Archive | Opera

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Wagner’s Parsifal: The “Good Friday Spell”

Heroic sacrifice, compassion, healing, and rebirth…these are central themes of Wagner’s last opera, Parsifal. Unfolding over nearly five hours, Parsifal was conceived as a solemn mystical experience- a Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”) blending Christian and Buddhist symbolism and Schopenhauerian philosophy. The story, based on a 13th-century epic verse by German poet Wolfram von Eschenbach, depicts the Arthurian knight Parsifal’s quest for the Holy […]

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Turandot

Puccini’s Turandot: Five Key Moments

In Wednesday’s post, we heard a few examples of Puccini’s flirtations with impressionism. Puccini’s final opera, Turandot is filled with colorful orchestration and adventurous harmony which evokes the exotic atmosphere of the mythic story: Princess Turandot, determined to never marry, takes revenge on her suitors through a series of riddles. Failure to answer correctly results in the suitor’s execution. Here […]

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Puccini the Impressionist

Longtime readers of The Listeners’ Club may recall that this is the time of year when the Richmond Symphony often travels throughout the state as the pit orchestra for Virginia Opera. This year, we’ve been playing Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot. With lush, soaringly romantic melodies, Puccini’s operas are some of the most rewarding to play, from the perspective of a string […]

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The 2017 Classical Grammys

Here is an overview of last weekend’s 2017 Grammy Awards in the classical categories. From opera to chamber music, the list features a heavy dose of American contemporary music: Best Orchestral Performance This is the second installment in a series of live-concert Shostakovich recordings by Music Director Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony on the […]

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10 Musical Adaptations of “God Save the Queen”

On Monday, Britain celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s Sapphire Jubilee, marking her 65 years on the throne. At 90, Her Majesty is the world’s longest-reigning monarch. The milestone reminded me of the nearly 140 composers who have created musical adaptations of God Save the Queen, an ancient melody that may have originated in plainchant long before it was […]

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Frigid Purcell and Lully: Two Chilly Scenes from Baroque Opera

Henry Purcell’s 1691 semi-opera, King Arthur, contains a shivering musical depiction of winter chill. The aria, What Power Art Thou comes from the fantastical “Frost Scene” in Act 3 in which Cupid awakens the “Cold Genius” (the Spirit of Winter) who, frozen stiff, would prefer to just go back to bed: What power art thou, who from below Hast […]

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The Struggle of Fidelio: Beethoven’s Four Overtures

Rossini would have been a great composer if his teacher had spanked him enough on the backside. -Ludwig van Beethoven The Italian opera composer Gioachino Rossini was, as the story goes, the ultimate procrastinator. He would often dash off the overture for a new opera the night before the opening. In the case of The Thieving Magpie, he waited […]

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Remembering Soprano Elisabeth Carron

American soprano Elisabeth Carron passed away last Thursday at the age of 94. Born in Newark, New Jersey to Sicilian immigrant parents, Carron performed regularly at New York City Opera in its heyday. She was widely respected for her roles in Puccini operas which included Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly, Mimì in La Bohème, and Liu in Turandot. Additionally, she performed prominent roles […]

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36-year-old composer Leonard Bernstein, holding musical score with lighted auditorium behind him. He has written two symphonies, a song cycle, jazzy ballet Fancy Free, two Broadway shows (on the Town, Wonderful Town) and is preparing a musical of Candide.  (Photo by Gordon Parks//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Candide at 60

Last Thursday marked the 60th anniversary of the Broadway opening of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, a work based on the novella by Voltaire, which falls somewhere between musical theater and operetta. It isn’t often that an overture stops the show, but that’s one of the details Barbara Cook, who played the role of Cunégonde, remembers from the night of […]

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Maria Callas

Happy Birthday, Maria Callas

Maria Callas, the legendary Greek-American soprano was born on this date in 1923. Callas, who passed away in 1977, is remembered as one of the most influential opera singers of the twentieth century. Leonard Bernstein called her “the Bible of opera.” Her voice was distinctive. It wasn’t always “beautiful,” but it possessed a deep, powerful, and expressive […]

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