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.
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Verdi’s Aida (2018)

I watched this streaming by the New York Metropolitan Opera company two nights ago and found it to be excellent.

Set in ancient Egypt, the story begins with Aida, an Ethiopian who had been captured in an earlier war between her country and Egypt, who is now a slave in the service of Amneris, the daughter of the pharaoh. She keeps secret from everyone that she is really the daughter of the Ethiopian king Amonasro. She and an Egyptian soldier Radames fall in love but then he is appointed commander of the Egyptian forces to challenge the Ethiopian forces who have regrouped and are invading Egypt. Aida is torn between her love for Radames and her desire to have her own nation not be defeated in war.
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Music nostalgia

One of the reasons we remember certain songs so fondly is because they kindle old memories, if not of specific events then of certain periods in our lives. There were plenty of songs that I enjoyed, especially in my teens and twenties when popular music played such a big part of my life. But one can never remember them at will though sometimes all it takes are the opening bars of a song to have the memory of that song come flooding back.

So I was delighted when I was sent this website called The Nostalgia Machine. Pick a year and then click on the ‘Hit Me’ button and it brings up some of the hit songs from that year. I just randomly chose 1967 and I found so many songs that I used to love that I had forgotten, such as Something Stupid by Frank and Nancy Sinatra.
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Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers (2017)

I watched this 2017 production by the New York City Metropolitan Opera company two nights ago and really enjoyed it. I thought that it was a superb production, well sung. I learned that the only other time that the New York Met had put on this little-performed opera was way back in 1918 featuring opera legend Enrico Caruso.

The story is set in a pearl diving fishing village in ancient Sri Lanka, though this production had people in modern dress, seemingly in the 1950s. It tells of two close friends Zurga and Nadir who both fall in love with the same woman Leila. They agree to preserve their friendship by not pursuing her any further. She in turn becomes a priestess that requires a promise to keep her face veiled from everyone and remain a virgin. Leila later becomes the priestess of the village where Zurga is the leader but he does not recognize the veiled woman. But Zurga becomes intensely jealous when he discovers that Leila and Nadir had indeed secretly pursued their love before their earlier parting, and that on meeting again after she became a priestess in the village, they still loved each other. When it is discovered that they met secretly, it causes a major uproar.
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Andrew Lloyd Webber to stream his musicals for free

Andrew Lloyd Webber will be streaming, free-of charge, one of his musicals for 48 hours every weekend, starting each Friday night. The first one, currently streaming, is a 2000 production of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond, Joan Collins, and Richard Attenborough.

It will be available to watch on the YouTube channel The Show Must Go On for 48 hours, starting on Friday at 7pm GMT. The series will continue every Friday for the next few weeks.

Next weekend’s musical will be Lloyd Webber’s 2012 production of Jesus Christ Superstar, starring Tim Minchin, Mel C. and Chris Moyles.

(Note that the time given is GMT (or UTC), which is one hour earlier than the current daylight savings time in the UK.)

I am not a huge fan of Webber but I did love the 1973 film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. This was perhaps because his some-time lyricist Tim Rice did a superb job with the lyrics for that show. I don’t know how well this version will compare musically with that film. But I do know that Webber is immensely popular and so I pass this information on for those who like his work and would like to see more.

Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (2007)

The schedule of operas being streamed by the New York Metropolitan Opera company for the coming two weeks has been published. Yesterday I saw the 2007 production of The Barber of Seville. In the story of this opera, the title role is not that of the male romantic lead but rather of his wing man Figaro, who helps Count Almaviva win the heart of Rosina and help her escape the clutches of her much older guardian Dr. Bartolo who seeks to marry her.
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Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (2007)

Last night I watched this, the seventh of the series being streamed by the New York Metropolitan Opera, and I cannot say that I enjoyed it that much, nowhere near any of the five previous operas that I watched the past week.

Act I clocked in at 75 minutes, almost half of the total time and I found it really dragged. It featured a long solo by Tatiana as she writes a letter to her sister Olga’s fiancé Lenski’s friend Onegin whom she had just met and fallen immediately in love with, something that commonly happens in operas. But the jaded and cynical Onegin condescendingly scorns her love, saying that he would be bored by marriage, and returns the letter to her.
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Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (2009)

I had intended to skip this opera, the sixth in the series that the New York Metropolitan Opera is streaming for free, because I had never heard of it before but commenter enkidu recommended it as one of their favorite operas so I changed my mind and watched it yesterday and I am glad I did so. (Thanks, enkidu!) This opera does not have the show-stopping rousing arias that can be heard in Carmen or La Traviata which may be why it has not percolated as much into general public consciousness but the music is worth listening to nonetheless. There is a nice harp solo that kicks off Act II.
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