Amph The music! The drama! The 100 Greatest Operas (number 1 revealed inside!)

Discussion in 'Community' started by Obi Anne, Apr 16, 2009.

  1. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    I am an opera buff, and I've just found this list which ranks the 100 greatest operas. Now even if I like opera, I'e just seen about 20 of these as whole performances, but I hope that we can have discussions of them. Many of these operas have at least one piece of music that is well known, even if the full opera isn't.

    *****************************************
    100. Martha - Friedrich von Flotow
    Martha, oder Der Markt zu Richmond (Martha, or The Market at Richmond) is a 'romantic comic' opera in four acts by Friedrich von Flotow, set to a German libretto by Friedrich Wilhelm Riese and based on a story by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges.

    Synopsis

    Time: 1710.
    Place: Richmond, England.

    Act 1

    Scene 1

    Lady Harriet is bored with the life of high society, and especially bored with her suitor Sir Tristan. She and her maid disguise themselves as the country girls 'Martha' and 'Julia' and follow a group of girls to the fair. They convince Sir Tristan to come also, as Farmer Bob....

    Scene 2

    Traditionally, there is an auction of country girls at the fair. Farmers bid for the fairest girls. The winners take the girls back to their farms, where the girls are hired as workers for the following year. Plunkett (or Plumkett) and Lyonel have come to look for a girl. Their mother has recently died, and they need someone to help with the farm work. The sheriff oversees the auction. The brothers win 'Martha' and 'Julia', while Farmer Bob ineptly tries to win them back.

    Act 2

    'Martha' and 'Julia' know nothing of farm work. They refuse to hang up clothes and cannot use a spinning wheel. 'Martha' rejects Lyonel's marriage proposal. After night falls, Tristan arrives to rescue the women.

    Act 3

    A group of hunters, including Plunkett, accompany the queen. Lady Harriet misses Lyonel, but when he arrives, she ignores him. When Lyonel demands that his contract be honored, Tristan has him arrested. Lyonel tries to explain what has happened to the courtiers. He gives the ring he inherited from his father to the queen as she is leaving.

    Act 4

    Lady Harriet's behavior has enfuriated Lyonel, but she seeks forgiveness. The queen orders that Lyonel be installed as the Earl of Derby, his father's former title. Nancy accepts Plunkett's marriage proposal. The courtiers re-create the country fair, and when Lyonel sees his Martha again, he forgives her.

    Noted arias, duets, ensembles

    * "Ach! so fromm, ach! so traut (M?apparì tutt?amor)" (Lyonel)
    * "Blickt sein Aug"
    * "Lasst mich euch fragen (Porter-Lied)" Drinking Song (Plunkett)
    * "Letzte Rose (Last Rose)" (Martha, later with Lyonel)
    * "Mag der Himmel Euch vergeben (Lyonel's Prayer)"
    * "Schlafe wohl! Und mag Dich reuen (Good Night Quartet)"
    * "Was soll ich dazu sagen? (Spinning-Wheel Quartet)"

    Roles

    Lady Harriet Durham, maid of honor to Queen Anne ('Martha') - soprano
    Nancy, her servant ('Julia') - mezzo-soprano
    Plunkett, a young farmer - bass
    Lyonel, his foster brother - tenor
    Sir Tristan Mickleford, Lady Harriet's cousin (Farmer Bob)- bass
    Sheriff - bass
    Queen Anne - mute
    Chorus: Courtiers, pages, ladies, hunters, farmers
    ****************************

    I haven't seen the opera myself, but M?apparì tutt?amor is a pretty standard piece in tenor repertoire, so I have it on quite a few album collections. I'm actually surprised that the opera seems to have been written in German, since I thought it was an Italian opera. To make it even more confusing it's often described as very French in tone and character. I like happy endings, even to operas.

    Here's a link to Placido Domingo singing M'apparí and Leontyne Price singing Last Rose of the Summer (Letzte Rose). This piece is actually an Irish ballad that was included in act 2, simply because it was a popular tune at the time.
  2. Zaz Jedi Grand Master

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    See! I'm learning something here. Never heard of the opera, but I'm certain I've heard that music before.
  3. Miana Kenobi Admin Emeritus

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    Why do I have a feeling that Turandot will be number 1? [face_tired]

    Though as long as my faves get in the top few spots, I'll be happy. :D


    Edit: And after looking at the list, WHAT?
  4. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Well not to get ahead, but I think the winner was a quite easy guess.

    And yes I'm sure that there are quite a few operas on the list that have some music that is recognised, but without any recognition of the opera itself. It's nice to get an understanding on what the music is about, I can honestly say that my Italian isn't good enough to just understand any random aria.
  5. Jag4Me Jedi Grand Master

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    I haven't seen this one but the story sounds really entertaining.
  6. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    99 - Thaïs by Jules Massenet

    Thaïs occurs in Egypt under Greek occupation, where a Cenobite monk, Athanaël, attempts to convert Thaïs, an Alexandrian courtesan, and devotée of Venus, to Christianity, but discovers, too late, that his obsession with her is rooted in lust; ironically, while the courtesan's true purity of heart is revealed, so is the religious man's baser nature. The work is about religious eroticism, and has had many controversial productions. Its famous Méditation for violin solo with harp and strings accompaniment, the entr'acte played between the scenes of Act II, is an oft-performed concert music piece; it has been arranged for many different instruments.

    Thaïs, a courtesan - soprano
    Athanaël, a Cenobite monk - baritone
    Nicias, a nobleman - tenor
    Crobyle, servant of Nicias - soprano
    Myrtale, servant of Nicias - mezzo-soprano
    Palémon, leader of the Cenobites - bass
    Albine, an abbess - mezzo-soprano
    ******************************

    The role of Thaïs is considered a very difficult role to play and requires a top singer.

    Here is the finale of the opera. It's a duet between Thaïs (Renee Fleming) and Athanaël (Thomas Hampson). Instead of giving my own explanation I'll just copy the wiki text about this scene
    "Scene 3

    Feeling that existence is worth nothing without her, he repudiates all his vows and rushes off to find her. He reaches the convent and finds her on her deathbed. He tells her that all he taught her was a lie, that "nothing is true but life and the love of human beings," and that he loves her. Blissfully unaware, she describes the heavens opening and the angels welcoming her into their midst. She dies, and Athanaël collapses in despair.
    In this finale you can also clearly hear the famous meditation theme.
  7. Thrawn1786 Force Ghost

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    Re Martha: The music is quite pretty. I played "Ah, So Pure" and "The Last Rose of Summer" for piano once, and they were light but sweet.

    Re Thais: this one is pretty good. The Renee Fleming/Thomas Hampson recording is great. Keep an eye out later this year for the Met tv broadcast of Thais starring Fleming and Hampson as well, if it hasn't already been shown in your area.

    I'm trying to keep away from peeking at the list...[face_worried]
  8. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    the only thing left from the Met digicasts here is La Cenerentola in May. They don't show all digicasts where I live.
  9. Miana Kenobi Admin Emeritus

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    The finale sounded beautiful. :)


    I think all we've got left is Madam Butterfly, which I'm excited for as I've never gotten to see before.
  10. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    I would be more interested in La Cenerentola if it wasn't for the fact that it's being done in Stockholm at the same time, with one of my favorite singers, and I didn't manage to get tickets or the possibility to go there. Seeing something on a screen, even if it's from the Met, isn't really the same.
  11. Thrawn1786 Force Ghost

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    My PBS channel just now got around to showing Damnation of Faust. Hopefully they will catch up and give us everything.
  12. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    98 - Atys by Jean-Baptiste Lully

    Premiered as a tragédie en musique in 1676, this is the from Ovid's tragedy of the phrygian deity Atys (Attis)

    Synopsis
    The story of Atys is contained in the fourth book; he was a Phrygian deity who, in this version of the story, loves Sangaride. Sangaride loves Atys, in return, yet is all set to marry Celenus, King of Phrygia. But Atys, very unfortunately for him, as it turns out, is secretly loved by the goddess Cybele; her arrival for the forthcoming marriage of Celenus and Sangaride is but a pretext for seeing Atys and revealing to him her love. Courtly or godly propriety, however, prevents her from openly declaring her feelings so, instead, she causes Atys to fall into a deep sleep intending to let him know of her love in a dream. The dream turns into something of a nightmare and when he wakes from it Cybele learns that Atys and Sangaride love one another. The two lovers swear eternal faith while Cybele and Celenus are left licking their wounds. Cybele determines upon a terrible revenge. By application of her magic she makes Atys believe that he sees a horrible monster; he stabs it to death only then to discover that it is his beloved Sangaride. Broken hearted, Atys stabs himself but is prevented from a normal death by Cybele who turns him into a pine tree. Deeply regretting her immortality, which gives her no respite from her suffering, Cybele is left mourning over a love that has for ever been snatched away from her. The work is unusual amongst Lully's operas therefore in not having a happy ending.
    *****************

    I've never heard of this opera, it's not in my (short) opera lexicon and the wiki entrance didn't even have a synopsis written out. Some trailing of youtube gave me the synopsis above and here are also some videos from the opera:

    Le Dieu du fleuve Sangar
    Sarabande - Aty's torment

    To me it sees as a very typical baroque opera. The setting with ancient gods, the music and so on. There also seems to be quite a lot of ballet in it.
  13. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    I don't think anyone had heard about Atys. Well now we make a jump in time to 1957 and the premiere of nr 97.

    97 - Dialogues des Carmelites by Francis Poulenc

    Synopsis

    Place: Paris
    Time: during the French Revolution and subsequent Reign of Terror.

    Act 1

    The pathologically timid Blanche de la Force decides to retreat from the world and enter a Carmelite convent. The Mother Superior informs her that the Carmelite order is not a refuge: it is the duty of the nuns to guard the Order, not the other way around. In the convent, the jolly Sister Constance tells Blanche (to her consternation) that she has had a dream that the two of them will die young together. The Mother Superior, who is dying, commits Blanche to the care of Mother Marie. The Mother Superior passes away in great agony, shouting in her delirium that despite her long years of service to God, He has abandoned her. Blanche and Mother Marie, who witness her death, are shaken.

    Act 2

    Sister Constance remarks to Blanche that the Mother Superior's death seemed unworthy of her, and speculates that she had been given the wrong death, as one might be given the wrong coat in a cloakroom. Perhaps someone else will find death surprisingly easy. Perhaps we die not for ourselves alone, but for each other.

    Blanche's brother, the Chevalier de la Force, arrives to announce that their father thinks Blanche should withdraw from the convent, since she is not safe there (being a member of both the nobility and a religious congregation). Blanche refuses, saying that she has found happiness in the Carmelite order, but later admits to Mother Marie that it is fear (or the fear of fear itself, as the Chevalier expresses it) that keeps her from leaving.

    The chaplain announces that he has been forbidden to preach (presumably for being a non-juror under the Civil Constitution of the Clergy). The nuns remark on how fear now governs the country, and no one has the courage to stand up for the priests. Sister Constance asks, "Are there no men left to come to the aid of the country?" "When priests are lacking, martyrs are superabundant," replies the new Mother Superior. Mother Marie says that the Carmelites can save France by giving their lives, but the Mother Superior corrects her: it is not permitted to become a martyr voluntarily; martyrdom is a gift from God.

    A police officer announces that the Legislative Assembly has nationalized the convent and its property, and the nuns must give up their habits. When Mother Marie acquiesces, the officer taunts her for being eager to dress like everyone else. She replies that the nuns will continue to serve, no matter how they are dressed. "The people has no need of servants," proclaims the officer haughtily. "No, but it has a great need for martyrs," responds Mother Marie. "In times like these, death is nothing," he says. "Life is nothing," she answers, "when it is so debased."

    Act 3

    In the absence of the new Mother Superior, Mother Marie proposes that the nuns take a vow of martyrdom. However, all must agree, or Mother Marie will not insist. A secret vote is held; there is one dissenting voice. Sister Constance declares that she was the dissenter, and that she has changed her mind, so the vow can proceed. Blanche runs away from the convent, and Mother Marie finds her in her father's library. Her father has been guillotined, and Blanche has been forced to serve her former servants.

    The nuns are all arrested and condemned to death, but Mother Marie is away (with Blanche, presumably) at the time. The chaplain tells Mother Marie that since God has chosen to spare her, she cannot now voluntarily become a martyr by joining the others in prison. The nuns march to the scaffold, singing Salve Regina. At the last minute, Blanche appears, to Constance's joy; but as she mounts the scaffold, Blanche changes the hymn to Deo patri sit gloria (All praise be thine, O risen Lord).

    Major Roles
    Marquis de la Force - baritone
    Chevalier de la Force, his son - tenor
    Blanche de la Force, his daughter - soprano
    Thierry, a footman - baritone
    Madame
  14. Jag4Me Jedi Grand Master

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    I've never heard of Atys, it looks interesting though.

    I know I've heard that finale from Dialogues des Carmelites, loved it. I'd like to see the whole production.
  15. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Amazon has at least two versions on DVD, not the one I linked to in the other post though.

    My aunt saw this one time, but the guillotine broke so it didn't fit with the music. She said that totally ruined the ending.
  16. Zaz Jedi Grand Master

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    What fantastic staging! No wonder it was so popular...
  17. Thrawn1786 Force Ghost

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    I have heard the whole piece before, on a Met radio broadcast. Hearing the ending without being able to see what was going was very moving and also gave me chills.

    Re Atys: don't really know much about that one.
  18. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    I found this list not long ago myself and decided I wanted to hear them all eventually (emphasis on last word :p ). But this one sounds especially interesting.
  19. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    96 - Euryanthe by Carl Maria von Weber

    Euryanthe is a German Romantic opera by Carl Maria von Weber, first performed at the Theater am Kärntnertor, Vienna on 25 October 1823. Though acknowledged as one of Weber's most important operas, the work is rarely staged because of the weak libretto by Helmina von Chézy.

    Synopsis
    Euryanthe is betrothed to Count Adolar. In a hall in the palace of King Louis of France the count sings the praises of his promised bride. Lysiart, Count of Forest and Beaujolais, challenges the fidelity of the maiden and asserts that he can win her should he care to try. Adolar stakes his lands and fortune on the faithfulness of Euryanthe and demands that his friend shall show some proof of his victory should he win one.

    In her castle at Nevers, Euryanthe has given refuge to Eglantine de Puiset, the daughter of a mutineer. This woman is enamoured of Adolar and, under the pretense of friendship for her benefactor, she secretly determines to effect Euryanthe's downfall and rupture her attachment to Adolar. Herein she is assisted by Lysiart, who has unsuccessfully attempted to gain the favor of Euryanthe. To Eglantine, Euryanthe has confided a secret given her by Adolar. The latter's sister Emma had lost her lover in battle, and had killed herself by drinking poison from a ring. Her soul could find no rest until the ring, lying in her tomb, should be moistened with the tears of an injured and innocent maiden. Eglantine visits the tomb, abstracts the ring, and gives it to Lysiart. The latter then displays the jewel to Count Adolar, who is convinced that his betrothed is unfaithful, since she must have betrayed the secret known to him and her alone. He takes Euryanthe into the desert, intending to kill her, but they are attacked by a serpent and the girl throws herself between the reptile and her lover. Adolar kills the serpent, but cannot find the heart to murder she who would have given her life for his. He leaves her to her fate. Euryanthe is found by the king and his hunters, and to the monarch she unfolds the story of her woe and the treachery of Eglantine. Meanwhile, Eglantine has become affianced to Lysiart, and the wedding is about to be celebrated in the Castle of Nevers when the woman is suddenly stricken with hysterical remorse. She thinks that Euryanthe appears to her as a ghost and, in her ravings, divulges the plot. Lysiart, in fury, slays his bride, but is at once seized by order of the king, who enters with Adolar as Eglantine breathes her last. Explanations follow, and Euryanthe, who makes her appearance at the last moment is once more taken to the heart of her beloved.

    Roles
    King Louis VI - bass
    Euryanthe of Savoy - soprano
    Adolar, Count of Nevers - tenor
    Rudolf, a knight - tenor
    Bertha, a country girl - soprano
    Lysiart, Count of Forest - baritone
    Eglantine von Puiset - soprano
    Ladies, knights, soldiers, hunters, pages, heralds, peasants
    *****************************

    Personally I find it a bit hard that an opera with a weak libretto is placed on a "greatest opera" lists. To me the libretto is almost as important as that music. I guess it's here because of its historical significance though. This is the first "real" romantic German opera. It doesn't have any spoken dialogue, unlike the earlier "singspiele" and it's filled with leitmotifs. All in all it's a precursor to the kind of operas that Wagner would write a couple of decades later.

    I found Joan Sutherland singing one of Euryanthe's arias, as well as Jessye Norman. I think the music sounds quite nice, and quite typical of the German romantic style.
  20. Zaz Jedi Grand Master

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    Kind of a lame ending, innit? But the music sounds nice.
  21. Thrawn1786 Force Ghost

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    Never heard this one before, but now I'd like to. I doubt you're going to see a serious revival of it anytime soon. :(
  22. Zaz Jedi Grand Master

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    Is it much performed?
  23. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    I've never heard of it, the only opera by Weber that is performed more regularly is der Freischutz, at least I think so. And that opera will come higher up in the list.

    I had hoped to get the next opera up before I leave, but it will have to wait until next weekend.
  24. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    So after a short break we resume again, and now it's time for the first Mozart opera on the list.

    95 - Die Entführung aus dem Serail by W.A. Mozart

    Die Entführung aus dem Serail (K. 384; The Abduction from the Seraglio; also known as Il Seraglio) is an opera Singspiel in three acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The German libretto is by Christoph Friedrich Bretzner with adaptations by Gottlieb Stephanie. The plot concerns the attempt of the hero Belmonte, assisted by his servant Pedrillo, to rescue his beloved Konstanze from the seraglio of the Pasha Selim.

    Synopsis

    Place: the country house of the Pasha (German "Bassa"), somewhere along the Mediterranean coast
    Time: 18th century

    Act 1

    Belmonte seeks everywhere his betrothed, Konstanze, who with her English servant Blonde has fallen into the hands of pirates who sold them to the Pasha Selim (Aria: "Here shall I see you, Konstanze, you my hope.") Osmin, the Pasha's servant, comes to pluck figs in the garden and completely ignores Belmonte's addresses (Aria: "Who a love has found.") Belmonte insists and tries to obtain news of his servant, Pedrillo. (Duet: "Confounded be you and your song.") Osmin is angry. ("Such ragamuffins.") Nevertheless, after the servant leaves, Belmonte meets Pedrillo and they resolve to abduct Konstanze. (Aria: "Konstanze, Konstanze, to see thee again").

    Accompanied by a chorus of Janissaries ("Sing to the great Pasha") Selim appears with Konstanze, for whose love he strives in vain. (Aria of Konstanze: "O forgive! Oh, I loved") Upon the recommendation of Pedrillo, the Pasha engages Belmonte as builder, but Osmin refuses him access to the palace. (Terzett: "March! March! March!")

    Act 2

    Blonde repulses the rough lovemaking attempts of Osmin. (Aria: "By tenderness and flattery.") After a duet ("I go, but counsel thee to avoid the villain Pedrillo"), Osmin departs. Konstanze greets Blonde in distress (Aria: "Sorrow has become my lot"), informing her that Selim demands her love and threatens to use force. (Aria: "This also will I bear.")

    When she has gone, Pedrillo comes to Blonde, who is his sweetheart, and informs her that Belmonte is near and that all is ready for flight. Blonde is filled with joy. (Aria: "What happiness, what delight.") Pedrillo invites Osmin to drink, hoping that he will become intoxicated. (Aria: "On to the combat" and duet: "Vivat Bacchus!") He succeeds in this plan and gets Osmin out of the way so that Belmonte again sees his beloved Konstanze. (Quartet, Belmonte, Konstanze, Pedrillo, Blonde: "Oh, Belmonte, oh my life.")

    Act 3

    Belmonte and Pedrillo come to the garden with ladders. (Aria, Belmonte: "When the tears of joy do fall"; Romanze, Pedrillo: "Captive in the land of the Moors.") Belmonte succeeds in abducting Konstanze, but when Pedrillo is about to escape with Blonde, they are caught by Osmin (Aria: "Ho, how I will triumph"), and Belmonte and Konstanze are also brought back by the guard. Belmonte pleading for their lives announces to Selim Pasha that his father is a Spanish Grandee and Governor of Oran who will pay a huge ransom, on hearing the name of Belmonte's father, Selim Pasha declares Belmonte the son of his greatest enemy, and rejoices on how fortune has handed him a chance for vengeance. (Duet: "Oh what a fate, oh soul's misery.") His heart, however, is touched by their sorrow; he forgives, and all are set at liberty ? much to the dismay of Osmin, who would prefer to see them all brutally executed. (Finale: "Never will I thy kindness forget.")

    Roles
    Belmonte, a Spanish nobleman - tenor
    Konstanze, betrothed to Belmonte - soprano
    Blonde, Konstanze's English maid - soprano
    Pedrillo, Belmonte's servant - tenor
    Osmin, overseer for the Pasha - bass
    Sultan Selim - spoken role
    Klaas - spoken role
    Chorus of Janissaries
    ***********************

    The opera is a light opera, quite funny and filled with humor. It's also a Singspiel, which means that instead of long recitatives the time between the arias is filled with spoken dialogue, which I think is easier for a modern ear. This is also t
  25. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    I'm familiar with this one, thanks to its inclusion in Amadeus; as you mention, the film dramatizes the famous 'too many notes' incident. The statement isn't necessarily as idiotic as it sounds; Mozart could be very, very busy when he wanted to be.

    That said, the excerpt from this that I've heard is very great indeed; I'd like to hear the entire opera, but I haven't.