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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    I understand your distinction. To split theoretical hairs, though, I would question the idea of interpreting the work "yourself," since that self is a product of social conditioning and learned interpretive strategies. Otherwise Picasso or Joyce would be simply unintelligible (well, maybe Joyce is anyway).
    Actually, I agree. As mentioned, I think that conductors interpret based on the currents of the day--which is to say what you have referred to as social conditioning and learned interpretive strategies. Clearly the currents of the day also affect the audience's own direct interpretation. In visual arts, an example is the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Certainly the French public's view of art charged in the 19th century and what was interpreted as the art to aspire to later became the art of stagnation for this reason.

    But I don't think this invalidates my point. It is one thing to have things interpreted by me directly with my own foundation of learned strategies and biases, it's another thing to add additional layers of interpretation by people whose strategies and biases I may not agree with. It's sort of like the difference between reading War and Peace in Russian (and French) as Tolstoy wrote it, and reading a translation of this work in into English by a translator who has his/her own goals and thoughts about what makes for a good translation of Tolstoy. My view of the original work will certainly be colored in the latter case by the biases of the translator, in addition to my own biases/framework.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    I agree, but would add once again that music is not unique in this respect. The same is true for drama and film, which also require the work of such aesthetic mediators (film typically employs an army of them).
    This brings up the point of what is the work of art. Is the work of art the score and stage directions for Parsifal as composed by Wagner? Or is the actual performance of Parsifal directed by Wieland Wagner, conducted by Knappertsbusch, with their cast of Varnay et al. the real work of art? Or are both different works of art in their own right? And if both of these are different works of art, then what is the big deal about Regieoper as the director's interpretation and "instantiation" of this work is simply another work of art in its own right?
    Last edited by tyroneslothrop; July 13th, 2013 at 11:26 PM.
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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    Actually, I agree. As mentioned, I think that conductors interpret based on the currents of the day--which is to say what you have referred to as social conditioning and learned interpretive strategies. Clearly the currents of the day also affect the audiences own direct interpretation. In visual arts, an example is the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Certainly the French public's view of art charged in the 19th century and what was interpreted as the art to aspire to later became art of stagnation for this reason.

    But I don't think this invalidates my point. It is one thing to have things interpreted by me directly with my own foundation of learned strategies and biases, it's another thing to add additional layers of interpretation by people whose strategies and biases I may not agree with. It's sort of like the difference between reading War and Peace in Russian (and French) as Tolstoy wrote it, and a translation of this work in English by a translator who has his/her own goals and thoughts about what makes for a good translation of Tolstoy. My view of the original work will certainly be colored in the latter case by the biases of the translator, in addition to my own biases/framework.
    I'm good with that.

    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    This brings up the point of what is the work of art. Is the work of art the score and stage directions for Parsifal as composed by Wagner? Or is the actual performance of Parsifal directed by Wieland Wagner, conducted by Knappertsbusch, with their cast of Varnay et al. the real work of art? Or are both different works of art in their own right? And if both of these are different works of art, then what is the big deal about Regieoper as the director's interpretation and "instantiation" of this work is simply another work of art in its own right?
    I like that notion, and following your lead I might extend the boundaries of the work of art even further, depending on the particular interest or interpretive project of the reader/viewer/listener.

    You can limit yourself to a rigid New Critical examination of "the text itself" (a phrase I would maintain is, strictly speaking, meaningless, but whatever); or you can widen your focus to include the author's biography, stated intentions, and creative process; or you can take a still broader view that examines the social, political, intellectual, etc. currents of the era from which the work emerged. To my way of thinking, such pursuits are not simply "interpretation," but can be part of the aesthetic experience.

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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    You can limit yourself to a rigid New Critical examination of "the text itself" (a phrase I would maintain is, strictly speaking, meaningless, but whatever); or you can widen your focus to include the author's biography, stated intentions, and creative process; or you can take a still broader view that examines the social, political, intellectual, etc. currents of the era from which the work emerged.
    Which amusingly enough has brought us back (in the case of opera) to our current book of the opera book study group and its introduction!
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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    Which amusingly enough has brought us back (in the case of opera) to our current book of the opera book study group and its introduction!
    By the way what is going on that everybody stopped posting on the book club thread?
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    By the way what is going on that everybody stopped posting on the book club thread?
    Got busy at work <---- excuse

    Reading, reading
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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    “The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.”
    ― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    Good for him! Good news! Way to go, Placido, I wish you more years of your phenomenal career (singing, please; no conducting...)
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    OK, now, finally, a review frankly favorable to Angela (this one, written by a woman):

    http://www.operatoday.com/content/20...a_gheorghi.php
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    “The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.”
    ― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    “The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.”
    ― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    “The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.”
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    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    “The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.”
    ― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    If you take a broader historical perspective, you might say the pendulum has started to swing the other way, after decades of opera singers getting older.

    In an earlier era, before the advent of extensive conservatory training, singers might establish their careers at a very young age indeed. The great Maria Malibran first performed opera in Rossini's The Barber of Seville at 17; her meteoric career all took place before her death at 28. Her sister, Pauline Viardot, debuted in the same composer's Otello at the age of 18. Granted, they had a domineering, driving father pushing them at an early age, but the trajectory of their careers was not all that unusual for the time.

    Of course, this was before the age of Wagner, Verdi, and verismo. Vocal demands gradually became more strenuous, so it is fitting that singers now spend more years in training before tackling the big roles. Maybe the current trend toward youth is indeed ill-advised.

    Still, it's worth remembering that the phenomenon of very young opera singers is not without historical precedent.

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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    What are you disagreeing with? None of what you said above is in contradiction with what I said or implied. Yes, you are right about what you are saying, but my points are not in opposition with your points. Sure, there is no absolute right or wrong approach and different approaches can yield equally compelling results. But there is such a thing as making a mess of it all and incurring in blatant errors and stylistic improprieties. More important than what approach is used, is the ability to make of it a coherent and harmonic whole. So, a given opera can work very well in a slower tempo, and can also work very well in a faster tempo. But the same opera can also work terribly in a smaller tempo, and terribly in a faster tempo, if the conductor doesn't do either very well or very consistently.

    I said that the conductor has the liberty to make choices - for example, regarding dynamic markings, and appogiatura, and cuts. I didn't say that all performances need to be exactly the same and that there is only one way to conduct the piece. But some conductors will make smart choices, while others won't. Just by my mentioning choices, it is clear that I don't think there is only one way to conduct a piece. I also did mention that the conductor will often weigh on matters such as different versions in a critical edition, regarding tradition versus a different reading, etc., which does imply that operas have been conducted differently in different eras - I didn't ignore this part, I actually mentioned it with all letters. But sometimes the choices made work well, while at other times, they don't.

    This said, I did give specific examples. So, if you get Casta Diva and makes of it a super-fast thing, yes, you *can* (and most times, will) ruin it. But this is a punctual example, it doesn't apply to the entirety of a score. And it's often the extremes that are bothersome. If you get a fast-paced Rossini opera buffa full of crescendi and patter song parts, and give it to a sloooooooow conductor, he may very well make of it a boring, un-funny piece. But of course, if he does it within certain limits that are not extreme, it will be a matter of interpretation, which is one of the main aspects of the art of conducting.

    Maybe, to make my take clearer, I should have placed the word "*too* slow" in-between asterisks, to imply that I'm talking about the extreme case, when it does become bothersome. Can you imagine a patter song being conducted so slowly that the whole point of the patter gets lost? Yes, some absolutes do exist. That would indeed be a mistake, regardless of stylistic considerations.
    Thanks, Luiz, for helping illustrate how to listen to a musical performance. Perhaps my problem, in part, is a matter of language - knowing how to describe what one has heard/liked/disliked.

    For example, I've seen two Ring cycles in the last year. Folks I was with who attended the Munich performances were initially skeptical of Kent Nagano as a Wagner conductor/interpreter. The overall effect of the operas and his conducting was stunning. The owner of the tour group I was with, who has seen some 15 or 16 Rings, said it was the best he had seen. I was blown away by both the individual performances and the sum of the 4 operas, but wasn't sure whether it was Nagano's conducting, the superb quality of the singing, the production - or whether it was the intended effect of Wagner himself in composing the Ring (in hindsight, all of the above).

    Then, when comparing Munich last July with the Berlin Ring in April, where I came away largely dissatisfied, the question is why? I hesitate in saying that Barenboim's conducting seemed lackluster to me - I mean, who am I? He's Barenboim, the great Wagner interpreter, after all, and I'm an amateur. The 4 operas included some out of this world stunningly beautiful, thrilling singing, but the Ring began with a rather tedious Das Rheingold - including an out of sorts horn section missing notes in the finale, but then - Waltraud Meier in Walküre! (I would happily listen to her singing the phone book!). However, at the end of Walküre's third act, when Brunnhilde is surrounded by fire, the scene was staged with Brunnhilde on a raised catafalque with a dozen or so red lamps dropped from the flies - she looked like an entree! But then there was a wonderfully staged and sung Siegfried. I discussed my unhappiness with Götterdämmerung in my review, so maybe it was the uneven production. But, to me, the orchestra was not remotely satisfying - the Munich Ring gave me chills down the spine at its conclusion and I was so delirious I could have sat through it all over again - in total, that evening! Berlin, meh! I also should add, that this is less about complaining than in trying to figure out what made me unhappy. After all, I had good company, I was in Berlin, the food was great and, forgive me, the beer was even better! I had a great trip.

    But, am I right - could it have been Barenboim's conducting, which seemed to me like he was phoning it in? Yes, the flawed finale in Rheingold was off-putting, but there were so many wonderful moments yet to come, and I was thrilled and delighted after the love duet in Walküre, Act I. I suppose it was the combination of the really flawed dramatic reconciliation at the end of Götterdämmerung with so-so conducting/orchestral playing.

    However, it's hard for me to point to specifically why/how the orchestra and conducting seemed so underwhelming. I know that there's nothing for anyone to say without having been there, but it's trying to figure out the difference between the two Rings that has me so puzzled.

  18. #825
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Well, Hoffmann, indeed I'll have to say that it is difficult to sort it out without being there. And furthermore, while I love Wagner above all, one of the reasons why I don't post much about his music is that I don't feel qualified. Most likely you'll be a much better judge than I could be, even if I were there. I think I can discern good conducting in bel canto, Verdi, Rossini, etc., but would have more trouble with Wagner. Don't underestimate yourself. Regardless of Maestro Barenboim's big name, maybe he was having a time off of sorts and the performance indeed wasn't good. Most likely, if you, an experienced music lover with extensive exposure to Wagner, felt that the performance was "meh" it's because it indeed was "meh."
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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