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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    9 - Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss

    Der Rosenkavalier (Op. 59) (The Knight of the Rose) is a comic opera in three acts by Richard Strauss to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.

    Synopsis
    Setting

    Time: 1740s, in the first years of the reign of Empress Maria Theresa.
    Place: Vienna.
    Act 1

    The Marschallin's bedroom
    Princess Marie Therese von Werdenberg (the Marschallin, the title given to a Field Marshal's wife) and her much younger lover, Count Octavian Rofrano, exchange vows of love. To avoid scandal, he hides when a small black boy, Mohammed, brings the Marschallin's breakfast. During breakfast loud voices are heard in the garderobe and not the main door. The Marschallin believes that it is her husband who has returned unexpectedly from a hunting trip and has Octavian hide behind the bed. He reappears disguised as a chambermaid, "Mariandel", and tries to sneak away through the garderobe. But the Marschallin's country cousin Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau has unexpectedly entered through that same door to discuss his engagement to Sophie, the daughter of a wealthy merchant who has been recently elevated to nobility by the Empress. After boorishly describing his personal pastime of chasing skirts, and demonstrating it on the disguised Octavian, he asks the Marschallin to recommend a young man to serve as his Rosenkavalier ("Knight of the Rose"), who will deliver the traditional silver engagement rose to Sophie. She suggests Octavian. When Ochs sees the young count's picture, he notices the count's resemblance to the chambermaid "Mariandel", and assumes that she is Octavian's illegitimate sister. Ochs boasts that nobility should be served by nobility, which leads to a confession that he has an illegitimate son working for him. The coarse Ochs propositions the "chambermaid". Octavian plays coy and leaves at the first chance.

    The room then fills with supplicants to the Princess. An Italian tenor sent by the Portuguese Ambassador serenades the Marschallin while Ochs works out the marriage contract with the Marschallin's notary. Two Italian intriguers, Valzacchi and Annina, try to sell the Princess the latest scandal sheets. Rudely interrupting the tenor's song, Ochs tells the notary to demand a dower from Sophie's family (having confused dower with dowry). The notary attempts to explain that such is impossible under the law. Valzacchi and Annina now offer their services to Ochs. He asks whether they know anything about the Princess's "maid". They don't, but they assure him that they do. Amidst all the activity, the Marschallin remarks to her hairdresser: "My dear Hippolyte, today you have made me look like an old woman."

    When all have left, the Marschallin, reminded of her own early marriage by Ochs's young bride, sadly ponders her fleeting youth and the fickleness of men. By this time Octavian returns (in men's clothes) she has realized that one day he will leave her. She muses on the passage of time (a clock is heard chiming thirteen times), and turns Octavian away. After he has left, she suddenly realizes that she has forgotten to kiss him goodbye, and sends some footmen after him; however, it is too late, he is gone. The Marschallin summons her page to take the silver rose to Octavian to deliver to Sophie. After Mohammed departs, Marie Therese stares pensively into her hand mirror (or similar) as the curtain falls.
    Act 2

    The von Faninals' home

    Herr von Faninal and Sophie await the arrival of the Rosenkavalier (Knight of the Rose), Octavian. Following tradition, Faninal departs before the Knight appears. Sophie frets over her approaching marriage with a man she has never met as her duenna, Marianne, reports on the approach of Octavian. Octavian arrives with great pomp, dressed all in silver. He presents the silver rose to Sophie in an elaborate ceremony. Immediately, the two young people are attracted to each other and they sing a beautiful duet.

    During a chaperoned conversation, Sophie and Octavian begin to fall in love (in this conversation she reveals Octavian's full name: Octavian Maria Ehrenreich Bonaventura Fernand Hyacinth Rofrano, aka Quinquin in intimacy). Ochs enters with Sophie's father. The Baron speaks familiarly with Octavian (though they have never officially met), examines Sophie like chattel and generally behaves like a cad, also revealing that Octavian "has" illegitimate family. Ochs's servants begin to chase the maids, sending the household into an uproar. Sophie starts to weep, and Octavian promises to help her. He embraces her, but they are discovered by Ochs's Italian spies, who report to him. Ochs is only amused, considering the much younger Octavian no threat, but Octavian's temper is raised enough to challenge the bull-headed Ochs to a duel. Ochs receives a slight wound in the arm in the fracas and cries bloody murder. As a doctor is sent for, Sophie tells her father that she will never marry Ochs, but her father insists, and threatens to send her to a convent. Octavian is thrown out, and Sophie is sent to her room. As Ochs is left alone on the divan with his wounded arm in a sling, he begins to raise his spirits with a glass of port. Annina enters with a letter for Ochs from "Mariandel" asking to meet him for a tryst. The now recovered and drunk Ochs, in anticipation of his imminent meeting, dances around the stage to one of the opera's many ironic and wry waltzes, refusing to tip Annina, who silently swears revenge.
    Act 3

    A private room in an inn

    Valzacchi and Annina have switched alliances and are now helping Octavian prepare a trap for the Baron. There is far more than meets the eye about the room that Valzacchi has rented for the Baron's tryst, and in a pantomime all the preparations to trap the Baron and foil his engagement with Sophie are seen.

    Ochs and "Mariandel" arrive for a rendez-vous. Ochs tries to seduce the seemingly willing chambermaid, though he is disturbed by her resemblance to Octavian. The guilt-ridden baron catches glimpses of the heads of Octavian's conspirators as they pop out of secret doors. A woman (Annina in disguise) rushes in claiming that Ochs is her husband and the father of her children, all of whom rush in crying "Papa! Papa!" The confusion grows and the police arrive, and to avoid a scandal, Ochs claims that "Mariandel" is his fiancée Sophie. Octavian lets the Police Inspector in on the trick, and the Inspector plays along. In the meantime Ochs tries to pull his noble rank to no avail, claiming that "Mariandel" is under his protection. Furious to be enmeshed in the scandal, Faninal arrives and sends for Sophie to clear their names. Sophie arrives and asks Ochs to leave her alone. Just as Ochs is completely befuddled and embarrassed, the Marschallin enters. The Police Inspector recognizes her, having previously served under her husband. The Marschallin sends the police and all the others away. Ochs still tries to claim Sophie for himself after having realized the truth about the Marschallin and Octavian/Mariandel's relationship, even attempting to blackmail the Marschallin, but is ordered to leave gracefully. Salvaging what is left of his dignity. Ochs finally leaves, pursued by various bill collectors.

    The Marschallin, Sophie, and Octavian are left alone. The Marschallin recognizes that the day she so feared has come, as Octavian hesitates between the two women. In the emotional climax of the opera, the Marschallin gracefully releases Octavian, encouraging him to follow his heart and love Sophie. She then withdraws elegantly to the next room to talk with Faninal. As soon as she is gone, Sophie and Octavian run to each other's arms. Faninal and the Marschallin return to find the lovers locked in an embrace. After a few bittersweet glances to her lost lover, the Marschallin departs with Faninal. Sophie and Octavian follow after another brief but ecstatic love duet, and the opera ends with little Mohammed running in to retrieve Sophie's dropped handkerchief, and racing out again after the departing nobility.

    Roles

    The Marschallin - soprano
    Octavian, Count Rofrano, her young lover - mezzo-soprano
    Baron Ochs of Lerchenau, the Marschallin's cousin - bass
    Sophie von Fanninal - soprano
    Her von Fanninal, Sophie's father - baritone
    Marianne, Sophie's duenna - soprano
    Valzacchi, an intriguer - tenor
    Annina, his partner - contralto
    A notary - bass
    An Italian singer - tenor
    Three noble orphans - soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto
    A milliner - soprano
    A vendor of pets - tenor
    Fanninal's major domo - tenor
    A police inspector - bass
    The Marschallin's major domo - tenor
    An Innkeeper - tenor
    four lackeys - tenor, bass
    four waiters - tenors, basses
    Mohammed, the Marschallin's black page - silent
    ****************************************************************

    Der Rosenkavalier is Strauss' most popular opera, and it's performed regularly. At casual glance it's quite the comedy, but it also contains quite solemn moments where the Marschallin reflects on time and aging. It became an immediate success, but there were also some criticism that Strauss used old fashioned music, for example waltzes, and that the opera itself was a period piece set in the 18th century. The opera is also known for having three of the four major roles being made for female voices. Both the Marschallin and Octavian are seen as very important pieces for a dramatic soprano and a mezzo-soprano. There are even some singers who have managed to sing all of the three main characters during the course of their career.

    Some famous pieces from the opera are the Marschallin's monologue from Act 1


    the presentation of the Rose from Act 2


    and the final trio
  2. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    8 - Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini

    Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly) is an opera in three acts (originally two acts) by Giacomo Puccini, with an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.
    Act 1

    In 1904, a U.S. Naval officer, Pinkerton, rents a house on a hill in Nagasaki, Japan for him and his soon-to-be wife, "Butterfly". Her real name is Ciocio-san, (cio-cio, pronounced "chocho": the Japanese word for "butterfly" is chōchō 蝶蝶). She is a 15-year-old Japanese girl whom he is marrying for convenience, since he intends to leave her once he finds a proper American wife, and since Japanese divorce laws are very lax. The wedding is to take place at the house, and Butterfly is so excited to marry an American that earlier, she secretly converted from Japanese religion to Christianity. After the wedding ceremony, her uninvited uncle, a bonze, who has found out about her conversion, comes to the house, curses her and orders all the guests to leave, which they do while renouncing her. Pinkerton and Butterfly sing a love duet and prepare to spend their first night together.
    Act 2

    Three years later, Butterfly is still waiting for Pinkerton to return, as he had left shortly after their wedding. Her maid Suzuki keeps trying to convince her he is not coming back, but she will not listen to her. Goro, the marriage broker who arranged her marriage, keeps trying to marry her off again, but she won't listen to him either. The American Consul, Sharpless, comes to the house with a letter which he has received from Pinkerton in which he is asked to break some news to Butterfly that he is coming back to Japan, but he cannot bring himself to finish it, because Butterfly becomes very excited to hear that Pinkerton is coming back. Sharpless asks Butterfly what she would do if Pinkerton were not to return. She then reveals that she gave birth to Pinkerton's son after he had left and asks Sharpless to tell him.
    From the hill house, Butterfly sees Pinkerton's ship arriving in the harbour. She and Suzuki prepare for his arrival, and then they wait. Suzuki and the child fall asleep, but Butterfly stays up all night waiting for him to arrive.
    Act 3

    Suzuki wakes up in the morning and Butterfly finally falls asleep. Sharpless and Pinkerton arrive at the house, along with Pinkerton's new American wife, Kate. They have come because Kate has agreed to raise the child. But, as Pinkerton sees how Butterfly has decorated the house for his return, he realizes he has made a huge mistake. He admits that he is a coward and cannot face her, leaving Suzuki, Sharpless and Kate to break the news to Butterfly. Agreeing to give up her child if Pinkerton comes himself to see her, she then prays to statues of her ancestral gods, says goodbye to her son, and blindfolds him. She places a small American flag into his hands and goes behind a screen, cutting her throat with her father's hara-kiri knife. Pinkerton rushes in. He is too late.

    Roles
    Cio-Cio San (Madame Butterfly) - soprano
    Suzuki, her maid - mezzo-soprano
    B.F Pinkerton, lieutenant in the US navy - tenor
    Sharpless, US consul in Nagasaki - baritone
    Goro, a matchmaker - tenor
    Prince Yamadori - tenor
    The Bonze, Cio-Cio San's uncle - bass
    Yakuside, Cio-Cio San's uncle - bass
    The Imperial commisioner - bass
    The Official Registrar - bass
    Cio-Cio San's mother - mezzo-soprano
    the aunt - soprano
    the cousin - soprano
    Kate Pinkerton - mezzo-soprano
    Dolore, Cio-Cio San's child - silent

    ********************************************************************
    It took me a while to write this since I wanted to see the full opera by myself first. I saw it yesterday, and definitely understands why it's up in the top 10. It's an opera with a very nice musical flow, it never feels slow, and even though the story is well known it had me crying a lot in the second and third act.It also made me very angry with Pinkerton.

    The musical pieces that stood out were the Love Duet from the first act


    and of course the most famous aria from the opera, Butterfly's Un bel di vedremo



    This aria has also been adapted into pop versions by Malcom MacLaren (a strange thing but worth watching to the end) and Swedish mezzo Malena Ernman, that version is always on my working out playlist.
    Admiral_Volshe likes this.
  3. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    7 - La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini

    La bohème is an opera in four acts,[N 1] by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger


    Synopsis

    The story is set in Paris in the period around 1830.
    Act 1

    In the four bohemians' garret
    Marcello is painting while Rodolfo gazes out of the window. They complain of the cold. In order to keep warm, they burn the manuscript of Rodolfo's drama. Colline, the philosopher, enters shivering and disgruntled at not having been able to pawn some books. Schaunard, the musician of the group, arrives with food, wine and cigars. He explains the source of his riches: a job with an eccentric English gentleman, who ordered him to play his violin to a parrot until it died. The others hardly listen to his tale as they set up the table to eat and drink. Schaunard interrupts, telling them that they must save the food for the days ahead: tonight they will all celebrate his good fortune by dining at Cafe Momus, and he will pay.
    The friends are interrupted by Benoît, the landlord, who arrives to collect the rent. They flatter him and ply him with wine. In his drunkenness, he begins to boast of his amorous adventures, but when he also reveals that he is married, they thrust him from the room — without the rent payment — in comic moral indignation. The rent money is divided for their evening out in the Quartier Latin. Marcello, Schaunard and Colline go out, but Rodolfo remains alone for a moment in order to finish an article he is writing, promising to join his friends soon. There is a knock at the door. It is a girl who lives in another room in the building. Her candle has blown out, and she has no matches; she asks Rodolfo to light it. She is briefly overcome with faintness, and Rodolfo helps her to a chair and offers her a glass of wine. She thanks him. After a few minutes, she says that she is better and must go. But as she turns to leave, she realizes that she has lost her key. Her candle goes out in the draught and Rodolfo's candle goes out too; the pair stumble in the dark. Rodolfo, eager to spend time with the girl, to whom he is already attracted, finds the key and pockets it, feigning innocence. He takes her cold hand and tells her of his life as a poet, then asks her to tell him more about her life. The girl says her name is Mimì, and describes her simple life as an embroiderer. Impatiently, the waiting friends call Rodolfo. He answers and turns to see Mimì bathed in moonlight. They realize that they have fallen in love. Rodolfo suggests remaining at home with Mimì, but she decides to accompany him to the Cafe Momus. As they leave, they sing of their newfound love.
    Act 2

    Quartier Latin
    A great crowd, including children, has gathered with street sellers announcing their wares. The friends arrive; Rodolfo buys Mimì a bonnet from a vendor, while Colline buys a coat and Schaunard a horn. Parisians gossip with friends and bargain with the vendors; the children of the streets clamor to see the wares of Parpignol, the toy seller. The friends enter the Cafe Momus.
    As the men and Mimì dine at the cafe, Musetta, formerly Marcello's sweetheart, arrives with her rich (and elderly) government minister admirer, Alcindoro, whom she is tormenting. It is clear she has tired of him. To the delight of the Parisians and the embarrassment of her patron, she sings a risqué song, hoping to reclaim Marcello's attention. The ploy works; at the same time, Mimì recognizes that Musetta truly loves Marcello. To be rid of Alcindoro for a bit, Musetta pretends to be suffering from a tight shoe and sends him to the shoemaker to get her shoe mended. Alcindoro leaves, and Musetta and Marcello fall rapturously into each other's arms.
    The friends are presented with their bill. Schaunard's purse has gone missing and no one else has enough money to pay. The sly Musetta has the entire bill charged to Alcindoro. The sound of a military band is heard, and the friends leave. Alcindoro returns with the repaired shoe seeking Musetta. The waiter hands him the bill and, dumbfounded, Alcindoro sinks into a chair.
    Act 3

    At the toll gate at the Barrière d'Enfer (late February)
    Peddlers pass through the barriers and enter the city. Mimì appears, coughing violently. She tries to find Marcello, currently living in a little tavern where he paints signs for the innkeeper. She tells him of her hard life with Rodolfo, who abandoned her the night before, and of Rodolfo's terrible jealousy. Marcello tells her that Rodolfo is asleep inside, and expresses concern about Mimì's cough. Rodolfo wakes up and comes out looking for Marcello. Mimì hides and overhears Rodolfo first telling Marcello that he left Mimì because of her coquettishness, but finally confessing that his jealousy is a sham: he fears she is slowly being consumed by a deadly illness (most likely tuberculosis, known by the catchall name "consumption" in the nineteenth century). Rodolfo, in his poverty, can do little to help Mimì and hopes that his pretended unkindness will inspire her to seek another, wealthier suitor. Out of kindness towards Mimì, Marcello tries to silence him, but she has already heard all. Her weeping and coughing reveal her presence, and Rodolfo hurries to her. Musetta's laughter is heard and Marcello goes to find out what has happened. Mimì tells Rodolfo that she is leaving him, and asks that they separate amicably; but their love for one another is too strong for the pair to part. As a compromise, they agree to remain together until the spring, when the world is coming to life again and no one feels truly alone. Meanwhile, Marcello has found Musetta, and the couple quarrel fiercely about Musetta's flirtatiousness: an antithetical counterpoint to the other pair's reconciliation.
    Act 4

    Back in the garret (some months late)
    Marcello and Rodolfo are trying to work, though they are primarily talking about their girlfriends, who have left them and found wealthy lovers. Rodolfo has seen Musetta in a fine carriage and Marcello has seen Mimì dressed like a queen. The men both express their nostalgia. Schaunard and Colline arrive with a very frugal dinner and all parody eating a plentiful banquet, dance together and sing, before Schaunard and Colline engage in a mock duel. Musetta suddenly appears; Mimì, who took up with a wealthy viscount after leaving Rodolfo in the spring, has left her patron. Musetta found her that day in the street, severely weakened by her illness, and Mimì begged Musetta to bring her to Rodolfo. Mimì, haggard and pale, is assisted onto a bed. Briefly, she feels as though she is recovering. Musetta and Marcello leave to sell Musetta's earrings in order to buy medicine, and Colline leaves to pawn his overcoat. Schaunard leaves with Colline to give Mimì and Rodolfo some time together. Mimì tells Rodolfo that her love for him is her whole life. To Mimì's delight, Rodolfo presents her with the pink bonnet he bought her, which he has kept as a souvenir of their love. They remember past happiness and their first meeting — the candles, the lost key. Suddenly, Mimì is overwhelmed by a coughing fit. The others return, with a gift of a muff to warm Mimì's hands and some medicine. Mimì gently thanks Rodolfo for the muff, which she believes is a present from him, reassures him that she is better and falls asleep. As Musetta prays, Mimì dies. Schaunard realizes that Mimì has died. Rodolfo becomes aware that something is wrong. He rushes to the bed, calling Mimì's name in anguish, and weeps helplessly.

    Roles
    Rodolfo, a poet - tenor
    Mimi, a seamstress - soprano
    Marcello, a painter - baritone
    Musetta, a singer - soprano
    Schaunard, a musician - baritone
    Colline, a philosopher - bass
    Benoit, their landlord - bass
    Alcindoro, a state councillor - bass
    Parpignol, a toy vendor - tenor
    a customs sergeant - bass

    *********************************************************
    La Bohéme well deserves its spot in the top 10. It's one of the most loved, and most performed, operas in the world. The story has also served as the inspiration both for the musical Rent and Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge. I saw this opera a lot as a kid, since it was the only opera except for the Magic Flute that we had on VHS. It was a Met performance with Pavarotti as Rodolfo, great musically but not so exciting when it came to the acting. I also saw it so much that I still feel a bit done with it.

    The opera is filled with great pieces, and some of them are the standard repertoire for sopranos and tenors when it comes to concert selections. This is especially true for Rodolfo's and Mimi's first meeting that starts with Rodolfo's Che Gelida Manina


    goes on with Mim's Mi chiamano Mimi



    and finishes off with their duet O soave fanciulla
  4. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    7 - Aida by Giuseppe Verdi

    Aida (pronounced [aˈiːda]), sometimes spelled Aïda, is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni,

    Synopsis

    he opera does not specify a very precise time period and so it is difficult to place it more accurately than the Old Kingdom. For the first production, Mariette went to great efforts to make the sets and costumes authentic.[25] Given the consistent artistic styles through the 3000 year history of ancient Egypt, a given production does not particularly need to choose a specific time period within the larger frame of ancient Egyptian history.

    Overview: Aida, an Ethiopian princess, is captured and brought into slavery in Egypt. A military commander, Radamès, struggles to choose between his love for her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh. To complicate the story further, Radamès is loved by the Pharaoh's daughter Amneris, although he does not return her feelings.
    Act 1

    Scene 1: A hall in the King's palace; through the rear gate the pyramids and temples of Memphis
    Ramfis, the high priest of Egypt, tells Radamès, the young warrior, that war with the Ethiopians seems inevitable, and Radamès expresses the hope that he can be chosen as the Egyptian commander.
    Radamès dreams both of gaining victory on the battle field and of Aida, the Ethiopian slave, with whom he is secretly in love. Aida, who is also secretly in love with Radamès, is the captured daughter of the Ethiopian King Amonasro, but her Egyptian captors are unaware of her true identity. Her father has invaded Egypt to deliver her from servitude.
    Amneris, the daughter of the Egyptian King enters the hall. She too loves Radamès, but fears that his heart belongs to someone else
    Then Aida appears and, when Radamès sees her, Amneris notices that he looks disturbed. She suspects that Aida could be her rival, but she is able to hide her jealousy and approaches her The King enters, along with the High Priest, Ramfis, and the whole palace court. A messenger announces that the Ethiopians, led by King Amonasro, are marching towards Thebes. The King declares war and also proclaims Radamès to be the man chosen by the goddess Isis as leader of the army. Upon receiving the mandate from the King, Radamès proceeds to the temple of Vulcan to take up the sacred arms
    Alone in the hall, Aida is torn between her love for her father, her country, and Radamès.

    Scene 2: Inside the Temple of Vulcan Solemn ceremonies and dances by the priestesses take place followed by the installation of Radamès to the office of commander-in-chief. All present in the temple pray for the victory of Egypt and protection for their warriors
    Act 2

    Scene 1: The chamber of Amneris
    Dances and music to celebrate Radamès' victory take place However, Amneris is still in doubt about Radamès' love and wonders whether Aida is in love with the young warrior. She tries to forget her doubt, entertaining her worried heart with the dance of Moorish slaves.
    When Aida enters the chamber, Amneris asks everyone to leave. By falsely telling Aida that Radamès has died in the battle, she tricks her into professing her love for him. In grief, and shocked by the news, Aida confesses that her heart belongs to Radamès eternally. This confession fires Amneris with rage, and she plans on taking revenge on Aida. Ignoring Aida's pleadings. Amneris leaves her alone in the chamber.

    Scene 2: .The grand gate of the city of Thebes

    Radamès returns victorious and the troops march into the cityj. The Egyptian king decrees that on this day the triumphant Radamès may have anything he wishes. The Ethiopian captives are rounded up and Amonasro appears among them. Aida immediately rushes to her father, but their true identities are still unknown to the Egyptians, save for the fact that they are father and daughter. Amonasro declares that the Ethiopian king (he himself) has been slain in battle. Aida, Amonasro and the captured Ethiopians plead with the Egyptian King for mercy, but the Egyptians call for their death As his reward from the King, Radamès pleads with him to spare the lives of the prisoners and to set them free. Gratefully, the King of Egypt declares Radamès to be his successor and to be his daughter's betrothed. Aida and Amonasro remain as hostages to ensure that the Ethiopians do not avenge their defeat.
    Act 3

    On the banks of the Nile, near the Temple of Isis
    Prayers are said on the eve of Amneris and Radamès' wedding in the Temple of Isis. Outside, Aida waits to meet with Radamès as they had planned.
    Amonasro appears and forces Aida to agree to find out the location of the Egyptian army from Radamès. When he arrives, Amonasro hides behind a rock and listens to their conversation.
    Radamès affirms that Aida is the person he will marry and Aida convinces him to flee to the desert with her.
    In order to make their escape easier, Radamès proposes that they use a safe route without any fear of discovery and he also reveals the location where his army has chosen to attack. Upon hearing this, Amonasro comes out of hiding and reveals his identity. Radamès feels dishonored. At the same time Amneris and Ramfis leave the temple and, seeing Radamès with their enemy, call the guards. Amonasro and Aida try to convince Radamès to escape with them, but he refuses and surrenders to the imperial guards.
    Act 4

    Scene 1: A hall in the Temple of Justice. To one side is the door leading to Radamès' prison cell
    Amneris desires to save Radamès. She calls for the guard to bring him to her.
    She asks Radamès to deny the accusations, but Radamès refuses. Certain that, as punishment, he will be condemned to death, Amneris implores him to defend himself, but Radamès firmly refuses. He is relieved to know Aida is still alive and hopes she has reached her own country. His decision hurts Amneris.
    Radamès' trial takes place offstage; he does not reply to Ramfis' accusations and is condemned to death, while Amneris, who remains onstage, pleads with the priests to show him mercy. As he is sentenced to be buried alive, Amneris curses the priests while Radamès is taken away

    Scene 2: The lower portion of the stage shows the vault in the Temple of Vulcan; the upper portion represents the temple itself
    Radamès has been taken into the lower floor of the temple and sealed up in a dark vault. Thinking that he is alone and hoping that Aida is in a safer place, he hears a sigh and then sees Aida. She has hidden herself in the vault in order to die with Radamès. They accept their terrible fate and bid farewell to earth and its sorrows.Above the vault in the temple of Vulcan, Amneris weeps and prays to the goddess Isis. In the vault below, Aida dies in Radamès' arms.

    Roles
    Aida, an Ethiopian princess - soprano
    The King of Egypt - bass
    Amneris, daughter of the king - mezzo-soprano
    Radamès, Captain of the Guard - tenor
    Amonasro, king Ethiopia - baritone
    Ramfis, high priest - bass
    a messenger - tenor
    voices of High priestesses - sopranos

    *****************************************
    Aida is one of the most performed operas in the opera world. It shows by the fact that eventhough it's not my favorite opera I've seen it 6 times in live performances, just because it has been offered. As an opera lover I'm very happy that I've seen it twice at Arena di Verona. It is a very emotional opera, I can't help but thinking that both the main characters, Aida and Radamés, are quite stupid though. Radamés for refusing to defend himself, Aida for first getting tricked by Amneris and then for letting herself get buried in the burial chamber in the end. I find that Amneris and Amonasro are much more interesting as characters.

    Coming up on these opera in the top it's getting harder to choose just a few of the great pieces from the operas. From Aida the single most famous piece is the triumphal chorus, which is also used extensively by Italian soccer fans. This is the complete version.


    Radamès has one very famous tenor aria in Celeste Aida. (take a note of the very short skirt Placido Domingo is wearing [face_hypnotized] in this video)


    Aida has two very fine arias in Ritorno Vincitor and Patria Mia, I prefer the latter one so I choose to post that. I also chose to post Leontyne Price singing it. She was one of the first African-Americans to rise to stardom in the operaworld and her singing Aida at the Met was seen as quite a breakthrough in the US, she had made the part quite a lot in Europe before that though.
  5. Thrawn1786 Force Ghost

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    Feb 8, 2004
    star 5
    Wow, we're already down to the top selections? Cool. I'm surprised that Aida and Boheme aren't ranked higher.

    Obi Anne, I love the clip of "O patria mia" that you posted. It was from Ms. Price's final performance, so the heightened emotion only adds to the piece. I love how the ovation goes on forever. AND I might add that Leontyne Price can still sing like no one's business, even though she is now in her 70s or so. :p Look up the clip of her singing "God Bless America" from 2001 if you don't believe me. It's awesome. :D

    As for Boheme, my ex-piano teacher LOVED this opera. She would always go on and on about it, and as a result, it was one of the first operas I ever listened to. Not too big a fan of the plot, but I love the music. It's so charming and warm, especially in the moments where the Bohemians are goofing around. And it's so hard to resist "O soave fanciulla." I actually haven't seen the Pavarotti DVD, but I have seen the Baz Luhrmann Australia Opera interpretation, which updates the piece to the 1940s and is very well done. I've also seen the recent film version with Anna Netrebko, which is filmed like an ordinary movie, and the 2008 Met broadcast with Angela Gheorghiu, which showcases the legendary Zefferelli production. All were quite good. Strangely enough, I have yet to find the 'perfect' Boheme recording. I know I have quite a few interpretations on vinyl and cassette, but it's been a long time since I've listened to them. :(
  6. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    star 7
    So, with only the top 6 left it's time to finish this list. I'm sorry that it hasn't happened sooner.

    6 - Le Nozze di Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata (The Marriage of Figaro, or The Day of Madness), K. 492, is an opera buffa (comic opera) composed in 1786 in four acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with a libretto in Italian by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro (1784).

    Synopsis

    The Marriage of Figaro is a continuation of the plot of The Barber of Seville several years later, and recounts a single "day of madness" (la folle giornata) in the palace of the Count Almaviva near Seville, Spain. Rosina is now the Countess; Dr. Bartolo is seeking revenge against Figaro for thwarting his plans to marry Rosina himself; and Count Almaviva has degenerated from the romantic youth of Barber into a scheming, bullying, skirt-chasing baritone. Having gratefully given Figaro a job as head of his servant-staff, he is now persistently trying to obtain the favors of Figaro's bride-to-be, Susanna. He keeps finding excuses to delay the civil part of the wedding of his two servants, which is arranged for this very day. Figaro, Susanna, and the Countess conspire to embarrass the Count and expose his scheming. He responds by trying to compel Figaro legally to marry a woman old enough to be his mother, but it turns out at the last minute that she is really his mother. Through Figaro's and Susanna's clever manipulations, the Count's love for his Countess is finally restored.
    Place: Count Almaviva's estate, Aguas-Frescas, three leagues outside Seville, Spain.[24]
    Act 1

    A partly furnished room, with a chair in the centre.
    Figaro is happily measuring the space where the bridal bed will fit while Susanna is trying on her wedding bonnet in front of the mirror. Figaro is quite pleased with their new room; Susanna far less so. She is bothered by its proximity to the Count's chambers: .it seems he has been making advances toward her and plans on exercising his "droit du seigneur", the purported feudal right of a lord to bed a servant girl on her wedding night before her husband can sleep with her. The Count had the right abolished when he married Rosina, but he now wants to reinstate it. Figaro is livid and plans to outwit the Count

    Figaro departs, and Dr. Bartolo arrives with Marcellina, his old housekeeper. Marcellina has hired Bartolo as her counsel, since Figaro had once promised to marry her if he should default on a loan she had made to him, and she intends to enforce that promise. Bartolo, still irked at Figaro for having facilitated the union of the Count and Rosina (in The Barber of Seville), promises, in comical lawyer-speak, to help Marcellina. Bartolo departs, Susanna returns, and Marcellina and Susanna share an exchange of very politely delivered sarcastic insults. Susanna triumphs in the exchange by congratulating her rival on her impressive age. The older woman departs in a fury. Cherubino then arrives and, after describing his emerging infatuation with all women and particularly with his "beautiful godmother" the Countess, asks for Susanna's aid with the Count. It seems the Count is angry with Cherubino's amorous ways, having discovered him with the gardener's daughter, Barbarina, and plans to punish him. Cherubino wants Susanna to ask the Countess to intercede on his behalf. When the Count appears, Cherubino hides behind a chair, not wanting to be seen alone with Susanna. The Count uses the opportunity of finding Susanna alone to step up his demands for favours from her, including financial inducements to sell herself to him. As Basilio, the slimy music teacher, arrives, the Count, not wanting to be caught alone with Susanna, hides behind the chair. Cherubino leaves that hiding place just in time, and jumps onto the chair while Susanna scrambles to cover him with a dress.

    When Basilio starts to gossip about Cherubino's obvious attraction to the Countess, the Count angrily leaps from his hiding place. He disparages the "absent" page's incessant flirting and describes how he caught him with Barbarina under the kitchen table. As he lifts the dress from the chair to illustrate how he lifted the tablecloth to expose Cherubino, he finds ... the self same Cherubino! The count is furious but is reminded that the page has just overheard the Count's advances on Susanna, something that the Count would definitely want to keep from the Countess. The young man is ultimately saved from punishment by the entrance of the peasants of the Count's estate, this entrance being a preemptive attempt by Figaro to commit the Count to a formal gesture symbolizing the promise of Susanna's entering into the marriage unsullied. The Count evades Figaro's plan by postponing the gesture. The Count says that he forgives Cherubino, but he dispatches him to his own regiment in Seville for army duty, effective immediately. Figaro gives Cherubino mocking advice about his new, harsh, military life from which all luxury, and especially women, will be totally excluded.
    Act 2

    A handsome room with an alcove, a dressing room on the left, a door in the background (leading to the servants' quarters) and a window at the side.
    The Countess laments her husband's infidelity. Susanna comes in to prepare the Countess for the day. She responds to the Countess's questions by telling her that the Count is not trying to "seduce" her, he is merely offering her a monetary contract in return for her affection. Figaro enters and explains his plan to distract the Count with anonymous letters warning him of adulterers. He has already sent one to the Count (via Basilio) that indicates the Countess has a rendezvous that evening of her own. They hope that the Count will be too busy looking for imaginary adulterers to interfere with Figaro's and Susanna's wedding. Figaro additionally advises the Countess to keep Cherubino around. She should dress him up as Susanna and lure the Count into an illicit rendezvous where he can be caught red-handed. Figaro leaves.
    Cherubino arrives, sent in by Figaro and eager to co-operate. Susanna urges him to sing the song he wrote for the Countess. After the song, the Countess, seeing Cherubino's military commission, notices that the Count was in such a hurry that he forgot to seal it with his signet ring (which was necessary to make it an official document). They proceed to attire Cherubino in women's clothes, and Susanna goes out to fetch a ribbon. While the Countess and Cherubino are waiting for Susanna to come back, they suddenly hear the Count arriving. Cherubino hides in the closet. The Count demands to be allowed into the room and the Countess reluctantly unlocks the door. The Count enters and hears a noise from the closet. He tries to open it, but it is locked. The Countess tells him it is only Susanna, trying on her wedding dress. The Count shouts for her to identify herself by her voice, but the Countess orders her to be silent. At this moment, Susanna re-enters unobserved, quickly realises what's going on, and hides behind a couch. Furious and suspicious, the Count leaves, with the Countess, in search of tools to force the closet door open. As they leave, he locks all the bedroom doors to prevent the intruder from escaping. Cherubino and Susanna emerge from their hiding places, and Cherubino escapes by jumping through the window into the garden. Susanna then takes his place in the closet, vowing to make the Count look foolish
    .
    The Count and Countess return. The Countess desperately admits that Cherubino is hidden in the closet. The raging Count draws his sword, promising to kill Cherubino on the spot, but when the door is opened, they both find to their astonishment only Susanna. The Count demands an explanation; the Countess tells him it is a practical joke, to test his trust in her. Shamed by his jealousy, the Count begs for forgiveness. When the Count presses about the anonymous letter, Susanna and the Countess reveal that the letter was written by Figaro, and then delivered through Basilio. Figaro then arrives and tries to start the wedding festivities, but the Count berates him with questions about the anonymous note. Just as the Count is starting to run out of questions, Antonio the gardener arrives, complaining that a man has jumped out of the window and broken his flowerpots of carnations. The Count immediately realizes that the jumping fugitive was Cherubino, but Figaro claims it was he himself who jumped out the window, and fakes a foot-injury. The three attempt to discredit Antonio as a chronic drunkard whose constant inebriation makes him unreliable and prone to fantasy, but Antonio brings forward a paper which, he says, was dropped by the escaping man. The Count orders Figaro to prove he was the jumper by identifying the paper (which is, in fact, Cherubino's appointment to the army). Figaro is able to do this because of the cunning teamwork of the two women, who stealthily recognise the paper as the one the Count had forgotten to seal. Figaro's victory is, however, short-lived; Marcellina, Bartolo, and Basilio enter, bringing charges against Figaro and demanding that he honor his contract to marry Marcellina. The Count happily postpones the wedding in order to investigate the charge.
    Act 3

    A rich hall, with two thrones, prepared for the wedding ceremony.
    The Count mulls over the confusing situation. At the urging of the Countess, Susanna enters and gives a false promise to meet the Count later that night in the garden. As Susanna leaves, the Count overhears her telling Figaro that he has already won the case. Realizing that he is being tricked, he resolves to make Figaro pay by forcing him to marry Marcellina.
    Figaro's trial follows, and the judgment is that Figaro must marry Marcellina. Figaro argues that he cannot get married without his parents' permission, and that he does not know who his parents are, because he was stolen from them when he was a baby. The ensuing discussion reveals that Figaro is Rafaello, the long-lost illegitimate son of Bartolo and Marcellina. A touching scene of reconciliation occurs. During the celebrations, Susanna enters with a payment to release Figaro from his debt to Marcellina. Seeing Figaro and Marcellina in celebration together, Susanna mistakenly believes that Figaro now prefers Marcellina over her. She has a tantrum and slaps Figaro's face. Figaro explains, and Susanna, realizing her mistake, joins the celebration. Bartolo, overcome with emotion, agrees to marry Marcellina that evening in a double wedding.

    All leave, and the Countess, alone, ponders the loss of her happiness. Susanna enters and updates her regarding the plan to trap the Count. The Countess dictates a love letter for Susanna to give to the Count, which suggests that he meet her that night, "under the pines". The letter instructs the Count to return the brooch which fastens the letter.
    A chorus of young peasants, among them Cherubino disguised as a girl, arrives to serenade the Countess. The Count arrives with Antonio, and, discovering the page, is enraged. His anger is quickly dispelled by Barbarina (a peasant girl, Antonio's daughter), who publicly recalls that he had once offered to give her anything she wants, and asks for Cherubino's hand in marriage. Thoroughly embarrassed, the Count allows Cherubino to stay.
    The act closes with the double wedding, during the course of which Susanna delivers her letter to the Count. Figaro watches the Count prick his finger on the brooch, and laughs, unaware that the love-note is from Susanna herself. As the curtain drops, the two newlywed couples rejoice.
    Act 4

    The garden, with two pavilions. Night.
    Following the directions in the letter, the Count has sent the brooch back to Susanna, giving it to Barbarina. Unfortunately, Barbarina has lost it. Figaro and Marcellina see Barbarina, and Figaro asks her what she is doing. When he hears the pin is Susanna's, he is overcome with jealousy, especially as he recognises the pin to be the one that fastened the letter to the Count. Thinking that Susanna is meeting the Count behind his back, Figaro complains to his mother, and swears to be avenged on the Count and Susanna, and on all unfaithful wives. Marcellina urges caution, but Figaro will not listen. Figaro rushes off, and Marcellina resolves to inform Susanna of Figaro's intentions. Marcellina sings of how the wild beasts get along with each other, but rational humans can't.

    Actuated by jealousy, Figaro tells Bartolo and Basilio to come to his aid when he gives the signal. Basilio comments on Figaro's foolishness and claims he was once as frivolous as Figaro was. He tells a tale of how he was given common sense by "Donna Flemma" and ever since he has been aware of the wiles of women. They exit, leaving Figaro alone. Figaro muses on the inconstancy of women. Susanna and the Countess arrive, dressed in each other's clothes. Marcellina is with them, having informed Susanna of Figaro's suspicions and plans. After they discuss the plan, Marcellina and the Countess leave, and Susanna teases Figaro by singing a love song to her beloved within Figaro's hearing. Figaro is hiding behind a bush and, thinking the song is for the Count, becomes increasingly jealous.

    The Countess arrives in Susanna's dress. Cherubino shows up and starts teasing "Susanna" (really the Countess), endangering the plan. Fortunately, the Count gets rid of him by striking out in the dark. His punch actually ends up hitting Figaro, but the point is made and Cherubino runs off.
    The Count now begins making earnest love to "Susanna" (really the Countess), and gives her a jewelled ring. They go offstage together, where the Countess dodges him, hiding in the dark. Onstage, meanwhile, the real Susanna enters, wearing the Countess' clothes. Figaro mistakes her for the Countess, and starts to tell her of the Count's intentions, but he suddenly recognizes his bride in disguise. He plays along with the joke by pretending to be in love with "my lady", and inviting her to make love right then and there. Susanna, fooled, loses her temper and slaps him many times. Figaro finally lets on that he has recognized Susanna's voice, and they make peace, resolving to conclude the comedy together.
    The Count, unable to find "Susanna", enters frustrated. Figaro gets his attention by loudly declaring his love for "the Countess" (really Susanna). The enraged Count calls for his people and for weapons: his servant is seducing his wife. Bartolo, Basilio and Antonio enter with torches as, one by one, the Count drags out Cherubino, Barbarina, Marcellina and the "Countess" from behind the pavilion.
    All beg him to forgive Figaro and the "Countess", but he loudly refuses, repeating "no" at the top of his voice, until finally the real Countess re-enters and reveals her true identity. The Count, seeing the ring he had given her, realizes that the supposed Susanna he was trying to seduce was actually his wife. Ashamed and remorseful, he kneels and pleads for forgiveness himself. The Countess, more kind than he, forgives her husband and all are contented. The opera ends in a night-long celebration.

    Roles
    Count Almaviva - bass
    Countess Rosina Almaviva - soprano
    Susanna, the countess' maid - mezzo-soprano
    Figaro, valet to the count - bass
    Cherubino, the count's page - soprano
    Marcellina, dr. Bartolo's housekeeper - soprano
    dr. Bartolo, doctor and lawyer - bass
    Basilio, music master - tenor
    don Curzio, judge - tenor
    Barbarina, Antonio's daughter - soprano
    Antonio, the count's gardener - bass

    ******************************************************
    Figaro is an opera that I find is really quite overrated. All the times that I've seen it I've been sitting there thinking "this was probably the height of humor in the 18th century, but it's not actually funny". It might have been daring and scandalous back then, the whole thing about making fun of a count, but society has changed since then. The whole plot with Marcellina and Bartolo could easily have been omitted.. And that's true for quite a lot of what happens in the opera. There is some lovely music though in the opera, but it's too padded with other things and that makes it drag. I also have a bit of a problem with the change of personality between both the count and Rosina compared to how they act in the Barber of Seville. A word of warning, if your husband drops from tenor to bass it's time to question him about other things as well.

    The opera has some of the most famous arias in the opera world though, and here are some examples.

    This is the opening duet with Figaro and Susanna (and this is probably one of the best openings of any opera)


    Cherubino's Voi Che sapete has become a concert standard for all mezzo-sopranos out there


    Figaro's most famous aria is probably Non piú andrai


    My personal favorite from the opera is the countess' Dové sono

  7. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    Jul 13, 2008
    star 7
    I find it makes too many demands on the royal ear.


    Seriously though, I really love Figaro. It's one of the first operas I ever listened to in its entirety and it still gets regular rotation in my playlists.
    Last edited by Ramza, Mar 12, 2013
  8. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Nov 4, 1998
    star 7
    The music is great, but to me opera needs something more and I don't get that from Figaro.
  9. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    Nov 4, 1998
    star 7
    4 - Otello by Giuseppe Verdi

    Otello is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play Othello

    Synopsis

    Time: The late 1400s.
    Place: A coastal city on the island of Cyprus.
    Act 1

    In front of the castle, next to the harbor.
    On a stormy evening, the people of Cyprus anxiously await the arrival of the new governor, Otello, from a naval battle with the Turks. For a moment it seems as if Otello's ship will founder, to the delight of Otello's treacherous ensign, Iago, but Otello arrives safely and announces that the Turkish fleet has been destroyed, and the Cypriots cheer. Iago offers to help the young Venetian gentleman Roderigo in his seduction of Otello's wife Desdemona - Iago envies Otello his success and longs to destroy the Moor. Among his grievances, Iago is outraged that Otello has appointed Cassio to be the captain of the navy, a position that Iago hoped to have. The people of Cyprus celebrate the safe return of Otello and his men by lighting a bonfire and drinking.
    Iago proposes a toast to Otello and his wife, while Cassio praises Desdemona. Iago offers Cassio more wine, but Cassio says he has had enough. Iago pressures him and offers a toast to Otello and Desdemona. Cassio gives in. Iago sings a drinking song and continues to pour Cassio wine.
    Montano enters and calls for Cassio to begin his watch; he is surprised to find Cassio drunk and barely able to stand upright. Iago lies to Montano, telling him that this is how Cassio spends every evening. Roderigo laughs at Cassio's drunkenness and Cassio attacks him. Montano tells Cassio to calm down, but Cassio draws his sword and threatens to crack open Montano's head. Cassio and Montano begin to duel, and Iago sends Roderigo to call the alarm. Montano is wounded and the fight is stopped only by the appearance of Otello.
    Otello orders Montano and Cassio to lower their swords. He then asks "honest Iago" to explain how the duel began, but Iago says he doesn't know. Otello then turns to Cassio, who is embarrassed and cannot excuse his actions. When Otello discovers that Montano is wounded, he becomes enraged. Desdemona enters, and, upon seeing that his bride's rest has been disturbed, Otello declares that Cassio is no longer Captain. He tells Iago to patrol the town to restore quiet, calls for help for Montano and orders everyone to return to their houses.
    The Cypriots leave Otello alone with Desdemona. Together Otello and Desdemona recall why they fell in love. Otello, in an ecstasy of joy, invites death, fearing that he will never know such happiness again. Desdemona prays that their love will remain unchanged. They kiss, overcome with love for each other.
    Act 2

    Inside the castle, a chamber next to the garden.
    Iago suggests to Cassio that he should ask Desdemona to talk to Otello about his demotion; Desdemona can influence her husband to reinstate him. Desdemona and Emilia can be seen walking the garden. Cassio approaches Desdemona. Watching from the room, Iago voices his nihilistic beliefs and hatred of humankind.
    Otello enters the room; Iago, pretending not to notice him, says that he is deeply troubled. Cassio sees Otello from afar and goes discreetly away. Otello asks what's wrong, but Iago gives only vague answers. Finally, he hints that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair. Otello begins to get suspicious, but declares that he needs proof before believing that Desdemona has been unfaithful. Iago warns Otello against jealousy, but also advises him to be vigilant.
    A crowd of children, sailors, and Cypriots sing to Desdemona, praising her beauty and purity They present her with gifts and wish her happiness before leaving. Desdemona carries Cassio's request for reinstatement to Otello. Otello sourly tells her to ask him another time; as she persists, he grows impatient and says he has a headache. Desdemona offers to wrap his head in a handkerchief Otello once gave her, linen embroidered with strawberries. Otello throws it to the ground and says he doesn't need it. Emilia picks up the handkerchief. Desdemona asks for Otello's forgiveness. Aside, Iago demands that Emilia give him the handkerchief. When she refuses, Iago forcibly takes it from her.

    Otello dismisses the others, and declares that he now believes that Desdemona may be deceiving him. Iago returns, and the jealous Otello demands proof of Desdemona's infidelity. Iago says that once, when he and Cassio were sleeping in the same room, he heard Cassio talking to Desdemona in a dream. In the dream, says Iago, Cassio told Desdemona that they must be careful to conceal their love. Iago says that dreams don't prove anything, but remarks that he saw Cassio carrying Desdemona's strawberry-embroidered handkerchief just the day before. Otello swears vengeance on Desdemona and Cassio, and Iago joins him in his vow.
    Act 3

    The great hall of the castle. A small hall next to the great hall.
    A herald brings news of the approach of ambassadors from Venice. Iago explains to Otello that he will lure Cassio here and talk with him while Otello watches, hidden. He leaves to go get Cassio.
    Desdemona enters and reminds Otello of Cassio's request. Otello says that his headache has returned, and asks Desdemona to wrap her handkerchief around his head. When Desdemona produces a different handkerchief, Otello demands the one with strawberries. When she says she does not have it, Otello says that it was a talisman, and troubles will befall her if she loses it. Desdemona says that he is trying to ignore Cassio's plea, and as she asks him about Cassio, he demands the handkerchief ever more insistently. Desdemona protests that she is faithful; Otello sends her away.
    Otello laments his fate. When Iago calls out "Cassio is here!" Otello hides as Iago and Cassio enter. Cassio says he had hoped to see Desdemona here, for he wanted to know whether she had been successful with Otello. Iago asks him to tell of his adventures with that woman. Cassio asks which woman, and, softly, so that Otello cannot hear, Iago says "Bianca" (the name of Cassio's actual lover). As Cassio laughs about his romantic adventures, Otello assumes he is speaking of Desdemona. In a conversation only partially heard, Cassio seems to be telling Iago that another woman, a secret admirer, left him a handkerchief as a token. At Iago's urging, Cassio produces it, whereupon Iago seizes it—for it is Desdemona's—and holds it out where he knows Otello can see it. He then returns it to Cassio and teases him, while in his hiding place Otello fumes.
    Bugles sound, announcing the arrival of the Venetian ambassador, Lodovico. Iago warns Cassio that he should leave unless he wants to see Otello. Cassio exits, and Otello asks Iago how he should kill his wife. Iago advises Otello to kill Desdemona by suffocating her in her bed, while he will take care of Cassio. Otello promotes Iago to Captain.
    Lodovico, Desdemona, Emilia, Roderigo, and other dignitaries enter. When Lodovico notes Cassio's absence, Iago tells him that Cassio is out of favor. Desdemona interrupts, telling Lodovico that she hopes he will soon be restored. Otello calls her a demon and almost strikes her violently but is held back by Lodovico. Otello then calls for Cassio. Cassio enters and Otello reads (mixing in insults to Desdemona) a letter from the Doge, announcing that he (Otello) has been called back to Venice and Cassio is to succeed him as governor of Cyprus. Enraged, Otello throws Desdemona to the ground.
    Desdemona, on the ground, laments. The various characters express their feelings: Emilia and Lodovico express their sympathy for Desdemona, Cassio marvels at his sudden change of fortune, and Roderigo laments that Desdemona will soon depart. In separate asides, Iago urges Otello to take his revenge as soon as possible, while he will take care of Cassio. He advises Roderigo that the only way to prevent Desdemona from leaving is for Cassio, the new Duke, to die, and suggests that Roderigo murder Cassio that night. In a fury, Otello orders everyone to leave. Desdemona goes to comfort him, but Lodovico pulls her away as Otello curses her. As the others leave, Otello raves about the handkerchief, then collapses. Iago presses Otello's forehead with his heel, then walks away. Outside the crowd of Cypriots calls out victory and glory for Otello.
    Act 4

    Desdemona's chamber. A lit lamp in front of an image of the Virgin Mary.
    Desdemona is preparing for bed with the assistance of Emilia. She asks Emilia to put out the bridal gown she used on her wedding day, and says that if she dies, she wants to be buried in it. Emilia tells her not to talk about such things. Desdemona recalls how her mother's servant Barbara was abandoned by her lover, and how she used to sing the Willow Song. After Emilia leaves, Desdemona prays and then falls asleep.
    Silently, Otello enters, with a sword. He kisses his wife three times; she awakens. Otello asks her if she has prayed tonight; she must die, and he does not wish to condemn her soul. She asks God for mercy, both for her and for Otello. Otello accuses her of sin, saying that he must kill her because she loves Cassio. Desdemona denies it and asks that he summon Cassio to testify to her innocence. Otello says that Cassio is already dead. Desdemona, horrified, pleads for mercy, but Otello tells her it's too late and strangles her.

    Emilia knocks at the door, announcing that Cassio has killed Roderigo. Desdemona softly calls out that she has been unjustly accused, but refuses to blame Otello. She dies. Emilia calls Otello a murderer; he retorts that Iago gave him proof of Desdemona's infidelity. Otello begins to threaten Emilia, who calls for help. Iago, Cassio, and Lodovico enter. Emilia demands that Iago deny Otello's accusation; he refuses. Otello says that the handkerchief Desdemona gave to Cassio is proof enough. Emilia, horrified, explains that Iago stole the handkerchief from her—Cassio confirms that the handkerchief appeared mysteriously in his lodgings. Montano enters and says that Roderigo, with his dying breath, has revealed Iago's plot. Iago, brandishing his sword, runs away.
    After he realizes what has happened, Otello grieves over Desdemona's death. He then draws a dagger from his robe and stabs himself. Others try to stop him, but it is too late. Before he dies, he drags himself next to his wife and kisses her. He lies dead next to Desdemona.

    Roles
    Otello, a moorish general - tenor
    Desdemona, his wife - soprano
    Iago, Otello's ensign - baritone
    Emilia, Desdemona's maid and wife of Iago - mezzo-soprano
    Cassio, Otello's captain - tenor
    Roderigo, a gentleman of Venice - tenor
    Lodovico, ambassador of the Venetian Republic - bass
    Montano, former governor of Cyprus - bass
    A herald - bass

    ***********************************************************************
    If Figaro was an opera where I feel that the music is great but the plot so-so, this is an opera that's totally opposite. I've seen it once live when I was 13 or 14, and I don't remember much of the music but I still feel so strongly about it that just writing about it make my heart beat faster. It also led to what in hindsight was my first fanfic, when I went home after the opera and felt that I had to write a sequel to it. (It was a total Mary Sue story about a daughter of Otello and Desdemona coming back and getting revenge on Iago). So this is an opera that is grander than its music.

    Now the music isn't bad, it was Verdi's penultimate opera and he weaves a very dramatic musical landscape around the main characters. The role of Otello is considered a real challenge for a tenor, not the least because of his first entry on the stage, while Iago is a favorite villain for many baritones.

    Here is Otello's entrance in act 1


    Desdemona has two famous arias, the Willow song and Ave Maria, and they follow each other so they are usually performed together in concerts as well


    Finally I think the best aria in the opera is Iago's revenge aria, also known as Iago's credo
  10. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

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    star 7
    3 - Don Giovanni by W.A Mozart

    Don Giovanni (K. 527; complete title: Il dissoluto punito, ossia il Don Giovanni, literally The Rake Punished, or Don Giovanni) is an opera in two acts with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte.

    Synopsis
    Act 1
    Scene 1 – The garden of the Commendatore
    Leporello, Don Giovanni's servant, complains of his lot. He's keeping watch while Don Giovanni rapes or seduces the Commendatore's daughter, Donna Anna. When the two appear: Giovanni is masked but Donna Anna is holding onto his arm. Something has transpired and she insists on knowing his true identity, before he can break free from her grasp she cries for help. The Commendatore appears and forces Giovanni to a duel. Donna Anna flees into the house. Giovanni slays the Commendatore with his sword and escapes with Leporello. Anna, returning with her fiancé, Don Ottavio, is horrified to see her father lying dead in a pool of his own blood. She makes him swear vengeance against the unknown murderer.

    Scene 2 – A public square outside Don Giovanni's palace
    Giovanni and Leporello arrive and hear a woman (Donna Elvira) singing of having been abandoned by her lover on whom she is seeking to wreak her revenge. Giovanni starts to flirt with her, but he is the wretch she is seeking. He shoves Leporello forward, ordering him to tell Elvira the truth, and then hurries away. Leporello tells Elvira Don Giovanni is not worth it. His conquests include 640 in Italy, 231 in Germany, 100 in France, 91 in Turkey, but in Spain, 1,003. In a frequently cut recitative, Elvira vows vengeance.When she leaves, a marriage procession with Masetto and Zerlina enters. Don Giovanni and Leporello arrive soon after. Giovanni is immediately attracted to Zerlina, and he attempts to remove the jealous Masetto by offering to host a wedding celebration at his castle. On realizing that Giovanni means to remain behind with Zerlina, Masetto becomes angry. Don Giovanni and Zerlina are soon alone and he immediately begins his seductive arts.

    Elvira arrives and thwarts the seduction. She leaves with Zerlina. Ottavio and Anna enter, plotting vengeance on the still unknown murderer of Anna's father. Anna, unaware that she is speaking to her attacker, pleads for Giovanni's help. Giovanni, relieved that he is unrecognised, readily promises it, and asks who has disturbed her peace. Before she can answer, Elvira returns and tells Anna and Ottavio that Giovanni is a false-hearted seducer. Giovanni tries to convince Ottavio and Anna that Elvira is insane. As Giovanni leaves, Anna suddenly recognizes him as her father's murderer. Ottavio, not convinced, resolves to keep an eye on his friend. Leporello informs Giovanni that all the guests of the peasant wedding are in Giovanni's house, that he distracted Masetto from his jealousy, but that Zerlina, returning with Elvira, made a scene and spoiled everything. However, Don Giovanni remains cheerful and tells Leporello to organize a party and invite every girl he can find. They hasten to his palace.

    Zerlina follows the jealous Masetto and tries to pacify him, but just as she manages to persuade him of her innocence, Don Giovanni's voice from offstage startles and frightens her. Masetto hides, resolving to see for himself what Zerlina will do when Giovanni arrives. Zerlina tries to hide from Don Giovanni, but he finds her and attempts to continue the seduction, until he stumbles upon Masetto's hiding place. Confused but quickly recovering, Giovanni reproaches Masetto for leaving Zerlina alone, and returns her temporarily to him. Giovanni then leads both to his ballroom, which has been lavishly decorated. Leporello invites three masked guests to the party: the disguised Ottavio, Anna and Elvira. Ottavio and Anna pray for protection, Elvira for vengeance.

    Scene 3 – Finale: Ballroom
    As the merriment, featuring three separate chamber orchestras on stage, proceeds, Leporello distracts Masetto by dancing with him, while Don Giovanni leads Zerlina offstage to a private room. When Zerlina screams for help, Don Giovanni tries to fool the onlookers by dragging Leporello into the room and threatening to kill him for assaulting Zerlina. But Ottavio produces a pistol, the three guests unmask and declare that they know all. But despite being denounced on all sides, Don Giovanni escapes – for the moment.
    Act 2

    Scene 1 – Outside Elvira's house
    Leporello threatens to leave Giovanni, but his master calms him with a peace offering of money. Wanting to seduce Elvira's maid, Giovanni persuades Leporello to exchange cloak and hat with him. Elvira comes to her window. Seeing an opportunity for a game, Giovanni hides and sends Leporello out in the open dressed as Giovanni. From his hiding place Giovanni sings a promise of repentance, expressing a desire to return to her, while Leporello poses as Giovanni and tries to keep from laughing. Elvira is convinced and descends to the street. Leporello, continuing to pose as Giovanni, leads her away to keep her occupied while Giovanni serenades her maid with his mandolin. Before Giovanni can complete his seduction of the maid, Masetto and his friends arrive, searching for Giovanni and intending to kill him. Giovanni (dressed as Leporello) convinces the posse that he also hates Giovanni, and joins the hunt. After cunningly dispersing Masetto's friends, Giovanni takes Masetto's weapons away, beats him up, and runs off, laughing. Zerlina arrives and consoles the bruised and battered Masetto.

    Scene 2 – A dark courtyard
    Leporello abandons Elvira. As he tries to escape, Ottavio arrives with Anna, consoling her in her grief. Just as Leporello is about to slip through the door, which he has difficulty finding, Zerlina and Masetto open it and, seeing him dressed as Giovanni, catch him before he can escape. When Anna and Ottavio notice what is going on all move to surround Leporello, threatening him with death. Elvira tries to protect the man whom she thinks is Giovanni, claiming that he is her husband and begging for pity. The other four are resolved to punish the traitor, but Leporello removes his cloak to reveal his true identity. He begs everyone's forgiveness and, seeing an opportunity, runs off. Given the circumstances, Ottavio is convinced that Giovanni was the murderer of Donna Anna's father (the deceased Commendatore) and swears vengeance. Elvira is still furious at Giovanni for betraying her, but she also feels sorry for him.

    Scene 3 – A graveyard with the statue of the Commendatore.
    Leporello tells Don Giovanni of his brush with danger, and Giovanni taunts him, saying that he took advantage of his disguise as Leporello, by trying to seduce one of Leporello's girlfriends. But the servant is not amused, suggesting it could have been his wife, and Don Giovanni laughs aloud at his servant's protests. The voice of the statue warns Giovanni that his laughter will not last beyond sunrise. At the command of his master, Leporello reads the inscription upon the statue's base: "Here am I waiting for revenge against the sacrilegious one who gave me death". The servant trembles, but the unabashed Giovanni orders him to invite the statue to dinner, threatening to kill him if he does not. Leporello makes several attempts to invite the statue to dinner but for fear cannot complete the task. It falls upon Don Giovanni himself to complete the invitation, thereby sealing his own doom. Much to his surprise, the statue nods its head and responds affirmatively.

    Scene 4 – Donna Anna's room.
    Ottavio pressures Anna to marry him, but she thinks it inappropriate so soon after her father's death. He accuses her of being cruel, and she assures him that she loves him, and is faithful

    Scene 5 – Don Giovanni's chambers
    Giovanni revels in the luxury of a great meal, served by Leporello, and musical entertainment during which the orchestra plays then-contemporary late 18th century opera music. Elvira appears, saying that she no longer feels resentment for Giovanni, only pity. Surprised by her lack of hatred, Giovanni asks what it is that she wants, and she begs him to change his life. Giovanni taunts her and then turns away, praising wine and women as the "support and glory of humankind". Hurt and angered, Elvira gives up and leaves. A moment later, her scream is heard from outside the walls of the palace, and she returns only to flee through another door. Giovanni orders Leporello to see what has upset her; upon peering outside, the servant also cries out, and runs back into the room, stammering that the statue has appeared as promised. An ominous knocking sounds at the door. Leporello, paralyzed by fear, cannot answer it, so Giovanni opens it himself, revealing the statue of the Commendatore. With the D minor music from the overture now accompanying the bass voice, the Commendatore offers a last chance to repent, but Giovanni adamantly refuses. The statue sinks into the earth and drags Giovanni down with him. Hellfire, and a chorus of demons, surround Don Giovanni as he is carried below.

    Donna Anna, Don Ottavio, Donna Elvira, Zerlina, and Masetto arrive, searching for the villain. They find instead Leporello hiding under the table, shaken by the supernatural horror he has witnessed. Giovanni is dead. Anna and Ottavio will marry when Anna's year of mourning is over; Elvira will spend the rest of her life in a convent; Zerlina and Masetto will finally go home for dinner; and Leporello will go to the tavern to find a better master.

    The concluding ensemble delivers the moral of the opera – "Such is the end of the evildoer: the death of a sinner always reflects his life"

    Roles
    Don Giovanni, a young extremely licentious nobleman - baritone
    Leporello, his servant - bass
    Il Commendatore (Don Pedro) - bass
    Donna Anna, his daughter betrothed to Don Ottavio - soprano
    Don Ottavio - tenor
    Donna Elvira, a lady abandoned by Don Giovanni - soprano
    Masetto, a peasant - bass
    Zerlina, his fiancé - soprano
    ******************************************************************

    Now we are in the top three, and this opera is well worth it's place. Of course I don't think it's the best Mozart opera, nothing can beat The Magic Flute if you ask me, but this one is a good second. I definitely think it's way better than Figaro for example. The opera has everything; interesting characters, a twisting plot with a very different ending, and of course wonderful music. The one problem with Don Giovanni is trying to classify it. Is it a tragedy or a comedy? Laponte himself described it as a "dramma giocosa" ( a funny drama) and that is where you end up. For quite a long time the more serious aspects of the opera was emphasized and it usually ended with Don Giovanni's disappearance but not the final ensemble. Nowadays it's usually performed in full, and I would say that it's almost more played as a comedy. It gives plenty of oppurtuniites for good acting bass-baritones to play out over a very wide register when they are tackling the two main characters.

    Personally I have also really liked Donna Elvira, since she's an unusually hot tempered woman, for it to be an old opera.

    Picking some musical examples from the opera is hard, there are simply too many of them, but I've tried to restrict myself.

    First though one of my absolute favorite arias out of all opera arias. Leporello's Catalogue Aria, where he recounts all of Don Giovanni's seductions. I've chosen a performance with Bryn Terfel, because this was my favorite aria on the first CD with Bryn Terfel that I bought.


    Then you have one of the most famous love duets, La ci darem la mano, where Don Giovanni tries to seduce Zerlina. I personally think it's a bit boring, but it's so well known that I can't skip it.


    Zerlina of course regrets her actions, and wants forgiveness from her fiancé, and that is in the most beautiful aria in the whole opera, Vedrai Carino


    And then you have the magnificent scene where the Commandatore arrives to dine with Don Giovanni.Usually I try to find performances from proper stagings, but I chose this semi-staged versions because it's probably the musically best version you can find, with three of the world's best basses/baritones singing together. Theodor Quasthoff as the Commendatore, Bryn Terfel as Don Giovanni and René Pape as Leporello
  11. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

    Member Since:
    Nov 2, 2000
    star 8
    Don Giovanni is my favorite opera. It's just such an epic. It's a real embarrassment of riches, great moment after great moment all building to that fantastic climactic Commendatore scene. I got turned on to the opera via Amadeus, which features a lengthy staging of the Commendatore scene. Fell in love with it on the soundtrack and got around to hearing the whole thing. Does not disappoint, I'll tell you that.
    Obi Anne likes this.
  12. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Nov 4, 1998
    star 7
    2 - Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner
    Tristan und Isolde is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner to a German libretto by the composer, based largely on the romance by Gottfried von Straßburg.

    Synopsis
    Act 1

    Isolde, promised to King Marke in marriage, and her handmaid, Brangäne, are quartered aboard Tristan's ship being transported to the king's lands in Cornwall. The opera opens with the voice of a young sailor singing of a "wild Irish maid", which Isolde construes to be a mocking reference to herself. In a furious outburst, she wishes the seas to rise up and sink the ship, killing all on board. Her scorn and rage are directed particularly at Tristan, the knight responsible for taking her to Marke, and Isolde sends Brangäne to command Tristan to appear before her. Tristan, however, refuses Brangäne's request, claiming that his place is at the helm. His henchman, Kurwenal, answers more brusquely, saying that Isolde is in no position to command Tristan and reminds Brangäne that Isolde's previous fiancé, Morold, was killed by Tristan.

    Brangäne returns to Isolde to relate these events, and Isolde, in what is termed the "narrative and curse", sadly tells her of how, following the death of Morold, she happened upon a stranger who called himself Tantris. Tantris was found mortally wounded in a barge, Isolde used her healing powers to restore him to health. She discovered during Tantris' recovery, however, that he was actually Tristan, the murderer of her fiancé. Isolde attempted to kill the man with his own sword as he lay helpless before her. However, Tristan looked not at the sword that would kill him or the hand that wielded the sword, but into her eyes. His action pierced her heart and she was unable to slay him. Tristan was allowed to leave with the promise never to come back, but he later returned with the intention of marrying Isolde to his uncle, King Marke. Isolde, furious at Tristan's betrayal, insists that he drink atonement to her, and from her medicine-chest produces a vial to make the drink. Brangäne is shocked to see that it is a lethal poison.

    Kurwenal appears in the women's quarters and announces that the voyage is coming to an end, Isolde warns Kurwenal that she will not appear before the King if Tristan does not come before her as she had previously ordered and drink atonement to her. When Tristan arrives, Isolde reproaches him about his conduct and tells him that he owes her his life and how his actions have undermined her honor, since she blessed Morold's weapons before battle and therefore she swore revenge. Tristan first offers his sword but Isolde refuses, they must drink atonement. Brangäne brings in the potion that will seal their pardon, Tristan knows that it may kill him, since he knows Isolde's magic powers. The journey is almost at its end, Tristan drinks and Isolde takes half the potion for herself. The potion seems to work but it does not bring death but relentless love. Kurwenal, who announces the imminent arrival on board of King Marke, interrupts their rapture. Isolde asks Brangäne which potion she prepared and Brangäne replies, as the sailors hail the arrival of King Marke, that it was not poison, but rather a love potion.

    Act 2

    King Marke leads a hunting party out into the night, leaving the castle empty save for Isolde and Brangäne, who stand beside a burning brazier. Isolde, listening to the hunting horns, believes several times that the hunting party is far enough away to warrant the extinguishing of the brazier—the prearranged signal for Tristan to join her. Brangäne warns Isolde that Melot, one of King Marke's knights, has seen the amorous looks exchanged between Tristan and Isolde and suspects their passion. Isolde, however, believes Melot to be Tristan's most loyal friend, and, in a frenzy of desire, extinguishes the flames. Brangäne retires to the ramparts to keep watch as Tristan arrives.

    The lovers, at last alone and freed from the constraints of courtly life, declare their passion for each other. Tristan decries the realm of daylight which is false, unreal, and keeps them apart. It is only in night, he claims, that they can truly be together and only in the long night of death can they be eternally united. During their long tryst, Brangäne calls a warning several times that the night is ending, but her cries fall upon deaf ears. The day breaks in on the lovers as Melot leads King Marke and his men to find Tristan and Isolde in each other's arms. Marke is heart-broken, not only because of his nephew's betrayal but also because Melot chose to betray his friend Tristan to Marke and because of Isolde's betrayal as well. When questioned, Tristan says he cannot answer to the King the reason of his betrayal since he would not understand, he turns to Isolde, who agrees to follow him again into the realm of night. Tristan denounces that Melot has fallen in love with Isolde too. Melot and Tristan fight, but, at the crucial moment, Tristan throws his sword aside and allows Melot to severely wound him.
    Act 3

    Kurwenal has brought Tristan home to his castle at Kareol in Brittany. A shepherd pipes a mournful tune and asks if Tristan is awake. Kurwenal replies that only Isolde's arrival can save Tristan, and the shepherd offers to keep watch and claims that he will pipe a joyful tune to mark the arrival of any ship. Tristan awakes and laments his fate — to be, once again, in the false realm of daylight, once more driven by unceasing unquenchable yearning. Tristan's sorrow ends when Kurwenal tells him that Isolde is on her way. Tristan, overjoyed, asks if her ship is in sight, but only a sorrowful tune from the shepherd's pipe is heard.

    Tristan relapses and recalls that the shepherd's mournful tune is the same as was played when he was told of the deaths of his father and mother. He rails once again against his desires and against the fateful love-potion until, exhausted, he collapses in delirium. After his collapse, the shepherd is heard piping the arrival of Isolde's ship, and, as Kurwenal rushes to meet her, Tristan tears the bandages from his wounds in his excitement. As Isolde arrives at his side, Tristan dies with her name on his lips.

    Isolde collapses beside her deceased lover just as the appearance of another ship is announced. Kurwenal spies Melot, Marke and Brangäne arriving, he believes they have come to kill Tristan and, in an attempt to avenge him, furiously attacks Melot. Marke tries to stop the fight to no avail. Both Melot and Kurwenal are killed in the fight. Marke and Brangäne finally reach Tristan and Isolde. Marke, grieving over the body of his "truest friend", explains that Brangäne revealed the secret of the love-potion and has come not to part the lovers, but to unite them. Isolde appears to wake at this and in a final aria describing her vision of Tristan risen again.

    Roles
    Tristan, a Breton noble man - tenor
    Isolde, Irish princess betrothed to Marke - soprano
    Brangäne, Isoldes's maid - soprano
    Kurwenal, Tristan's servant - baritone
    Marke, king of Cornwall - bass
    Melot, a courtier - tenor or baritone
    a shepherd - tenor
    a steersman - baritone
    a young sailor - tenor

    ********************************************

    Tristan and Isolde is one of those operas that I'm very torn on. On the one hand I can tell you about the DVD of a production from the Met that I saw and it was one of the most boring things I've seen on stage. On the other hand I can tell you about when I saw it live at the Royal Opera in Sweden, and it was pure magic. I think it's probably a typical Wagner opera in that you can sit and criticize it, but when you are at a live performance it's simply impossible to resist.

    One reason why it feels a bit slow is that there isn't exactly a lot of action going on, instead it's much more of an internal journey. Where Wagner tries to show the full emotional range of this "ecstatic tragedy" just with the music. As such the opera is considered very important in the movement away from harmony. As I've read in one program for the opera, "in Tristan Wagner is just an ant's step away from abandoning the heptatonic scale in favor of the pentatonic", something that many composers in the late 19th early 20th century would do. The famous Tristan chord is an example of early atonality where the harmonics descend into disharmony.

    The single most famous piece of the opera, except for the Tristan chord, is probably Isolde's Liebestod (love death).


    Otherwise it's hard to pick specific pieces from the music, since they all flow into each other.
    The love duet of Act II is probably my second favorite piece from the opera.
  13. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2000
    star 10
    hmmm... only ones in the top 25 I've seen so far are Rigoletto and Turandot. :(
  14. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Nov 4, 1998
    star 7
    Well I guess you can see this list as a recommendation of operas that you should see. I wouldn't say that I totally agree with their ranking, but all operas in the top are good operas. This list has actually helped me to find new operas, and made me interested in listening to a greater variation.
  15. Obi Anne FF admin Celebrations, Europe

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Nov 4, 1998
    star 7
    So we have finally arrived at the finish!

    der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner

    Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) is a cycle of four epic operas by the German composer Richard Wagner (1813–1883). The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied.

    ******************************************
    Now trying to explain the synopsis of 4 full length operas in detail is almost impossible, this is the short version of the wiki article.

    ******************************************
    The plot revolves around a magic ring that grants the power to rule the world, forged by the Nibelung dwarf Alberich from gold he stole from the Rhine maidens in the river Rhine. With the assistance of Loge, Wotan – the chief of the gods – steals the ring from Alberich, who curses it, but is forced to hand it over to the giants, Fafner and Fasolt in payment for building the home of the gods, Valhalla. Wotan's schemes to regain the ring, spanning generations, drive much of the action in the story. His grandson, the mortal Siegfried, wins the ring by slaying Fafner (who slew Fasolt for the ring) – as Wotan intended – but is eventually betrayed and slain as a result of the intrigues of Alberich's son Hagen, who wants the ring. Finally, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde – Siegfried's lover and Wotan's daughter who lost her immortality for defying her father in an attempt to save Siegfried's Father Sigmund – returns the ring to the Rhine maidens as she commits suicide on Siegfried's funeral pyre. In the process, the gods and Valhalla are destroyed.
    Details of the storylines can be found in the articles on each opera.

    *******************************************
    Thankfully you can find quite a lot of descriptions of the Ring out on the internet, and my personal favorite is probably Anna Russell's classic, and very funny, Ring Cycle.



    ******************************************

    Roles
    Gods
    Wotan, King of the Gods - baritone
    Fricka, Wotan's wife - mezzo-soprano
    Freia, Fricka's sister, godess of love - soprano
    Donner, Fricka's brother, god of Thunder - baritone
    Froh, Fricka's brother, god of love - tenor
    Erda, the Earth mother - contralto
    Loge, demigod of fire - tenor
    Brünnhilde, a valkyrie - soprano
    8 valkyries

    Magical and immortals
    Three Rhinemaidens - soprano, soprano, mezzo-soprano
    Alberich, the Nibelung who steals the Rhine gold - baritone
    Mime, his brother - tenor
    Fasolt, a giant - bass
    Fafner, a giant/dragon - bass-baritone

    Mortals
    Siegmund, the Välsung, Wotan's son - tenor
    Sieglinde, Siegmund's sister - soprano
    Siegfried, son of Siegmund and Sieglinde - tenor
    Hunding, Sieglinde's husband - bass
    Günther, king of the Gibichungs - baritone
    Gutrune, his sister - soprano
    Hagen, son of Alberich and Günther's and Gutrune's mother - bass

    **********************************************************

    I think I've waited a bit to post this final opera, simply because it's so hard to condense into something that fits within a post. To be honest I also think it's a bit of cheating to count the whole Ring cycle as just one opera. The four operas are very distinct, and to me their quality is very varied. Die Walküre is probably my second favorite opera, but I have a really big problem with Götterdämmerung. If you ask me Wagner could have used an editor and cut down about half of the Götterdämmerung. I once made a drinking game of the opera and it has "drink once every time the whole Ring cycle is retold by a character".

    If you look at the whole Ring it is a master piece though, nothing else to say about it. It's impossible to resist the power of it. It is important to remember though that even though it's built upon Germanic sagas, Wagner made his own version of it. Since I am really good on the original myth and history I always find it amusing when people are trying to make any sense of the opera with their limited knowledge about Norse mythology. The way that Wagner built the Ring also makes it very open to interpretations. In short there have been three major trends in Ring productions, and I'm thinking that we are closing in on maybe a fourth one. Here's my recap of them.

    1. The stereotype viking setting.
    This is where you have all the traditional attributes with winged helmets, heroes in chainmail, basically everything that people think opera is about. This was how it was staged originally in Wagner's own personal opera house at Bayreuth, including live horses on stage. Many Wagnerian's still think this is the way the opera should be performed. A good example of a production in this style is the Metropolitan version that was first set up in the 1980s and used up until 2010. I find it boring, but many think it's a great "first" version of the Ring, since its goal was to stage the operas exactly as Wagner did.

    Here's an example of the ending of the first opera Das Rheingold


    2.The Neo-Bayreuth setting
    WW2 and the Wagner family's connection with nazism made it hard to continue with that first setting. The time wasn't right to honour pure Germanic heroes going out to fight lesser people. The solution was the New Bayreuth style, which basically stripped the opera of all the historical attributes and concentrated on the conflict between the characters. Stagings in this style is usually very bare. One director who has worked in this style quite recently is Harry Kupfer. His Bayreuth Ring Cycle was my first meeting with the Ring, and I fell in love with the fact that it opened with just laser beams projecting the river Rhine on the stage. This is the ending of the first act of the second opera Die Walküre, which is also both my favorite opera and my favorite act in the whole Ring.



    3. The Industrial setting
    in 1976 the Ring was going to celebrate it's 100th anniversary. Bayreuth of course did it with a completely new style. The production put the setting in Wagner's own time, and made the cycle into a criticism of the the industrialisation of the world. The Rhine was converted into a large hydroelectric dam, and all the characters were dressed in 19th century fashion. Here's an excerpt from the last scene of Siegfried.



    4. The Fantasy setting
    After the previous trends I'm starting to see a move towards a new trend and that is the fantasy setting. These productions are usually big with a lot of special effects, in a way it's a return to traditional heroes in armour, but you can also find quite futuristic settings. These are operas for an audience that are used to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. The latest Metropolitan production is a very clear example of this. Here's the ending of the whole cycle



    *********************************************************************************

    So that's it, it's taken me four years to go down the list. It's been a very interesting journey, and I've discovered a lot of new things about opera on the way. Out of these 100 operas I've seen 34, so I have a long way to go until I've seen them all. I've seen 9 out of the top 10 though, and 19 out of the top 25, which I consider pretty good.

    I have some ideas for another opera list, where I would go through the different voice types and styles of singing. Would you be interested in that?
    Ender Sai likes this.