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

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#61 Paul Parish

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Posted 13 November 2009 - 12:59 AM

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.

#62 Paul Parish

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Posted 13 November 2009 - 01:04 AM

"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.

#63 Balanchinomane


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Posted 13 November 2009 - 04:07 AM

I love Delibes flower duet from Lakme.
A beautiful way to start off a stormy Friday the 13th...


#64 volcanohunter


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Posted 13 November 2009 - 01:12 PM

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.

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.

#65 cubanmiamiboy


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Posted 10 February 2014 - 04:58 PM

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


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