Opera short takes

I have not recently been providing any opera musings. This is not because I have not been watching them. During this period, I watched Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, Verdi’s Tosca, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, and Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman. But I did not write about them because none of them really enthused me enough to write about them at any length, so here are a few short impressions of them all.

Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte was the biggest disappointment because Mozart was my gateway to appreciating classical music, followed by Beethoven. But I had only heard his non-operatic output, especially his symphonies many of which I love, and had never heard his operas. This story was a comedy, a form that I have already said in the context of The Barber of Seville does not work for me when it comes to operas. The director had made an interesting choice to set the opera in a Coney Island amusement park around World War II with a supporting cast of sideshow artists but the whole thing seemed gimmicky and left me cold. The other comedy Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier was better, mainly because of the buffoonish villain’s role, and that part was sung and acted well. With comedy, the acting has to be really first rate to carry it off.

While I seem to find dramatic operas to be more to my taste, I found Tosca to be a little too dark. Madama Butterfly also did not particularly grab me.

The Tales of Hoffman was a little weird but a highlight is the beginning of Act III that features the hauntingly beautiful Barcarolle. Here it is sung by mezzo-soprano Elina Garanča and soprano Anna Netrebko, both major stars of the operatic world. It is fantastic. I cannot think of anything more beautiful.

There is a purely orchestral version of this aria that I have chosen to be my phone alarm because I hate being jerked awake by a jarring sound. This music, with its quiet, gentle, melodic opening that gets steadily louder is the kind of music that eases you gently into the morning. Sometimes I lie in bed and listen to the whole thing. You cannot help but wake up in a good mood.

This tune may be familiar to some because it was used to create a popular ballad around the 1960s called Please Don’t Go.


  1. says

    The flower dance from Lakhmé is featured as the seduction scene music in The Hunger. I searched for it for years. That and Orff’s Carmina Burana (Excalibur) also Schubert’s Trio op100 features in The Hunger. That is some hypnotic material.

  2. mnb0 says

    “I cannot think of anything more beautiful.”
    Wow. Our tastes definitely differ enormously.
    In terms of sheer beauty Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, Tchaikovsky’s Second Movement of the Manfred Symphony, Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata and Roslavets’ Watlz, the first movement of Three Dances all are vastly superior. Those are just the first four ones that I thought of.

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