Tag Archives: Opera

Preview – Faust at The Metropolitan Opera (04/02)

Venue: Metropolitan Opera, Manhattan, NY

Performers: Composer: Charles Gounod, Librettist: Jules Barber and Michel Carre, Conductor: Alain Altinoglu, Faust: Piotr Beczala, Marguerite: Marina Poplavskaya, Valentin: Alexey Markov, Mephistopgeles: John Relyea.



Gounod in his autobiography says, “In a word, Morality (or the definition of what is good), Science (or the definition of what is true), Art (or the definition of what is beautiful) well all lacking until the advent of Man.” (Gounod, 226). I wish before i went to see the opera i had read about Gounod’s history. In his autobiography I see that he found balance of life very important. As a child he would try to run away from doing chores in order to do what he loved, compositions. However, in his autobiography you can see that although he loved composing, he also took time to dedicate his time to other things, such as religion.
Faust is about a scientist that regrets his life when he is old because he feels like he didn’t do much with it. Gounod says that “Morality, Art, and Science were developed to become better by man.” (Gounod, 226) However, in Faust, Faust is regretful because even though he dedicated his time to something that was important to the success of man, he lacked morality and the experience of beauty. You can see how he lacks morality when he made a pact with the devil to become young again. In this opera i believe Charles wanted to show audiences how taking essence of different aspects of life is important to live a fulfilling life. He showed through Faust how concentrating only one aspect of your life and ignoring others can lead to being regretful. Faust after making a deal with the devil shows no improvement in quality of life because he lost the woman he loved and he is still unhappy. Gounod through his music moved the crowd to feeling how he wanted us to feel. When he wanted us to feel sad he used slow, low pitched notes, and when he wanted us to feel slightly cheerful he used faster notes, and added woodwinds.
Faust was written in the 19th century and the setting of it took place in the 16th century. In the 19th century the theory of evolution was introduced. In this century, people turned to reason rather than faith because science began explaining how things in life worked. In making these discoveries, people began believing more in reason and science, rather than religion. Knowing this, I wonder if Gounod composed this play in a way to enlighten people on the importance of embracing all aspects of life, not just one like Faust did.
I believe this piece sets it aside to others because the central message continues to be relevant. I believe that his central message was to not only engage in one aspect of life, and explore all opportunities while you have the chance. In the beginning of Faust, he shows how it regretful not taking advantage of life can be. This opera was extremely moving through the music, and the themes.
Souces: Gounod, Charles. Charles Gounod; Autobiographical Reminiscences. New York: Da Capo., 1970.

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


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.


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- Verdi at New York Carnegie Hall(3/28)


–  Giuseppe Verdi “Ad una stella”

– Giuseppe Verdi “Lo spazzacamino”

– Giuseppe Verdi “Il tramonto”

– Giuseppe Verdi “Brindisi”

Date: March 28 2013

Venue: Carnegie Hall, Manhattan, NY


Lawrence Brownlee, Tenor

Martin Katz, Piano








Guiseppe Verdi was born in the Romanticism period, and was greatly honored as one of the most famous Italian opera composers in his time. The pieces I will analyze are “Ad una stella”(To a star), “Lo spazzacamino”(The chimney-sweep), “Il tramonto”(The Sunset), and “Brindisi”(Toast).

After reading American Theological Inquiry, I become aware that Verdi had not leaded a delighted life because he witnessed the death of his wife and children in his middle age. Since then, he alienated himself from the Catholic Church as he was not able to acquire relief from the religious practice. Verdi’s operas are known for their outstanding conflicts, as Verdi stated, “There is one thing the public will not tolerate in the theater: boredom.” Through the conflicts, Verdi’s operas were notable in stimulating excitement, joy or sadness. Verdi is also known for his unique techniques in organizing most of his reputable operas. 

One similarity among these four operas is the accompaniment—piano. “Ad na stella” has an andante tempo in contrast to “Brindisi” and “Lo spazzacamino” which have allegro tempo and a theme of joyful celebration. “Il tramonto” has relatively long libretto, in which it depicts the scenery of countryside to emphasize peace and quietness, yet the theme is sadness because the young lady has lost her lover, and the last part of the opera focus on describing her melancholy.


American Theological Inquiry. Jul2012, Vol. 5 Issue 2, p59-65. 7p.

Preview – The Marriage of Figaro at the Frederick Loewe Theater (04/05)


  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro, adapted by Tony Britten

Venue: Frederick Loewe Theater, New York, NY

Performers: NYU Steinhardt, Music and Performing Arts. Cast: Eric Alexieff, Jacob Carll, Will Evans, Lisa Figel, Amanda Hoffman, Kevin Miller, Asha Nelson-Williams, Catie Shelley, Nick Volkert

Le nozze di Figaro (the Marriage of Figaro) was the first of Mozart’s three major and famous opera collaborations with the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte. It was translated from the French play, La folle journée ou le Mariage de Figaro, by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, to Italian. Mozart’s patron, the Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II, had many failed attempts with operas in German, due to a lack of good poets and musicians willing to write for it since Italian opera at the time was “the most popular and cosmopolitan of contemporary genres” (Steptoe 1). Also, opera buffa was quickly rising in popularity at the time, due to the Enlightenment.  The original opera took surprisingly a long time to produce (Steptoe 2). Maybe it was because this would be Mozart’s first opera buffa after arriving in Vienna from Salzberg and his first commission from the Emperor, and he realized he needed to make a great first impression, and make a name for himself.

Mozart composed the opera knowing the “importance of writing with the capabilities of particular singers in mind and with an eye and ear for stage effect and the dramatic and expressive possibilities of tonality and of instrumental writing” (Carter 4). Therefore, he tweaked the music to suit different vocalists. However, this adaptation by English composer, Tony Britten, is in English. I’m definitely interested to see how the English libretto will sound for a piece composed for an Italian libretto. Mozart adapted the play to fit the popular operatic style at the time of having only two acts. However, de Potnte and Mozart did it in unusual way, he decided to cut out some events and modify others, and turned the five act play into a four act opera. Then, they put the major finales at the end of Acts II and IV, so it essentially became two ‘two act’ operas (Carter 25). Being a living composer, there were not any books written about Tony Britten, and I could not find any recordings of this adaption. However, after reading reviews of this adaption online, I read that he has modernized the story, and made it more dramatic and theatrical, with more acting. Therefore, I wonder what changes Mr. Britten has made to the composition, if he has decided to modify or cut out certain events, and more importantly, if he changed any delivery methods like from aria to recitative.

Sources: Steptoe, Andrew. The Mozart-Da Ponte Operas. The Cultural and Musical Background to Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutte. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988. Print.

Carter, Tim. W.A. Mozart, Le nozze di Figaro. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Print.

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

Opera in five acts with music composed by Charles Gounod


  • 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


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.


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.

Offenbach – “Barcarolle”

This song was created by Jacques Offenbach, but is being performed by Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca with accompanying orchestra and choir. I first heard this song in the movie “Life is Beautiful” and it has been a favorite ever since.

I had to do some intensive research to find the rhythm of this song because I could not quite put my finger on whether it was duple or triple meter. It happens to be a bit of both which is a 6/8 meter (compound duple meter). Julien Neel was able to help me figure out it was a compound duple meter in the description of his interpretation of Barcarolle.

After I found out the piece was a compound duple meter (I did not want to pretend that I full understood what it meant), I used wikipedia to find a better definition. According to what I found in wikipedia, a 6/8 meter refers to a meter with two beats divided into three. Here is an attachment video of what that compound duple meter sounds like, Compound Duple Meter.

The Timbre of this song is very smooth and calm. All of the instruments have a very clear sound along with the main singers and the choir. It sounds very crisp even when the singer sings louder at 2:30.

The Dynamics of this song are moderate as to try and paint a calm and relaxing picture.

The main Melody of this song are the two opera singers making this Texture a Homophonic song due to the vast amounts of accompaniments.

The instruments and choir are in excellent harmony with the singers, they all come together perfectly. This song is played in the major scale. This orchestra consists of mainly string instruments (Violins, Violas, Cellos and even a harp at 00:58) Although the flute plays throughout most of the song, it is the only brass instrument in the group. There is also a woodwind Bassoon at 00:15. The only percussion I hear is 2:13 by the sound of a Triangle (which is also where the choir joins the main melody)

I believe the form for this song is a binary form. It starts from the intro into the main melody (singing) at 1:03 until 2:13 where the main melody repeats itself until the end of the song.

Also, if you have not seen the movie “Life is Beautiful”, I believe that it was recently made available on Netflix. You will cry like a baby that just got slapped in the face. Enjoy!

Wikipedia’s Compound duple meter link – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cd/Compound_duple_drum_pattern.mid

Julien Neel’s Youtube video with description — (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3RFfzZXEwA)

Wikipedia’s Compound meter info — Latham, Alison (2002a). “Compound Time [Compound Metre]”. The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-866212-2.