Tag Archives: “It’s Tuesday

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

Richard says, “It’s a form of opera…”

Dr. Richard Rohrer, opera know-it-all


It’s Tuesday, so we asked Dr. Richard Rohrer, our resident opera expert, whether the musical skit of a popular improvisational theater group called Improv Everywhere can be considered a form of opera. Here’s his verdict:     

The question is a good one. When I was a child, if I were imitating opera, I would sing things that people normally would speak, such as, ‘Mother, please pass the potatoes’ or ‘I fell off my bicycle. Help! Help!’ Yes, I was an imaginative child–full of folderol.    

Now that I’ve seen and listened to many operas, I would say it is the content as much as the style of music that gives something an operatic quality. So, I would say, in the broadest sense, ‘Food Court Musical’ is a form of light opera, certainly civic opera at its most civic. I haven’t always held such forward thinking views. I credit Knobby [the new general director] for pulling me into the 21st century on this matter.”     

Take a look at “Food Court Musical” below and see if you agree with Richard. No matter whether you agree with Richard, you’re sure to enjoy it–especially the bystanders’ reactions:     

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, DEVILED BY DON, Light opera