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Two diametrically opposed views of an introduction to opera
Washington Post ^ | 10/1/12 | Anne Midgette

Posted on 10/01/2012 1:19:06 PM PDT by Borges

Loving opera is such a simple thing. And yet the conventional wisdom seems to strive to make it complicated. Opera, and classical music, are elitist and arcane: This view is held both by people who don’t care for them, and by many of those who do. How many fans have you heard using words like “passaggio,” “portamento,” “tessitura,” as if to signal their insider knowledge? Even an innocuous mention of “Beethoven’s Op. 111,” which seems like a perfectly reasonable way to refer to that composer’s final piano sonata, earned me a snort of suppressed laughter from a non-specialist friend the other week during a discussion of whether classical music can ever really rock.

So how do people actually become fans of such off-putting stuff? If you look through a bookstore, you can find an entire literature of classical-music introductions and “Opera 101s,” most of it at least tacitly based on the idea that you need to grasp this specialized knowledge to enjoy, or even to partake of, this refined fare. Well, you need specialized knowledge to watch a baseball game, too, but people don’t generally seek out books called “An Introduction to Baseball” to understand what they’re supposed to be getting out of a game.

(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...


TOPICS: Music/Entertainment
KEYWORDS: classicalmusic; opera
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1 posted on 10/01/2012 1:19:10 PM PDT by Borges
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To: sitetest

Classical Ping.


2 posted on 10/01/2012 1:20:30 PM PDT by Borges
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To: Borges

I’m not a great fan of opera; But there was a great skit on SNL many years back where a terse voiced gal gave a 15 second each synopsis of about a dozen of the best known operas that was hilarious. I’ve tried searching for it but I only get Adam Sandler = Opera Man (whom I find less than funny most of the time) ...but if anyone has that link I referred to, I’d love to capture it.


3 posted on 10/01/2012 1:38:40 PM PDT by Attention Surplus Disorder (This stuff we're going through now, this is nothing compared to the middle ages.)
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To: Borges

I must confess I’ve never been able to goad myself into getting “into” opera. I appreciate the great voices as much as anyone could (Placido Domingo is a favorite), but it has taken the charms of Rene Fleming to get my anywhere near opera in recent years.
And I’m waiting for the avant-garde composer who did
NIXON IN CHINA to write one called OBAMA IN CAIRO.
Maybe I’ll give it a go, as a parody.


4 posted on 10/01/2012 1:43:33 PM PDT by supremedoctrine (My personal Memo to the Utopian Left:-- You can't improve on Imperfection.)
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To: Attention Surplus Disorder

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vNReqUGtsc


5 posted on 10/01/2012 1:45:11 PM PDT by ExGeeEye (Wait a minute! Romney doesn't suck? I'm trying to keep up.)
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To: Borges

Love classical and would love to see an opera. Someday. Not too many where I go for peace...besides prayer, rural USA. :)


6 posted on 10/01/2012 1:49:48 PM PDT by huldah1776
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To: Borges

Sat through my first opera yesterday on the TV. Seigfried at the Met. Big guy carrying on, yelling at the top of his lungs for 10 minutes as to whether he should kiss the girl or not.
Good grief, Dude, she’s not THAT hot. But you look great in golden curls.


7 posted on 10/01/2012 1:51:27 PM PDT by irishtenor (Everything in moderation, however, too much whiskey is just enough... Mark Twain)
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To: irishtenor

Siegfried is not the best of operas to get introduced to the medium with. It’s the least user friendly of the four Ring operas. Try Carmen or La Traviata.


8 posted on 10/01/2012 1:57:41 PM PDT by Borges
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To: huldah1776

Check the PBS listings for Lincoln Center Live. Usually a couple of times a year, an opera is featured. You’re not there in person, but it’s still great.


9 posted on 10/01/2012 1:58:30 PM PDT by randita
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To: Borges

The Met is doing a new version of the Ring Cycle next spring.

http://ringcycle.metoperafamily.org/

Last time they did the Cycle, it was televised on PBS. Amazing stuff. Hopefully, it will be carried on PBS again this time.


10 posted on 10/01/2012 2:01:07 PM PDT by randita
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To: Borges

I have seen all of the Mozart operas. I am listening to “The Abduction from the Seraglio” right now.


11 posted on 10/01/2012 2:01:09 PM PDT by crusty old prospector
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To: Borges

“Siegfried is not the best of operas to get introduced to the medium with.”

I concur, its like asking someone who’s never watched baseball to watch and appreciate a bona-fide pitcher’s duel - one of them throwing a no hitter.

Nevertheless, my kids and I sat through all 15+ hours of the Met’s Ring presentation. I had to explain to them that the plotline moves slowly in movies too, but that movies fill the extra time with sub-plots and special effects, etc. In opera, the extra time is filled with great music and performances. Once they got that, they really started enjoying it. By the last night, they were the ones firing up the TV and enthusiastically rounding up Mom and Dad to watch the last 5 hours of Wagner!


12 posted on 10/01/2012 2:03:42 PM PDT by LaserJock
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To: Borges

I was lucky enough to grow up when the late great soprano Beverly Sills was everywhere on television.

Just one appearance with Johnny Carson, and I was hooked.
She was so anti-diva in her personality and made the thought of high brow opera so normal.....and fun!

She should be everyone’s intoduction to opera.
YouTube has dozens of wonderful Sills performances:

Here she is with the Muppets!:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBdCVJAPoSk

Here she is with Carol Burnett in a clip from the special Sills and Burnett at the MET from 1976:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Evnf7T-nIPI&feature=relmfu

While she could cut it up with Johnny Carol Burnett et al, she was a great dramatic singer as well.

Here she is in one of her greatest roles, Elizabeth I in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux. (think Bette Davis and Errol Flynn)Hair raising! Now THAT’s opera!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=th40SNp0Twk


13 posted on 10/01/2012 2:06:11 PM PDT by sillsfan (Reagan and Sarah are right- WE win, they lose!)
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To: ExGeeEye

Thank you!! Loved that.


14 posted on 10/01/2012 2:13:29 PM PDT by Attention Surplus Disorder (This stuff we're going through now, this is nothing compared to the middle ages.)
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To: Borges

Or Madame Butterfly or La Boheme, or even Turandot.


15 posted on 10/01/2012 2:18:00 PM PDT by eddiespaghetti ((with the meatball eyes))
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To: supremedoctrine

Ha!


16 posted on 10/01/2012 2:18:44 PM PDT by 9YearLurker
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To: Borges

I think just treating like it’s some big thing people must be “educated” on is what keeps people away. Really, it’s music, with lyrics in a language you don’t speak, constructed into a plot, which is usually actually pretty linear, and is explained in the playbill most of the time. If you get into it there’s a lot of interesting musical intricacies to study, but you don’t have to. Millions of people enjoy dance music every day without having any idea what a reel is even though that’s the core construct most dance music is built around, hell most of the people that make dance music don’t even know that.


17 posted on 10/01/2012 2:24:48 PM PDT by discostu (Put another dime in the jukebox.)
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To: irishtenor

Irish tenor??!! You wouldn’t be the ghost of John McCormack would you?


18 posted on 10/01/2012 2:25:22 PM PDT by driftless2
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To: randita

That’s the Ring Cycle from last year. They just showed it on PBS last month. The DVD of the whole thing is already out.


19 posted on 10/01/2012 2:26:32 PM PDT by Borges
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To: discostu

Opera performance used to be extremely populist with the houselights up and people either reading the libretto along with the show or walking around during the performance to talk to their friends. Wagner got the process of sanctification started by insisting that the houselights be down during the performance (and the orchestra hidden in a ‘pit’).


20 posted on 10/01/2012 2:29:30 PM PDT by Borges
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To: Borges

And once sanctification starts you lose the masses. The masses don’t like having to dress up just to go sit in the dark. Maybe some of the theaters should start having “no tie” nights, get the “ra” back in “opera”, something to eject the stodgy atmosphere, and the people that like it, get the t-shirt crowd. The t-shirt crowd is willing to sit through Queensryche playing all of Operation Mindcrime, or Pink Floyd playing The Wall, or The Who playing Tommy or Quadrophenia, they actually can handle the big long musical story thing so long as they can dress comfortably.


21 posted on 10/01/2012 2:35:26 PM PDT by discostu (Put another dime in the jukebox.)
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To: Borges

Love the music (instrumentation).
Aside from a handful of pieces though, abhor the vocals.
When I lived in NYC, would go to the Philharmonic several times a season and would attend many concerts “in the parks”, but once to the Met was more than enough.

.....and what’s with all those extended, drawn out, seemingly contrived ovations? I just don’t get it.


22 posted on 10/01/2012 2:36:57 PM PDT by Roccus
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To: Borges

Oh, that was one of the Ring operas? Didn’t know. Just saw it on the TV and watched. Took a long time for four or five pages of script.


23 posted on 10/01/2012 2:39:01 PM PDT by irishtenor (Everything in moderation, however, too much whiskey is just enough... Mark Twain)
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To: Attention Surplus Disorder

Try Looking up Anna Russel. She does the 20 hours of Wagner’s Ring in 20 minutes. Hysterical (and accurate).


24 posted on 10/01/2012 2:52:59 PM PDT by oldsicilian
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To: Attention Surplus Disorder

I have a DVD of a skit where a woman holds up paper cutouts on sticks of various opera characters, all the while describing the plots of the operas in which they appear. It is hilarious! I don’t know if it’s the same one, or not. I was just looking on You Tube, but couldn’t find it.


25 posted on 10/01/2012 3:45:18 PM PDT by SuziQ
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To: ExGeeEye

Thanks, ExGeeEye!! I knew you’d sent me the DVD, but I couldn’t remember what the name of the piece was!!


26 posted on 10/01/2012 3:47:03 PM PDT by SuziQ
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To: Borges

Hating opera is such a natural thing.


27 posted on 10/01/2012 3:49:36 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I can neither confirm or deny that; even if I could, I couldn't - it's classified.)
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To: driftless2
Don't think so, I ain't dead yet.
Irish ancestry and sing tenor in the choir :>)
28 posted on 10/01/2012 3:55:41 PM PDT by irishtenor (Everything in moderation, however, too much whiskey is just enough... Mark Twain)
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To: Borges

I was always afraid to try hard drugs or opera.
I think watching old episodes of Tony Randal as Felix Unger in the Odd couple was mostly responsible for my aversion to opera.
That white jumpsuit and white sneakers...yipes.


29 posted on 10/01/2012 3:56:16 PM PDT by Leep
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To: supremedoctrine

Agree that Placido is far better than Luciano (sp). Waaay too much hype over the fatman (altho he has his moments).


30 posted on 10/01/2012 4:23:21 PM PDT by SgtHooper (The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.)
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To: discostu

The thing is you don’t have to dress up. I go in jeans. I’ve been to the Met in jeans.


31 posted on 10/01/2012 5:11:59 PM PDT by Borges
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To: randita

Thanks!


32 posted on 10/01/2012 5:15:47 PM PDT by huldah1776
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To: Borges

Other than the sound of it opera isn’t too bad.


33 posted on 10/01/2012 5:29:39 PM PDT by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: Borges

Prole.

(IR12)


34 posted on 10/01/2012 5:49:50 PM PDT by ExGeeEye (Wait a minute! Romney doesn't suck? I'm trying to keep up.)
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To: Borges
It is not easy to get into opera. The best way to learn to appreciate it is to choose one opera (preferably a good one) on CD and listen to it over and over again until it clicks.

Sometime in the mid 1990s, I got Marriage of Figaro from the library and listened to it in my car to and from work. After about two weeks, I was hooked.

Why Marriage of Figaro? It was featured in the great movie Shawshank Redemption. In the movie, it is the record that Andy chooses to play when he takes over the prison PA system. After watching that movie, I just had to listen to the opera in its entirety and I'm glad I did.

35 posted on 10/01/2012 5:55:48 PM PDT by SamAdams76
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To: Borges
I love opera, but I can also laugh at some of the silliness. Some dialogue from an hilarious episode of Frasier perfectly captures Rigoletto:

Frasier: Well, it's about Rigoletto, the hunchbacked jester in the court of the Duke. He has a daughter, Guilder, who's secretly living with him. But everyone thinks that she's his mistress. In this opening scene, Rigoletto mocks the Duke's enemy, who puts a curse on him.

Martin: A cursed hunchback dating his daughter - well, nothing screwy so far!

36 posted on 10/01/2012 6:28:06 PM PDT by TrueKnightGalahad
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To: count-your-change

You do know tunes like ‘The Flight of the Bumblebee’ and ‘Here Comes the Bride’ comes from operas right?


37 posted on 10/01/2012 7:06:09 PM PDT by Borges
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To: Borges; .30Carbine; 1cewolf; 1rudeboy; 2nd Bn, 11th Mar; 31R1O; ADemocratNoMore; ...

Dear Borges,

Thanks for the ping!

Classical Music Ping List ping!

If you want on or off this list, let me know via FR e-mail.

Thanks,

sitetest


38 posted on 10/01/2012 7:46:44 PM PDT by sitetest (If Roe is not overturned, no unborn child will ever be protected in law.)
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To: SgtHooper

None of them could touch Bjoerling, Windgassen, or Del Monaco.


39 posted on 10/01/2012 8:55:29 PM PDT by Emperor Palpatine ("On the ascent of Olympus, what's a botched bar or two?" -Artur Schnabel)
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To: Borges

The “Bumblebee”, yes, the other, no. Earlier I was putting a twist on, “Wagner’s music is better than it sounds.”


40 posted on 10/01/2012 9:02:47 PM PDT by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: supremedoctrine
There is a great modern opera by Stewart Copeland, (yes, THAT one from The Police), Called "Holy Blood,Crescent Moon" about the First Crusade fighting the first Muslim jihadis. I was at the world premier in Cleveland in 1989, and it does have its truly frightening moments. I'll always remember the late heldentenor Gene Allen, who sang the lead Knight Templar in that marvelous ringing voice of his...


41 posted on 10/01/2012 9:11:13 PM PDT by Emperor Palpatine ("On the ascent of Olympus, what's a botched bar or two?" -Artur Schnabel)
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To: SamAdams76

Actually, what really got me into it was the advice of one of my early piano teachers. he told me if I wanted to acquire a true legato tone and how to shape a phrase, don’t listen to other pianists. Go to the opera house and listen to the singers and pay attention to how they do it.


42 posted on 10/01/2012 9:17:11 PM PDT by Emperor Palpatine ("On the ascent of Olympus, what's a botched bar or two?" -Artur Schnabel)
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To: TrueKnightGalahad
I love Wagner, but also get huge laughs from both Anna Russell AND one of the greatest of the Warner Brothers cartoons...."What's Opera, Doc?"



Its gotten to the point that every time I hear "The Ride" I think of Elmer Fudd as Siegfried singing "Kill the Wabbit! Kill the Wabbit"!
43 posted on 10/01/2012 9:37:25 PM PDT by Emperor Palpatine ("On the ascent of Olympus, what's a botched bar or two?" -Artur Schnabel)
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To: Borges

Not to mention the theme to “The Lone Ranger”.


44 posted on 10/01/2012 9:37:48 PM PDT by Emperor Palpatine ("On the ascent of Olympus, what's a botched bar or two?" -Artur Schnabel)
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To: Borges

Introductions: Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”, Bizet’s “Carmen” and Puccini’s “Tosca”.

The first two are a little long, but so sublime that it’s difficult not to be moved.


45 posted on 10/01/2012 10:06:27 PM PDT by onedoug
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To: sitetest
As a 40 + yr fan of Berlioz, I am well aware of the intensity which accompanies a variance in interpretation.
Thanks and G-d Bless.
46 posted on 10/01/2012 10:12:08 PM PDT by Tainan (Cogito, ergo conservatus sum)
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To: LaserJock

In the 80’s, I had a series subscription to the Ring series in San Francisco. It was a wondrous thing.


47 posted on 10/01/2012 10:15:20 PM PDT by Tainan (Cogito, ergo conservatus sum)
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To: Emperor Palpatine

LOL! An audiophile society buddy does the same thing, so now I bring my LP of Die Walküre to meetings, just to hear him sing “Kill the wabbit!” He’s commented that whatever familiarity he has with classical music and opera he learned by watching Saturday morning cartoons.


48 posted on 10/02/2012 12:08:09 AM PDT by TrueKnightGalahad
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To: TrueKnightGalahad

“The Rabbit of Seville” is the cream of the crop.


49 posted on 10/02/2012 12:20:12 AM PDT by Tuanedge (Warriors victorious in a hundred battles, flee when a tiger enters their tent.)
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To: oldsicilian
Anna Russell - The Ring of the Nibelung (An Analysis)

1 of 3 on YouTube. I have this on LP. It's wonderful!

50 posted on 10/02/2012 4:20:59 AM PDT by COBOL2Java (I'm not voting for Obama, so therefore I must be helping Romney!)
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