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Differences between Opera and Ballet reviews


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#1 Alexandra

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Posted 14 October 2001 - 12:44 PM

There was an interesting review of a new production of Bellini's "Norma" in the NYTimes yesterday. Reading it, it struck me that one wouldn't read a review of a ballet performance this detailed, that the entire context from which this reviewer is absent from ballet.

What do you think?

Wagnerian Voice Reaches for 'Norma'

Some may wonder what Ms. Eaglen, a renowned Wagnerian, is doing singing a bel canto role like Norma. Actually, precedent is on her side. Though Wagner placed enormous demands on his singers for power and stamina, he embraced the principles of the bel canto vocal tradition: arching lyricism, sustained legato and evenness of sound throughout a wide range. Lilli Lehmann, the most acclaimed soprano in the first generation of Wagner singers, was as famous for her Norma as for her Brünnhilde.

Ms. Eaglen is following in that tradition. The lyrical elegance she brings to her Brünnhilde and Isolde is no doubt the product of her work in bel canto, and she is understandably reluctant to put aside a role like Norma.

For the entire review, go to:
[url="http://"http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/13/arts/music/13NORM.html?searchpv=past7days"]http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/13/arts/mus...rchpv=past7days[/url]

#2 dirac

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Posted 15 October 2001 - 07:16 PM

Maybe because opera fans expect it? "Hmph -- Tommasini goes on about the unusualness of a Wagnerian soprano tackling bel canto and doesn't even mention Lilli Lehmann!" He might even get letters about the omission. ( I myself, when I read this review in the paper, thought he might also have given a brief mention to the Callas precedent -- she sang some Wagner in Italian early in her career, was famous for the dramatic oomph she brought to the bel canto repertory, and Norma was her signature role -- but I digress.) And the reappearance of "Norma" at the Met is an event of note, warranting more comment than usual. This kind of historical recap doesn't appear in routine reviews, I don't think. But it would certainly be nice to see more of it in ballet reviews.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 15 October 2001 - 09:27 PM

That was my thought, too, dirac (that opera fans expect it). I think that is the pressure on the critics and on newspapers. I can't imagine a daily newspaper allowing such a detailed review of a ballet today. The whole idea is that it has to be written for a general audience (not a general dance audience, but the idea that everyone out there will pick up a paper and read a dance review and have to understand it).

#4 cargill

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Posted 16 October 2001 - 02:13 PM

What struck me most about the review was the forthright honesty of the reaction--calling a dog a dog, as it were. No pussyfooting around, just the production was awful and it was booed. That, more than the space and the detail, was what stuck me, and what I think is missing in so many dance reviews. Of course, opera is doing fairly well now, and reviewers don't have to be advocates.

#5 dirac

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Posted 16 October 2001 - 07:37 PM

Maybe ballet fans are just too nice. :(

#6 LMCtech

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Posted 17 October 2001 - 01:14 PM

I also think opera fans tend to be more devoted to knowing everything they possibly can about technique, composers, singers, companies, history. They are just better informed. There is also a notable lack of children in an audience. I think that makes a difference. Opera has an elitist image (there is that word again) and for good reason. It tends to make the reveiws moer elitist too.


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