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Old 19th November 2005, 09:49 PM   #1
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Default Operatic Titles and Plot-Lines you haven't heard

Seeing Peter Schikele's puss on a poster outside the Julliard, I though I might offer some mirth on this cold and dark November eve. (It helps that on WQXR today, the Japanese madame was whaling herself sharpless.)

for Thanksgiving we have "Madame Butterball" -- a well rounded soprano (think Jane Eaglen or larger) despairs as her beau, Lieutenant Sharpless renounces their marriage. She takes most of the last act to die, having mortally wounded herself with a carving knife.

"Ariadne Obnoxious" -- or "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Minataur"

"La Boheme, Part II, Mimi's Revenge" She didn't actually die in the last act, she was merely resting. Mimi regains her strength and becomes prima proto-agonistae of the 1871 Commune. She was lined up against a wall and shot:
Click the image to open in full size.

"***** of the Regiment"

"Un-Fidelio" While Florestan is in prison, Lenore actually has an assignation with Don Pizzaro. Not to be outdone, Florestan marries his cell-mate and lives happily ever after in Oregon. Click the image to open in full size.

"Iphigenia in Estrus" Agammemnon actually figured out that it was a ritually impurity to sacrifice his daughter in this condition so an animal was substituted.
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Old 16th January 2006, 01:34 PM   #2
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I once read the "plot" of an opera. Big mistake. Almost spoiled the music.
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Old 16th January 2006, 01:55 PM   #3
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Quote:
"plot" of an opera.
are you trying to say they have one?

I can watch opera live - but never listen to it on record...
Its not the music dummy, its the show...
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Old 16th January 2006, 01:59 PM   #4
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Its not the music dummy, its the show...
If the performers look good the visual aspects definitely add to the enjoyment, but if it is a "Madame Butterball" .......

Regards

Charles
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Old 16th January 2006, 02:00 PM   #5
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I forgot to mention the truly awful acting.
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Old 16th January 2006, 02:03 PM   #6
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I forgot to mention the truly awful acting.
I guess thats why it's so easy for schickele to make fun of - and that is partly the fun of live opera. Hard to transmit that via records.

I really like "Iphigenia in Estrus"...what dimensions...
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Old 16th January 2006, 02:10 PM   #7
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"Die MiesterStumpfer auf Nurnberg" -- in this version, the dozen cobblers, grocers, pewters, tinsmiths etc. are replaced by young milkmaids, seamstresses, and attending ladies of the court. Eve is, instead unshaven Evan, a sailor in the German Navy who has been on an ice-breaker in the North Sea for the past 3 months. The young ladies seek to endear themselves with their voices and other charms.

"An American Tragedy" -- nuf said, I haven't walked out of an opera at the Met in 20 years, but this one with Nathan Gold was absolutely dreadul - singing which would have embarrassed even Andrew Lloyd Weber.

"La Cenerentola does Dallas" Poor but honest young girl seeks her fortune on the streets of this Texas mega-polis as the "Renta Cenerentola".
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Old 16th January 2006, 02:21 PM   #8
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It is said at the premiere of la Traviata, where young Violetta lies in her bed dying of tubercolosis at the end, she was played by rather old, quite fat rosy-cheeked soprano.

Actually, I think acting has got better nowadays, but unfortunately, I am afraid it has done so at the expense of the singing. Many of the fabolous singers of the past were very poor actors, but fantastic singers, and they could get by with it in those days. Of course, the really good singers could often act with the voice, even if they couldn't act with their body. And perhaps that is the most important part? When I listen to many of the old opera recordings, especiall Wagner, the acting with the voice and way of conducting the music is so theatrical, that it hardly ever gets that close to theater when seeing a live performance today. When you think of it, opera is such an impossibly demanding art form that it just can't work. There will always be severe compromises, and factors that aren't up to the level of other factors. And when, in those rare circumstances, they do find a cast where at least half of the lead singers are very good and the conductor is excellent, then, they will spoil it by the staging, by bringing in people from the theatre, with no understanding of music. No, it,s just to face it, opera is about trying to find those factors that are strong in a particular performance or recording, enjoy those factors and forget about the others.

As for plots, well many opera composers were constantly complaining themselves about the idiotic plots and lousy texts they were given. Once Puccini complained to Verdi about a text he had been given, and Verdi just said, I wish I had ever been given such a good text to set to music. But also there, there are exceptions, and there are operas with good plots and good texts, although sometimes you have too see through the surface of the text.
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Old 16th January 2006, 02:32 PM   #9
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By the way, perhaps because opera is so close to impossible that there will always be things that don't quite fit in or doesn't make sense, the opera world itself has always been very good at joking about itself. Many are those singers, conductors and composers who were witty and quick to make sharp, humurous comments. Many of these are collected in the book "Opera Anecdotes" by Ethan Mordden, a book that is highly recommended. The copy I have is a hardcover from Oxford University press which I once bouth in New York, but I have later seen it as a pocket book here in Sweden, so it is probably not too difficult to get hold of.
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Old 16th January 2006, 02:38 PM   #10
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There was once a TV documentary called (title translated from German to English): "Tosca on the trampoline and other operatic catastrophes".
It was quite funny seeing all those mishaps.

Regards

Charles
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