Category Archives: Classical Composers

“Louise,” an opera premiere to celebrate

Editor’s note: Louise premiered on February 2, Groundhog Day, in 1900, in Paris, France. (This is a Golden Operatoonity post).

poster from the opera Louise

Isn’t this a lovely opera poster? Don’t you want to melt away in Julien’s arms, too?

My former classmate Ginger found a great book on opera at a thrift shop somewhere in the lower forty-eight (she’s always flitting about the country) called The Standard Opera and Concert Guide and mailed it to me.

It’s a wonderful old book with detailed information about popular and not-so-popular operas. I thought I’d introduce readers to a composer and opera I’d never heard of: Louise by Gustave Charpentier, first produced in Paris in 1900.

A French example of verismo opera, it tells the story of the love between Louise, a seamstress living with her parents, and Julien, a Bohemian poet. It is the story of Louise’s desire for freedom (associated in her mind with her lover and the city of Paris). According to Standard Opera and Concert Guide, it is like La Bohème in that it is “first and last a story of Paris life.”

The plot turns upon Louise breaking her home ties in a tragic way, with the accompaniments of the Paris street life and the revels of Montmartre, her hometown.

The kernel of the story resonates for me. My daughter moved to Vermont to go to college and was exposed to a much different, more Bohemian way of life than she was exposed to in little old Lancaster County. It is sometimes hard and heart-breaking to watch your children break away, struggling to find themselves, but very necessary to their maturity.

Not that anything tragic has befallen our family as a result of my daughter’s finding a new home in Brattleboro, but the angst between Louise and her father, in particular, certainly hits home for me. Her dying father rages that Louise does not love him as she used to. Louise responds by saying all she wants in Julien and Paris. The her father then bids Louise never return.  When he realizes the error of his actions, Louise is long gone.

Who among us hasn’t felt pushed out of our children’s lives by friends and other circumstances?

The  music is purportedly wonderfully expressive of the traits and character of Parisian street life. I haven’t found any US opera companies that have produced it lately. Louise is, however, available on many recordings.

Many sopranos have recorded the “Depuis le jour,”  the signature aria: Sills, Callas, Moffo, Price, Fleming.  Here’s a beautiful version of “Depuis le jour,”  the signature aria, live from Covent Garden, sung by Angela Gheorghiu:

YouTube Preview Image

8 Comments

Filed under Classic Opera, Classical Composers, Golden Operatoonity, Opera Marketing, Terminology

three websites for delving into Mozart

Since today, January 27,  is the anniversary of Mozart’s birth in 1756 (in Salzburg, Austria),  I thought it would be fitting to share three sites where you can hear more of his music as well as learn more about his music and the world he lived in.

Classical Music Archives: Mozart

At the Classical Music Archives you can hear hundreds of his compositions in MP3, MIDI and WAX (a special kind of Windows Media Audio.) Guests can listen to up to five pieces of music per day. This limit is removed for paying subscribers, who can also can download the music files to their own computers. To hear Mozart’s first minuets, scroll down the page to Nannerl’s Notenbuch. To untangle the complexities of audio file formats, read their “How to Listen to Music on the Internet”

Mozart Project

The Mozart Project presents the milestones of Mozart’s life in a time line showing concurrent world events. Europe, teeming with political and cultural activity throughout the eighteenth century, greatly affected Mozart’s development. You’ll also find an annotated catalog of Mozart’s life work, cross referenced chronologically as well as by category. Not merely a listing of compositions, it offers a detailed insight into each work and its creation.

Salzburg: Mozart

the house where Mozart was born

Tour Salzburg, the City of Mozart’s birth, from your easy chair. Stop along the way to visit his birthplace on Getreidegasse, and Mozart’s residence in Makart Square. The site offers a short biography as well as details on the two Mozart houses, now maintained as museums by the Mozarteum Foundation, and is sponsored by the Salzburg Tourist Board.

Happy reading and listening!

1 Comment

Filed under Classical Composers, Mozart

top ten posts on ‘operatoonity’ in 2012

Operatoonity's Top TenWhy did viewers stop in on this blog in 2012? What posts did they read most in the past year?

Would it surprise you to know of the nearly 111,000 visitors to this blog in 2012, that, far and away, most were seeking a definitive list of top classical singers in the world today? Divas, then divos?

Frankly, I am not in the least bit startled by this news.

There are so few definitive “talent” lists around. And I should know. I searched feverishly for such a list not too long ago. That’s why I compiled  mine –I couldn’t find any good/current list of opera singers myself.

Not surprisingly, people continue to chime in on who should and shouldn’t have made these lists.  I knew each was an imperfect instrument when I compiled it, and I honestly think it’s time to upgrade each one, since the best talents in the operasphere can change or fade in a matter of only years. We are talking about the most delicate and sometimes most frail of instruments–the human voice–after all.

Other top topics were top tenors, best operas, and the beloved composers Puccini and Mozart.

Here then, according to my site stats, are the titles of the most-viewed posts and their visit numbers in 2012:

Title Views
best opera singers in the world today – female 29,375
best opera singers in the world today – male 22,212
today’s top tenors 9,829
get with it, NYC, says M.C. Hammer-bee 1,469
on Carmen’s anniversary, we celebrate its arias 726
100 greatest operas . . . really? 686
don’t quote me . . . 650
Puccini’s best opera? 524
what makes a great tenor? 514
Mozart, the ultimate cross-trainer 464
contemporary opera? modern opera? define, please 464

 

How about you? Why did you stop in on “Operatoonity”? Did you find what you were looking for this year?

Comments Off on top ten posts on ‘operatoonity’ in 2012

Filed under 21st Century Opera, Baritones, Best of Operatoonity, blog stats, Classic Opera, Classical Composers, Modern opera, Mozart, opera lists, Opera Stats, sopranos, tenors

for Mozart’s birthday, I’m putting on a few airs

"Had this man Mozart lived, none of the rest of us would earn a crust of bread for our operas." - Antonio Salieri

Wolfgang Amadeus [Amadé] Mozart was born today,  January 27, 1756, in  Salzburg, Austria.

“Mozart is the highest, the culminating point that beauty has attained in the sphere of music,” Tchaikovsky said. And of course, he was just one of many composers with highest praise of Mozart–Rossini, Brahms, Gounod, Bernstein, to name a few others.

To celebrate, I’m putting on airs–arias (for the uninitiated, that’s what aria means in Italian). And I received numerous wonderful titles from the Twittersphere when I asked for favorite Mozart arias.

I have my own faves, which like my best loved foods and wines, I go back to again and again. But on this august occasion, I am happy to share others’ favorite arias by the birthday boy, as much for myself as for you.

This is the musical version of me trying sushi rather than ordering another filet mignon, medium rare.

Here’s three arias (airs) offered up like pure and noble sacrifices from some of the lovely folks populating my humble but extremely useful Twitter feed pour vous.

Soprano La Toya Lewis (@LaToyaLewis) mentioned “Hai già vinta la causa” from The Marriage of Figaro as one of her favorites. Here’s a fine version from American baritone Rodney Gilfrey:

YouTube Preview Image

More than one Twitter compadre named “Come scoglio”  from Così fan tutte as their favorite Mozart aria. Brandon Antoine (@B_A_L_Baritone),  soprano Kate L. Fenech (@MissFeneshhhhh), and Pokrovsky Opera (@Pokrovsky_Opera), who  mentioned this clip in their Tweet, from Salzburg 2009 sung by Miah Persson:

YouTube Preview Image

Finally, here’s Mexican Tenor Ramón Vargas performing “Fuor del mar” from Idomeneo, who Paulo Montoya (@operarules) must concede is spectacular:

YouTube Preview Image

2 Comments

Filed under Audience participation, Classic Opera, Classical Composers, Favorite arias, Mozart, Opera anniversaries

Tosca premiered today and where would we be without it?

Today in 1900, Giacomo Puccini‘s Tosca premiered in Rome, Italy. And aren’t we glad that it did?

Why is Tosca so loved? It combines beauty and savagery. Both the evocative parts and the savage parts loom more powerfully juxtaposed against the other.

So it’s important to those presenting the opera not diminish the potential for beauty in it or else we don’t experience the inhumanity of it to the depth that operagoers are expecting and deserve.

I suppose that was chiefly my issue with the Metropolitan Opera’s production in 2011, which featured Sondra RadvanovskyMarcelo Álvarez, and Falk Struckmann, which I reviewed for Bachtrack. I won’t launch into another review here, but I will say in retrospect that restraint exercised in stage direction as in writing can be more powerful than succumbing to one’s impulses to add, expand, and heighten, the chief example for me being the director (Bondy) choosing to throw three scantily clad (we’re talking pasties, here) prostitutes into Scarpia’s chambers.

I have no objection to beautiful bodies or their use on stage, but if Tosca is Scarpia’s source of weakness and Scarpia can get sex he wants anytime he wants it however he wants it, his need to have Tosca is sorely and sadly diminished–the power and the aftereffects of that scene are diminished rather than enhanced by adding more sex.

Does that mean I wouldn’t see the Met production again? I’d see it in a heartbeat. Falk Struckmann’s performance as Baron Scarpia was my favorite of the season, despite the over-the-top things Bondy incorporated into his part. Seeing both Radvanovsky and Álvarez in one show added a notch to my opera belt. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have a chance to see this cast again, so I will recreate portions of my experience for you here.

Here then are my two favorite moments from The Met’s Tosca, breathtaking moments, literally. In “Vissi d’arte,” right around 3:12 in the video below, I gasped, so completely engrossed in Radvanovsky’s climatic note. Then of course the aria becomes tender and quiet. Unfortunately, since I’d lost my breath, I began coughing at that point. I’m sure people sitting around me wanted to choke me. Then I began digging in my purse for a cough drop to silence my coughing. Rattle, rattle, rattle. I’m very sorry to those around me for disturbing their enjoyment of this aria:

YouTube Preview Image

And the other favorite moment I can share with you from the Met production is “E lucevan le stelle.”

YouTube Preview Image

Viva, Tosca! You will live forever in our hearts.

Comments Off on Tosca premiered today and where would we be without it?

Filed under 21st Century Opera, Classic Opera, Classical Composers, Uncategorized, Video