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


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#46 papeetepatrick

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 07:56 AM

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


I apologize in advance.

#47 dirac

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 08:55 AM

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.


I do see what you mean, but for me a closer analogy to ballet on DVD is watching an orchestra perform on television and watching it live. Recordings are far better than that. Technology doesn't always improve everything, and then again sometimes it does help. :)

#48 bart

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 09:16 AM

There's still time and space to add to our "most beautiful five minutes in opera" theme. :)

One of the qualities that most of our choices share is that it is sung by the female voice, or is orchestral. (The duet from Otello involves male and female.)

Is there something about the female voice that tend more easiliy to fit into our conventional views of "the beautiful"? Our choices so far seem to express humanity, thoughtfulness, trying to understand, trying to accept: all qualities which we have grown up associating with the feminine influence. (No mad scenes mentioned so far as far as I can recall -- also no villainy, ambition, greed, or the desire to possess. :wink: )

Are there no such passages sung by men? One of my favorite arias in opera might qualify: Lensky's farewell just before the duel, from Eugene Onegin. A heart-breaking piece: but something holds me back from entering it in the "most beautiful" competition. I have no idea why. :)

(On the other hand, I can easily see how some might consider something like "Senza Mamma" (Suor Angelica) to be extremely beautiful, even while recognizing its sentimentality.)

#49 papeetepatrick

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 09:31 AM

bart--that just brings up something interesting to begin with. I think I do cherish female opera singers more than I do the men, which is not quite the same with ballet, which is about equal for me. I also like many more female movie stars than I do male ones, although not better than the male ones I do like, Cooper and Mitchum, Delon, Rosanno Brazzi, a few others.

Our choices so far seem to express humanity, thoughtfulness, trying to understand, trying to accept: all qualities which we have grown up associating with the feminine influence.


Well, I don't think mine do, although they probably ought to more. I just think about the sound, although 'humanity' is definitely one of the things Callas is just overcome with every time she sings 'Tosca', which I didn't mention yet. And I love any number of 'five minuteses' in Callas's best Toscas. With Flagstad, it's just the best voice I ever heard in the peak period, I get knocked out by it every time I hear the early recordings. I don't know about 'Sempre Libera', that's a bit courtesan, but still very human, I just love to hear if perfectly sung, it's pure champagne.

Well, I adore Cavaradossi in the early part of Act I, it is ravishing, so yes, there are beautiful men's things too. And in 'Meisteringser', there is Hans Sachs's gorgeous singing, but mainly Walther's conterst-winning song, and by the way, I must be senile, 'Meistersinger' is, if I have to choose one, my very favourite opera, and the Overture alone has enough 'five minuteses' of perfection in it to last me a long time, not to mention the whole opera. I LOVE this piece, because it's an opera about musicians of an era we wouldn't really know that much about if Wagner hadn't made it. And it's a happy Wagner opera. The Met production back in the mid-90s one of greatest things I've ever seen and heard. I also like a lot of 'Don Carlo' and also the corny things in 'Rigoletto' and 'Trovatore' when you've got a real virtuosos and ham to do them.

#50 Hans

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 09:59 AM

I would say my the most beautiful however many minutes are when Alfredo Kraus is singing.

#51 richard53dog

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 01:38 PM

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!

#52 PeggyR

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 05:58 AM

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?!

#53 Quiggin

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 10:55 AM

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.

#54 dirac

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 11:30 AM

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.

#55 richard53dog

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 01:43 PM

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.

#56 dirac

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 05:35 PM

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

#57 canbelto

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Posted 16 October 2009 - 10:20 PM

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.

#58 Ed Waffle

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 05:05 PM

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.



---

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.



#59 bart

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 05:42 PM

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.in...p...=71&t=30444

#60 dirac

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Posted 12 November 2009 - 07:57 PM

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.



---

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.



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


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