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What are the "most beautiful five minutes in opera"?

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I'm not by nature a tenor person, I tend to listen more to sopranos but I love Puccini's tenor music. People say Puccini was obsessed with women and I suppose it's true but he also gave some wonderful opportunities to his tenors. I love it when tenors show a sensitive side and Puccini used this.

Rodolfo's narrative is beautiful, I just love Cavaradosi's E lucevan le stelle . Even Calaf, an obnoxious arrogant guy unbends to console Liu in Act 1

Non piangere Liu.

But the one that gets the prize from me is Dick Johnson's Ch'ella mi creda from the last act of Fanciulla del West. Puccini wrote an opera with the theme of redemption to it, probably his most ambitious (successful) undertaking. Johnson is about the most sensitive, noble outlaw you can imagine. The posse is about to hang him but he begs them to lie about it to Minnie. He doesn't grovel for his own life but rather than have her find out he was hung

(after the sheriff reneged on a "plea bargain" ala poker) he implores them to tell her that he has gone far away and is living a new, reformed life of a respectable person. He feels this will hurt her less than knowing that the crew that she schooled had hung the man she loved.

It's a difficult aria to sing because it starts low and build up to a double climax but it is without question my favorite tenor piece. It's a beautiful melody, Puccini

uses some of the angular harmonics that evidently spelled "exotic" to him. I suppose to him the California goldrush territory was in a way as foreign as Japan or ancient China!

I'm a Fanciulla nut anyway. This scene always gets to me but Puccini tops it when Minnie comes running onto the scene at the last moment. She SHAMES

the miners into letting Johnson go. One by one she reminds them how she taught them to read, and cared for them, and introduced them to the Bible.

HOW can they not give her the first thing she has ever asked for in return, the man she loves. The miners are reduced to sobs.

Dynamite stuff!

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My favorite Verdi opera is Don Carlos and one of (many) 'fave fives' is Rodrigo's beautiful 'C'est mon jour supreme' (my recording is the Domingo/Ricciarelli in French and I don't have acess to the Italian right now). I've always found the relationship between Carlos and Rodrigo to be one of the most touching in opera and frankly, in this one I could do without the women altogether. :wacko:

richard53dog: I'm glad to hear someone else loves Fanciulla. Years ago on one of the Met broadcast intermissions, somebody said this was their 'guiltly pleasure' opera! Can you imagine feeling guilty about that?!

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Austerely beautiful, once a year I listen to a recording of Wozzeck -- Erich Kleiber/Annelies Kupper -- that I just happen to have because Szigeti is doing Berg's violin concerto on the other side (an Lp and mono!). This sounds about which Bart may have a word or two.

*

Regarding Benjamin and the reproduction of performances, I just reread the essay after even more than ten years -- and we should perhaps revisit it at another time when a film discussion is up and running. Thanks, Patrick -- and Drew. The original text is chock full of interesting things. Some favorites:

Magician and surgeon compare to painter and cameraman. The painter maintains in his work a natural distance from reality, the cameraman penetrates deeply into its web.
For the film, what matters primarily is that the actor represents himself to the public before the camera, rather than representing someone else.
The feeling of strangeness that overcomes the actor before the camera, as Pirandello describes it, is basically of the same kind as the estrangement felt before one's image in a mirror ... But now the reflected image has become separable, transportable. And where is it transported?

And Benjamin brings up the difference between a clock on stage that should never tell time, and the clock in film which is "made beautiful" because it does.

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I'm not by nature a tenor person, I tend to listen more to sopranos but I love Puccini's tenor music. People say Puccini was obsessed with women and I suppose it's true but he also gave some wonderful opportunities to his tenors. I love it when tenors show a sensitive side and Puccini used this.

Rodolfo's narrative is beautiful, I just love Cavaradosi's E lucevan le stelle . Even Calaf, an obnoxious arrogant guy unbends to console Liu in Act 1 Non piangere Liu.

I agree. I love the way Pavarotti sings 'Non piangere Liu' on record, although I don't believe he ever did a full evening Calaf and it's a good thing for his voice he never tried.

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I agree. I love the way Pavarotti sings 'Non piangere Liu' on record, although I don't believe he ever did a full evening Calaf and it's a good thing for his voice he never tried.

Actually, Pav did a run of Turandots at the Met in the late 90s. I saw one and though he had been panned by some critics, I didn't think he was half bad.

He was pretty immobile at that point and was wearing sneakers doctored into looking like Calaf's boots but he was playing against Jane Eaglen's Turandot which wasn't exactly a bundle of energy on stage either. Vocally he was respectable although he skimmed some of it. And it was unfortunate that when the moment came to ring the gong at the climax of act 1, Luciano wasn't up to running across the stage with a stick and so it fell to a super to run up to the gong and strike it while Pav sang "Turandot, Turandot, Turandot" while leaning against a banister.

But I think a far better solution for the Pav/Turandot issue was for him to sing Nessun Dorma in concerts. He started that back in the 70s and that truly was something to hear back then.

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Thanks, richard53dog. Sounds like a memorable performance. :D

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Maybe not the most beautiful, but I think that Act 2 of Butterfly is unmatched for its ability to touch the heart. Every time I've seen Butterfly, I've seen grown men crying during Act 2.

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A trio and a quartet from "Fidelio". While I have a weakness for almost anything on the lyric stage--for me bad opera is better than no opera--if I had to chose it would be either of two pieces from "Fidelio".

The first is the "canon" quartet, Mir ist so wunderbar This is from theGlyndebourne Festival Opera with one of the great Fidelio/Leonora of all times, Elisabeth Soderstrom, lyric soprano Elizabeth Gale as Marzeline, Curt Appelgren, who has the low notes, as Rocco and Ian Caley as Jacquino

Particularly from 3:35 to the end.

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The other is a trio, also from Act I of "Fidelio" This one has Gundula Janowitz as Leonora (!!) Lucia Popp as Marzelline (!!!) and Manfred Jungwirth Rocco. At the very end--the beginning of the "March of the Prisoners" check out the conductor.

The video is a little annoying at first--problems with the sound synch but it smooths out (or one just gets used to it) after a bit.

Every bar of this is sublime but from 3:30 to the end is sublimer and 4:18 to the end sublimest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MktL_qQqRs

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Coincidentally, I was just looking at this quartet on a video of a Met performance, circa 2000, with Jennifer Welch-Babidge, Karita Mattila, Maurizio Polenzani, and Rene Pape. The production is set in a mid-20th-century prison. I was fast-forwarding, looking for something else on the video, but stopped to listen again to this. I love the stillness. It's a marvelous way to show us these very different characters and make us care about them.

http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.p...=71&t=30444

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Thank you for reviving this thread, Ed. Both of those are great but I love the second.

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Theresa Stich Randall sang Sophie, FABULOUSLY, in the recording made by the ladies you mention, with von Karajan conducting. She was a great Sophie, with virginal high notes that had a freshness and purity of tone that rival those of Elisabeth Schumann.

The clip on the Times's site is great only in Ms Fleming's performance, which raises her in my esteem considerably. The conductor lets it get messy by taking too deliberate a pace, so the vocal lines get lost completely and the three soliloquies occurring simultaneously lose the distinctness they need to keep all from becoming just a gorgeous blur -- it's gorgeous, but the feelings get lost.

In today's NY Times, Daniel J. Wakin has a piece on Rosenkavalier, opening at the Met This Tuesday (Oct. 13), with an HD/Live simulcast of the performance on January 9 with encore on January 27. Watkins writes about a few moments right before the conclusion of the opera:
And now time, that relentless pursuer, stops. The three female voices -- Octavian, Sophie and the Marschallin-- sing the glorious trio thata caused a stunned silence in a rehearsal before the premiere. perhaps the most beautiful five minutes in opera.

This brought me back immediately to my much-loved recording of Rosenkavalier highlights, with Elisabeth Schwartzkopf and Christa Ludwig singing with a Sophie whose name I cannot recall. "Beautiful," of course, is a subjective term. I'm not even sure that I know what it means to me anymore, when I use it.

To a teenager, this part of Rosenkavalier certainly was the "most beautiful" singing I'd ever heard or could imagine. (And that final "Ja, ja" from the Marschallin, a little later on. !!!!!). Decades afterward, I don't know whether I still would call it the "most beautiful", but I honestly don't know what I'd prefer today if I had only 5 minutes of listening time before the Final Silence came upon me.

Any ideas about what the "most beautiful five minutes in opera" really are? Or would you go with Wakin?

The article (linked here) includes audio clips from the dress rehearsal.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/11/arts/mus....html?ref=music

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"Venere splende" -- I thought that meant 'Venus is glowing' (like, the goddess of love is shining on us)/

It IS beautiful. Great opera, really great.

But don't forget dirac's request:
With explanations, please. :)

Okay, I'll give it a shot. (Otello Act I Love Duet)

Dramatically, it was Boito's stroke of genius to condense Act I of the play into a narrative between the protagonists. Although a love duet, It is an intelligent conversation between adults. It ends with one of more ravishing images in opera ("Venice is resplendant"), with music to match.

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I love Delibes flower duet from Lakme.

A beautiful way to start off a stormy Friday the 13th...

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I'm basically inclined to agree with Watkins about the trio from Act 3 of Der Rosenkavalier. Helene also makes a very strong case for the love duet from Otello.

Though it usually clocks in at around three minutes, I could also argue for "La Vergine degli angeli" from the end of Act 2 of La forza del destino, which is so exquisitely constructed. The low monks' chorus with the pizzicato accompaniment on the low strings giving way to the same melody sung one octave higher by Leonora while the accompaniment switches to the harp, followed by the contrast between low and high when the men's chorus and soprano come together. And then Verdi's heart-stopping melody rises to its climax. But the kicker comes in the orchestration at the end, with the broken descending chords so full of foreboding. I hate to post a You Tube clip because the sound is inevitably poor, but here it goes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQKeVQe7ArU

I also love the last three minutes of Rossin's William Tell, when the harps begin to play and Tell sings "Tutto cangia, il ciel si abella," or its French equivalent. (I prefer it in Italian.) Suddenly all the strife and violence of the preceding hours seems to wash away. The music grows and swells until soloists, chorus and orchestra are all going at full tilt, culminating in the sopranos' high C as the cymbal crashes grow louder and louder. To me it's the most exhilarating crescendo in opera and an exultant but not triumphalist hymn to liberty, and audiences inevitably respond accordingly. It's definitely worth spending four hours plus in the opera house to get to this scene. Apologies for the sound quality, but this is a really loud piece.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxx-HCHb580

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This has been my "most beautiful 3 minutes" segment during the whole past week..! flowers.gif

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