The Blog Formerly Known as Rebel Prince

Cult TV, Gen Y rants, and endless opera.

Archive for February, 2015

The Greatest Operas, Part VIII

Posted by therebelprince on February 26, 2015

This post is simulcast from my blog “The Annals of Opera”.

In Part Eight of my ongoing series on my favourite operas, we’ve reached the late 1950s, and today we’re going to look at some fairly bonkers composers, and their attempts to push this artform into mayhem and inspiration.

My usual caveats apply: these are only my suggestions of favourite operas (not necessarily the objective greatest ever), and should be taken as such. And, of course, as we’re going chronologically, the number assigned to each composer is no indicator of quality!

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The Greatest Operas, Part VII

Posted by therebelprince on February 19, 2015

This post is simulcast from my blog “The Annals of Opera”.

Thanks for joining me for the latest chapter of my Annals of Opera, a look at my favourite works of opera from the last 400 years. We’re into the thick of the 20th century now, arriving at a group of men and women fascinated by experimenting musically, although we’ve plenty ahead of us in terms of experimenting theatrically

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The Greatest Operas, Part VI

Posted by therebelprince on February 12, 2015

This post is simulcast from my blog “The Annals of Opera”.

To the one person still reading this, welcome to the sixth instalment of my Annals of Opera, in which I list my favourite operas from 1600 to the present day, and hopefully stumble upon enlightenment upon the way.

Last time, we reached the 1920s, where Romantic music gave way begrudingly to modernism, although a few composers said, “why bother?” It was a strange time in all artforms and, sadly but understandably, a time when artists’ desire to challenge tradition and accepted systems led them to create works that were important rather than artistically whole. It’s the era of Brecht, where it wasn’t just enough to evolve and subvert existing ways of telling stories. No, you had to completely dismantle the system. I sound bitter, although I’m not, because it ultimately led to the rich, explorative world we live in today. But it’s a shame to see that so many of the operas (and other works of art) produced in the ’20s, ’30s, and even ’40s are ultimately works of their time, and just don’t translate in the way that the great works of previous decades had achieved. Of course, populist opera was still being created – the Metropolitan Opera commissioned or premiered a lot of new works during these years – but, almost without exception, they’ve faded from view without so much as a single commercially-available recording. At the same time, the Great Depression and the subsequent political turmoil that led to World War II had a major effect.

Still, we’ve reached an important point. If you were to look at the average opera season – particularly in an English-speaking country – you could be forgiven for thinking opera ends here. Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier and Puccini’s Il Trittico had been the last works to enter the standard repertory. Puccini would follow it up posthumously with Turandot in the ’20s, and we looked last week at Korngold’s box office success with Die tote Stadt but, well, things were different. Audiences gradually became conservative but, at least for now, the vogue seems to have shifted to operetta and “light” opera, which – like mainstream movies – were prone to grow outdated very quickly. So, we’ll be moving through the ’20s and ’30s at a fairly brisk pace, with a more multicultural cast of characters. Shall we begin?

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The Greatest Operas, Part V

Posted by therebelprince on February 5, 2015

This post is simulcast from my blog “The Annals of Opera”.

For the fifth instalment of my series on the greatest operas of the last 400 years, we’ve reached the 20th century. Whereas the 19th century had been dominated by the Romantic (and romantic) tales of Italy, France, and Germany, by the early 1900s, opera opened to both Eastern Europe and the barbaric English-speaking nations. It was also developing more ways of storytelling, with some composers taking opera closer to “straight” theatre, while others pulled away into more abstract and expressionist modes of music.

Like any era of great change and experimentation, the 1900s and 1910s seems to yield a lot of “exciting” works, but few that are anywhere near perfect. Still, many of the works I’m talking about today have at least a weak grip on the standard repertory, and they can be particularly enjoyable when done well. Opera was losing some of the things that made it great in the 1800s, but was also letting go of the sentimentality and pomposity. Now, the battle between what audiences wanted to see, and what artists wanted to create, would begin in earnest.

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