• OTF - Maskarade by Carl Nielsen

    This is a great time of year: Valentine’s Day is coming soon, and there are a number of festivals all over the world (here in Ottawa, Quebec City, and let’s not forget Mardi Gras and the Carnival in Rio in a few days.

    Seems appropriate then to listen to a comic opera involving some of those great elements: love, fun and general reveling in the context of an evening of dancing, encounters and the topsy-turvy world of a masquerade ball.

    The masquerade isn’t a unique theme: think of Johann StraussFledermahttp://archive.org/details/MaskaradeFs39ByCarlNielsen
    us, Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera and this gem of an opera from Denmark’s Carl Nielsen, Maskarade.

    This Nielsen opera is more aligned with the shenanigans of Strauss’ tale than Verdi’s murderous plot . The masquerade of the title is a place where the characters can leave behind the oppressed lives they lead in a rigid society; it represents liberty and the Enlightenment, and even more, perhaps, a sense of joie de vivre in a land where weather (and duty) is often cold and gloomy. Not surprisingly, Maskarade has become the Danish national opera.

    Carl Nielsen, a contemporary of other Scandinavian composers like Grieg of Norway and Sibelius of Finland is in my view the most avant-garde composer of the three. As a composer, he wears his heart on his sleeve: his symphonies, in particular his second, fourth and fifth, are studies in human nature and perseverance against life’s great challenges. It is somewhat fitting that Nielsen didn't consider Maskarade to be his best work - he often deplored that the last two acts lacked polish and cohesion. Yet, the overture and the short dance sequence simply known as “the dance of the cockerels” of the third act are both effervescent and tender. Here is the dance sequence:



    Any opera lover worth his or her salt will see right through the plot of this opera: Leander is something of a party animal, which displeases his father Jeronimus to no end. Jeronimus has struck a gentleman’s agreement with Leonard (a well-to-do Copenhagen resident) that Leander will marry Leonard’s daughter Leonora. Leander, meanwhile, has met a wonderful girl at a masquerade ball, and is determined to marry her and not Leonora (whom he’s not formally met). At Leonard’s house, the mirror-image of the story is revealed. Now, one has to wonder who it is that both of these young people have met – as if you don’t know, but why spoil the antics that will invariably ensue…

    The action culminates at another masked ball, this time it is well-attended: Jeronimus and his wife, Leonard, a trio of servants… You get the picture!

    And, it goes without saying, the outcome of all of this not only proves that stars do indeed align, but that sometimes even in Opera, there can be a happy ending!

    The Performance



    Carl August NIELSEN (1865 – 1931)
    Maskarade, FS 39. (1904–06)
    Comic opera in three acts
    libretto by V. Andersen after the play by Holberg.


    Jeronimus, a citizen of Copenhagen - Aage Haugland
    Magdelone, his wife - Susanne Resmark
    Leander, their son - Gert Henning-Jensen
    Henrik, Leander's valet - Boje Skovhus
    Arv, Jeronimus' servant - Michael Kristensen
    Leonard, a citizen of Slagelse - Kurt Ravn
    Leonora, his daughter - Henriette Bonde-Hansen
    Pernille, Leonora's maid - Marianne Rorholm


    Danish National Radio Choir, Danish National Radio Symphony
    Conductor: Ulf Schirmer

    Opera Synopsis: http://books.google.ca/books?id=bLDa...ed=0CGsQ6AEwBw

    Performance @ Internet Archive: http://archive.org/details/MaskaradeFs39ByCarlNielsen

    February 8 2013, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "A Montage of Second… Symphonies" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel. Read more February 8 on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: OTF - Maskarade by Carl Nielsen started by itywltmt View original post
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
      HarpsichordConcerto -
      I bought this DVD last month. Have not watched it yet.

    1. Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
      Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) -
      @HC: Beware of the stupid camera work. Otherwise, it's a good performance.
    1. Tardis's Avatar
      Tardis -
      Too many operas. Not enough time. <wistful sigh>
    1. Aksel's Avatar
      Aksel -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tardis View Post
      Too many operas. Not enough time.
      Maskarade is really worth it, though. An utterly lovely opera. Except the 2nd act which could do some revising. But even that act has some very, very good moments.
    1. Jephtha's Avatar
      Jephtha -
      Aksel, your continuing enthusiasm for this opera is inspiring. I am going to have to investigate it. When I was at conservatory I was privileged to take part in a performance of Nielsen's Wind Quintet, and an orchestra I was in performed the First Symphony, which is still one of my favorite works: absolutely magnificent.
    1. Tardis's Avatar
      Tardis -
      Oops, let me clarify.
      I was just saying that there are so many good operas to listen to and not enough hours of the day to listen to everything.
      I sampled itywltmt's links yesterday and thought the music was really lovely.

      Quote Originally Posted by Aksel View Post
      Maskarade is really worth it, though. An utterly lovely opera. Except the 2nd act which could do some revising. But even that act has some very, very good moments.
    1. Nervous Gentleman's Avatar
      Nervous Gentleman -
      A couple of years ago I added English subs to a wonderful 1986 telecast of Nielsen's "Saul and David."

      You can find it at Opera Lively here: http://operalively.com/forums/showth...ll=1#post17893

      There was also a Danish television broadcast of "Maskarade" that aired at around the same time. The cast was lead by Stig Fogh Andersen, who was magnificent as Jonathan in "Saul og David." I'd like eventually to add subtitles to this version, if I ever find the time. In the meanwhile, there are a couple of brief clips (in poor quality) at YouTube:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQ5A5ixfEtk
    1. Aksel's Avatar
      Aksel -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jephtha View Post
      Aksel, your continuing enthusiasm for this opera is inspiring. I am going to have to investigate it. When I was at conservatory I was privileged to take part in a performance of Nielsen's Wind Quintet, and an orchestra I was in performed the First Symphony, which is still one of my favorite works: absolutely magnificent.
      The wind quintet is a lot of fun! Some friends of mine played a while ago. The variations movement is such a great little piece of musical characterisation.
    1. Jephtha's Avatar
      Jephtha -
      Quote Originally Posted by Aksel View Post
      The wind quintet is a lot of fun! Some friends of mine played a while ago. The variations movement is such a great little piece of musical characterisation.
      When I first heard the quintet, prior to performing it, the variations movement was instantly my favorite. The hymn theme has a lovely poignancy without being at all sentimental, and you are right: the variations are wonderfully characterised. Some of them are quite funny!

      Aksel, if you don't yet know Nielsen's First Symphony, you owe it to yourself to give it a listen. It is not on the level of his mature works and is still quite Brahms-influenced, but it combines great sweep and power with a quirky approach to melody and instrumentation that I think is unique in the symphonic repertoire. There are some passages that to this day still make me weep, but like the quintet, without a hint of sentimentality. It is rather the harmonic progressions and the sense of a great lonesome voice that are so moving, at least to me.
    1. Aksel's Avatar
      Aksel -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jephtha View Post
      When I first heard the quintet, prior to performing it, the variations movement was instantly my favorite. The hymn theme has a lovely poignancy without being at all sentimental, and you are right: the variations are wonderfully characterised. Some of them are quite funny!
      Especially when you know about things like the relationship between the bassoonist and the clarinetist in the original quintet. They were always bickering, and the bassoonist always had to have the last word.

      And no, I haven't heard Nielsen's first symphony (love the fourth though). Will give it a listen! Nielsen's sense of melody is really rather unique.


      Oh, and just a slight quibble: While Grieg, Nielsen and Sibelius indeed were contemporaries, Nielsen and Sibelius were born over 20 years after Grieg. A more fitting contemporary Norwegian composer would be Johan Halvorsen (even though he's barely known outside of Norway).
    1. superhorn's Avatar
      superhorn -
      Though not well known to the general operagoing public, Maskarade is a gem of a comic opera ! It's one of the funniest, most exuberant, witty and joyous works in the operatic repertoire . Fortunately, it's starting to get the more of the recognition it deserves in recent years, with the superb Decca CD Da Capo live performances .
      I have the DVD , and don't mind the camera work . If you have not heard or seen Maskarade, get the DVD immediately ! You're in for a treat ! There are English subtitles, so don't worry about it being sung in the original Danish .
      Makarade deserves to be done by the Met . This would be cause for rejoicing, and I'm convinced the Met audience would love it !
    1. Aksel's Avatar
      Aksel -
      Quote Originally Posted by superhorn View Post
      Makarade deserves to be done by the Met . This would be cause for rejoicing, and I'm convinced the Met audience would love it !
      I agree. I think Alek Shrader would be a wonderful Leander as well!


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