Tag Archives: composers

This. Is. Jeopardy.

Want to play along?

“Quotes by operatic composers for $800, Alex.”
“Answer?” says Alex.

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Filed under opera firsts, opera parody

modern genius? ‘Ask Richard’

Dear Richard,   

Are there any modern composers considered to be as extraordinary as Mozart?   

Curious in Crump, Tennessee   

Dr. Richard Rohrer, opera expert


Dear Curious,   

First of all, I didn’t even know that you had access to the Internet in Crump, Tennessee (population 1,521). Just joshing. And I am so tickled by the way you Tennessians pronounce your home state: TENNessee, whereas we in the North say tenneSEE.   

Anyhoo, back to the real answer of your question. It’s difficult to compare classic and modern composers on any set of criteria but especially so in terms of comparable genius. That has more to do with the fact that most composers are never fully appreciated during their own lifetimes and, much like visual artists, are ascribed more measure of their true talent after death.   

Why, I remember reading a story about Saint-Saëns, who only permitted Carnival of the Animals to be performed twice during his lifetime, fearing the work would hurt his reputation as a serious composer. Call me provincial, but I can’t imagine how bereft my classical listening experiences would be had he not written “The Swan.”   

The danger in assembling any list is not those you include but those you leave off.  That being said, I predict that, in time, the following modern composers’ genius will loom larger than it does now.   

Great modern opera composers include Leoš Janáček, Richard Strauss, Benjamin Britten, Dmitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein, and John Adams.   

Will any of them ever be considered as great as Mozart? Well, I’m pushing retirement age, so I can say with confidence, not in my lifetime.

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Filed under 20th Century Opera, Classical Composers