on because it showed royalty in a bad light. After much arguing and negotiations, the opera was allowed to go on only after some changes were made. The king was now a duke from an extinct dukedom so no one could take offense and the names of the characters had to be changed.

The opera is about a jester, Rigoletto, who makes fun of the courtiers to make the duke laugh as that is his job. The duke is a womanizer who goes after any woman. In the opera, the duke seduces Rigoletto’s daughter and he vows to get revenge. However, his revenge backfires and his daughter ends up dead instead. Verdi’s Rigoletto is similar to Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  The first act is in the style of comic opera so for that act at least, I am expecting mostly dialogue or recitatives and simple music. Because of all the drama and violence, I am expecting most of the music to be in minor key for the rest of the opera and many contrasting instruments playing loudly in some cases to show drama.

Bibliography:

Budden, Julian. The Operas of Verdi. Vol. 1. New York: Praeger, 1973. Print.

Baldini, Gabriele, Fedele D’Amico, and Roger Parker. The Story of Giuseppe Verdi: Oberto to Un Ballo in Maschera. Cambrige: Cambridge University Publishing, 1980. Print.

 

 

 

Preview – Charles Gounod’s Faust (3/21)

Opera in five acts with music composed by Charles Gounod

Performers:

  • Conductor: Alain Altinoglu
  • Faust, a scientist: Piotr Beczala (Tenor)
  • Mephistopheles: John Relyea (Bass-Baritone)
  • Wagner: Richard Bernstein (Bass)
  • Valentin, a soldier, Marguerite’s brother: Alexey Markov (Baritone)
  • Siebel, one of Faust’s students: Julie Boulianne (Mezzo-Soprano)
  • Marguerite: Marina Poplavskaya (Soprano)
  • Marthe, Marguerite’s friend: Catherine Cook (Mezzo-Soprano)

The Venue: The Metropolitan Opera

A video clip from scene V – Walpurgis Night

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGDrMy5qu6Q&NR=1&feature=endscreen

Charles Gounod was a French composer. Huebner stated that “throughout the 19th century, until the creation of societe nationale and the rise to prominence of concert organizations after 1870, the primary way for a young French composer to make a name for himself was by composing operas.”(21) Charles Gounod rose to fame due to the talent and passion he possessed for his music. There was a contest called the Prix de Rome, which is a contest that grants the winner to study at the French Academy for free; only the best win the contest and Charles Gounod was one of them.

Faust is an opera that Charles Gounod wanted to compose. “It was he that proposed ‘Faust’ as an operatic subject to the librettists”(R.Martin and T. Martin iii). I find it interesting that the libretto from 1966 only contains four acts opposed to the program book of the recent performance of Faust that has five acts.

Also, the opera that I saw was performed in French. Originally Faust was performed in German and then translated to Italian when it became the first opera to be performed at the New York Metropolitan opera in 1883(R.Martin and T.Martin iii). I believe that I would have been more excited watching Faust had I known that it was the opening performance for the Metropolitan opera. It is also enjoyable to know that Faust was translated to French assuming the reason was because Gounod was French. I enjoyed the opera; however, I found it difficult to completely enjoy the art since my eyes were halfway stuck on the closed captions on the seat in front of me. I do not think that it is entirely important to know the history behind the art but it definitely adds to the magic to know beforehand.

I was a bit surprised when finding out that the opera played into the idea that humans could sign their souls over to the devil for something in return. Even growing up as a child I remember cartoons and movies that would reenact the deal with the devil. It was surprising that some of the same ideas are still being recreated centuries later.

Bibliography:

Gounod, Charles, Jules Barbier, Michel Carré, Ruth Martin, and Thomas Martin. Faust: Opera in 4 Acts. New York: G. Schirmer, 1966. Print.

Huebner, Steven. The Operas of Charles Gounod. Oxford [England]; New York : Oxford University Press: Clarendon, 1990. Print.

Preview -Giulio Cesare by George Frideric Handel at Metropolitan Opera- April 19

PIECES:

  • Act I aria “Va, tacito”
  • Act II aria “V’adoro, pupille”

PERFORMERS:

  • David Daniels as Cesare
  • Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra
  • Harry Bicket conducting the orchestra
  • Others Include:Dessay, Coote, Bardon, Dumaux, Loconsolo

VENUE:

The Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center

NOTES:

  • Composer: George Frideric Handel
  • Librettist: Nicola Francesco Haym

Handel wrote this opera in in 1724 for the Royal Academy of Music, where it was first performed in London. According to Stanley Sadie in Handel, Giulio Cesare is an opera in III acts about Cleopatra and Cesare’s  first meeting, and the story of Cleopatra’s “murderous brother,” Ptolemy (Sadie 1969, 36-37).

 

Keeping true to his predecessors, Handel composed this opera with arias and recitatives, with an underlining continuo. Amy Ann Schneider describes Cesare’s first aria: “this relentless bravado aria alternates an agitated violin line with the equally agitated vocal line,” and also notes that the continuo “outline[s] broad leaps” (Schneider 2000, 37). Handel creates a lot of text painting within Giulio Cesare, including a battle during the aria “Al lampo dell’amri,” in which he “depicts the flashing of swords with the key B-flat major…galloping eighth- and sixteenth-note rhythmic pattern[s]” (Schneider 2000, 40).

 

Interestingly, Handel did not compose this opera based on what was happening in the world during this time. Europe was a mess, with war waging, and America trying to break free from England’s reign. Perhaps, what Handel was doing, was to keep the uneasiness off the people’s minds and offer pure entertainment. Much like the works of William Shakespeare, Handel took something from history and created a story. More so than a sign of his time, Handel shows his creative ability and musical genius in the classic Baroque style opera.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPPHY:

Sadie, Stanley. Handel. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1969.

Schneider, Amy Ann. His or Hers: On Performing Heroic Male Roles in Handel’s             London Operas. Boston: UMI, 2000.