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


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#31 bart

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 09:25 AM

In the meanwhile it has sent me to youtube several times...

Drew -- and others -- please share you links with us if you can. YouTube, when I'm guided by people I trust like those on Ballet Talk, is a source of wonderful new knowledge and experience. :flowers:

#32 papeetepatrick

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 09:31 AM

http://en.wikipedia....al_Reproduction

Here's the wiki entry. Yes, it is read that way by most philosophers, even if he also talks about how it leads to other political formulations and actions due to being mass-consumed. He talks about the 'shattering of the true aura' in these reproduction forms, the 'aura of the bad cult of the film star'. He disparages the editing process that makes of film a 'perfect orchid', and is being sarcastic when he says that. He cites Duhamel's loathing of the film. I brought it up because FILM is different in that it grows directly from live theater--it is still a kind of theater that is, yet, entirely different--it is a 'sleight-of-hand'. Recorded music, otoh, is an exact duplication, it is the same compostion, and we got used to that more easily, because 'recorded music' is not itself an 'art form', whereas film IS a new art form. That's it had uneasy early moments (and many still hate it, I frankly and most philosophers have long thought Benjamin misjudged film and think him wrong on this), but recorded music (or dance, as with Graham refusing any filming for most of her career, so that we're left with just a few filmed gems), is usually actually disparaged only by the performers thsmselves, at least in a very emotional way. For most people, they are getting a good reproduction of a work of music, and this is better than the one kind of filmed version of theater as well, IMO, viz., just filming a stage performance (because you know it's live, and you know you're just getting a perfunctory reproduction of something you didn't get to experience fully enough.


So again, I think reproduced piano, violin, orchestral, operatic works pretty well, and maybe once in awhile better, because you'd sometimes rather hear a great recorded performance than a bad live one. I'd certainly rather hear Maria Callas's old records than have heard her live when her voice was so harsh. I don't have much use for 'legend events' with big divas', although I do consider them a legitimate and rich form of entertainment for those who do.

But on records, you DO get the real music, even if you don't get the excitement of the occasion. There's nothing I love more Toscanini's record of 'Siegfried Idyll', and I don't think I've ever even heard it on a concert program.

I think Patrick's point that more is lost in reproduction of music is true -- part of its very soul.


Quiggin, I just saw this, so maybe this post cleared it up. I really don't think much is lost in reproduced music except the sense of the excitement of the live performance, because at least all the sound is there, so I guess, I think the best 'mechanically reproduced' works of art that are those little more than exact duplications. i mean in the one sense, because I do think there is great film art, of course.

#33 dirac

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 10:03 AM

This is one of those nutty threads which is fun but impossible to answer....


I agree that a topic like this one is 'impossible' in a way, SanderO, but isn't it also fun to take a few minutes to think about those moments in a performing art that really take you to a different place?

'Du bist der Lenz,' is another one for me. The music just blossoms forth.

#34 mom2

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 02:25 PM

I have e family member in the Met - so for me, the best 5 minutes would be in seeing/hearing her perform.

I remember when she chose to pursue opera as a vocation. She had been training in voice of course, doing University and post-graduate work. At some point she had what she described as an "out of body" experience - this level of emotion is what encouraged her to continue with voice over other things. More years later than we would care to acknowledge, she still seems quite content in her choice of career path. I am still looking for that level of fulfillment in my career.............


m2

#35 bart

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 03:42 PM

Thanks, mom2. You bring us back to how performers themselves experience this, which is a good thing. Which segments of a work are most beautiful (or gripping, involving, emotionally draining,or satisfying0 to the performing artists, I wonder? Are they the same parts that those of us in the audience finds most beautiful?

#36 Drew

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 04:55 PM

Off topic, but following up...

http://en.wikipedia....al_Reproduction

Here's the wiki entry. Yes, it is read that way by most philosophers, even if he also talks about how it leads to other political formulations and actions due to being mass-consumed. He talks about the 'shattering of the true aura' in these reproduction forms, the 'aura of the bad cult of the film star'. He disparages the editing process that makes of film a 'perfect orchid', and is being sarcastic when he says that. He cites Duhamel's loathing of the film. I brought it up because FILM is different in that it grows directly from live theater--it is still a kind of theater that is, yet, entirely different--it is a 'sleight-of-hand'.


Thanks for the reference. I took a look: the wiki entry does not really say that Benjamin is anti-film--actually it makes him sound somewhat anti-aura, i.e. critical of traditional (notions of) art--but...uh...I don't suppose either of us view Wikipedia as a final authority in these matters and Wikipedia itself heads this entry up with a note saying it may not meet its own standards...

Anyway, my reading is rather different from yours and I find it in a lot of secondary literature. I think that Benjamin certainly opposes the 'aura of the bad cult of the film star' but that is very far from being anti-film -- and even if one reads the essay as 'melancholic' as Quiggin suggests (and I think many others agree) one still might have difficulty reaching the conclusion that it is somehow against film. Benjamin is diagnosing a phenomenon and trying to think through its implications.

A very "standard" scholarly book on Benjamin like Richard Wolin's makes the case that Benjamin's essay argues for the positive (for Benjamin, as you remark, that would mean political/emancipatory) potential of film and that this is not an incidental but an essential aspect of the essay, alongside the analysis of a no-longer viable notion of art as aesthetic, quasi-cult object. Right or wrong, Wolin's is not an eccentric reading, however much most readers -- myself included -- respond to Benjamin's 'melancholy' as well as the textual undercurrents that may make one dubious--such as the remarks on the 'bad cult of the film star.' (I actually hold no particular brief for Wolin--dislike certain things about his work--but cite his book as a very mainstream, standard reading.)

As I understand Benjamin he's not for OR against film--he is for what he takes to be a clear-sighed analysis of the contemporary situation of art.

I do grasp that, as Quiggin remarked and you confirmed, you were making a different point about film as an art form in relation to recorded music and I fully agree that these are two separate matters. My own relation to classical music is heavily mediated by ballet performances and recordings, but I firmly believe in the power of a live performance in which my full attention is on the music. (Later this month I hear my first live performance of the Brahms German Requiem. I consider it sort of a major event--for me.)

#37 dirac

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 05:25 PM

As I understand Benjamin he's not for OR against film--he is for what he takes to be a clear-sighted analysis of the contemporary situation of art.


I would agree with this, and to me Benjamin seems fascinated with the medium's possibilities.

My own relation to classical music is heavily mediated by ballet performances and recordings, but I firmly believe in the power of a live performance in which my full attention is on the music. (Later this month I hear my first live performance of the Brahms German Requiem. I consider it sort of a major event--for me.)


That's true for me, as well (regarding my experience listening to classical music). I've heard many more operas on recordings than I will ever be able to do in performance. There is something special in a live performance (if it's good; nothing special in mediocre ones, IMO), but I also appreciate the intimate pleasures of listening to a great performance at home. Solti's Ring was the first Ring I ever heard, and those old recordings are theatrically exciting as well as musically so - I was thrilled by them.

#38 papeetepatrick

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 05:54 PM

Thanks for the reference. I took a look: the wiki entry does not really say that Benjamin is anti-film--actually it makes him sound somewhat anti-aura, i.e. critical of traditional (notions of) art--but...uh...I don't suppose either of us view Wikipedia as a final authority in these matters and Wikipedia itself heads this entry up with a note saying it may not meet its own standards...


Some of these interpretations have some validity, Drew, but just to say about 'anti-aura': I think not, not really, insofar as he is talking about art apart from how it might be part of ideology, because clearly tbinks that 'loss of aura' has weakened art. The same can be found in Heidegger, when he talks about Greek statues of gods, in which he describes the statue itself as being the god. I remember being struck by that. What's important, without continuing to debate this, is that that phrase 'aura of the bad cult of the film star' was a kind of 'cheap aura' by comparison to the kind of aura more culturally immanent works once had. I often think of that phrase, because we certainly don't even have that particular 'bad aura' anymore. We still call them 'movie stars', but they are something else by now. So that what Quiggin said about recorded music 'losing its very soul', even though I don't personally think it myself to quite that degree, is valid to some degree, in that it's degraded from the aliveness of living art with a living audience, etc. Obviously the more 'aura' a work of art has, the more powerful, not the less, unless one is looking for a political or ideological 'use for art'. I need to reread the essay, it's been about 10 years.

Here's an excerpt from the actual essay which may shed some light on what i was foccusing on, at least:

'The situations into which the product of mechanical reproduction can be brought may not touch the actual work of art, yet the quality of its presence is always depreciated. This holds not only for the art work but also, for instance, for a landscape which passes in review before the spectator in a movie. In the case of the art object, a most sensitive nucleus namely, its authenticity is interfered with whereas no natural object is vulnerable on that score. The authenticity of a thing is the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced. Since the historical testimony rests on the authenticity, the former, too, is jeopardized by reproduction when substantive duration ceases to matter. And what is really jeopardized when the historical testimony is affected is the authority of the object.'

#39 dirac

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 06:04 PM

So that what Quiggin said about recorded music 'losing its very soul', even though I don't personally think it myself to quite that degree, is valid to some degree, in that it's degraded from the aliveness of living art with a living audience, etc.


Respectfully, Patrick, isn't 'degraded' a little harsh? It's true that recordings generally are made for music that was originally intended for a live audience, but I would hesitate to call a carefully crafted recording with a great cast made with attention and care for the music a degradation of that music - on the contrary.

#40 papeetepatrick

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 06:07 PM

So that what Quiggin said about recorded music 'losing its very soul', even though I don't personally think it myself to quite that degree, is valid to some degree, in that it's degraded from the aliveness of living art with a living audience, etc.


Respectfully, Patrick, isn't 'degraded' a little harsh? It's true that recordings generally are made for music that was originally intended for a live audience, but I would hesitate to call a carefully crafted recording with a great cast made with attention and care for the music a degradation of that music - on the contrary.


Dirac, I was just going along with what Quiggin said about 'losing its very soul'. I don't think it's 'degraded' myself (Benjamin uses 'depreciation', although that doesn't mean it's true either), no, just 'somewhat less' that a live performance (in important ways to most of us, although not those who think, perhaps, that technology improves everything, which is probably no one at BT), just as DVD's of ballet are less than live performance.

Edited to add: In my post #32, I think I say it more clearly.

#41 SanderO

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 07:00 PM

Recordings made in front of live audiences seem to have a different quality than mastered studio ones. It's not the same as "being there" when it was performed, but it seems to be have a more personal feel than one made in a studio setting.

#42 papeetepatrick

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Posted 14 October 2009 - 07:04 PM

Recordings made in front of live audiences seem to have a different quality than mastered studio ones. It's not the same as "being there" when it was performed, but it seems to be have a more personal feel than one made in a studio setting.


Good point, agree, because that's the form that's 'in-between'. I think it seems to work better with just music than with opera or ballet, because live performances of opera and ballet filmed really make you want more, I find them less satisfying than recorded music, and would like to know if others feel the same. Actually, I find a recording of a 'live orchestra performance' to make me almost feel there, which I never feel with the others, but this may just be subjective, not sure. I think, though, it's because you really DO still have the full sound-world, whereas when the emphasis is on the visual and spectacle as well, you have substantially less of that when filmed.

#43 SanderO

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 04:01 AM

Fageddaboutit with recording ballet. It just is not the same experience at all. YUCK

I was not thrilled with the idea of recorded opera but finally dragged my butt to see a MET HD broadcast of Lucia and found it quite enjoyable. It was like being in the house, but it seemed to be an advancement in recording opera and I don't think this was all attributable to the HD aspect.

Since Met Opera tix are very expensive unless you go nose bleed or wait for all day for rush tix, you can use the HD showings to preview an opera / production you might want to fork over the cash for. If that were possible timing wise I might use this approach. I am not terribly thrilled by the live radio broadcasts from the Met, because I am usually only able to have them on in the background as I go about my biz, with all sorts of interruptions. Not only does this not do justice to the performers, but it turns this effort into almost elevator music in the background. I like to focus my listening with little distractions and that hard to do on a weekend afternoon except on my boat.

#44 PeggyR

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 06:02 AM

Since Met Opera tix are very expensive unless you go nose bleed or wait for all day for rush tix, you can use the HD showings to preview an opera / production you might want to fork over the cash for.

That's a good point, but it's only applicable to people who live in the area, and who could ever hope to fork over hundreds of dollars for a ticket (not everyone can, no matter how devoted to opera they are).

The fact that these broadcasts are available nationwide, in places that may get little or no opera, or opera rarely of the quality the Met can (but maybe doesn't always) provide is, I think, the main advantage. And it's great that the controversy over this Tosca doesn't seem to have hurt the broadcast sales in the least (added encore performances) is encouraging.

Edited to add: Sorry, I thought this was the Tosca thread. Well, it's 7 am and I'm not quite awake...

#45 Helene

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 07:12 AM

PeggyR, it's not the early time, it's that the thread has gone adrift.


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