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Thread: What opera have you been listening to, lately?

          
   
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  1. #2701
    Senior Member Involved Member Nervous Gentleman's Avatar
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    Gustave Flaubert's classic historical romance "Salammb˘" inspired several operatic adaptations, perhaps the most notable being the rarely performed but absolutely essential adaptation by Camille du Locle with music by Ernest Reyer (composer of "Sigurd"). The opera, one of the grandest of French grand operas, successfully interweaves passages of savage ferocity (suggestive of the horrific violence unflinchingly depicted by Flaubert in detailing the Carthaginian war against barbarian mercenaries) and moments of lush, romantic exoticism. Salammb˘ is the nubile, eroticially-charged, python-adoring daughter of Hamilcar, a Carthaginian strongman, who selflessly makes use of her ample physical charms to wrest from barbarian control the sacred Zaimph, the divinely-wrought veil of the Punic goddess Tanit. The opera's centerpiece, that of Salammb˘'s dolling herself up and then discreetly visiting in his private tent the leader of the marauding mercenaries, Matho, is reminiscent of the story of Judith and Holofernes; only in this version the self-sacrificing Carthaginian maiden and disciple of Tanit falls hopelessly in love with her ravisher and refrains from seizing the opportunity afforded by their private rendezvous and cutting him down. While the libretto roughly follows the structure of the original novel (excluding the lengthy and remarkably detailed and vivid recreations of the successive battles and hardships), it adds the archetypal tragic ending in which the triumphant Salammb˘ opts to plunge a sword into her own bosom rather than strike down her imprisoned lover, the last of the defeated mercenaries.
    As in the case of many once celebrated but now unjustly neglected operas, there has never been a commercial recording made available of this exciting and enthralling masterpiece. There is, however, a radio broadcast in circulation among private collectors and grey market dealers of a superb and largely unexpurgated semi-staged performance in Marseilles from 2008, featuring the striking and husky-toned American mezzo Kate Aldrich, whose breathless and emotive delivery is just right for the role. Those who are are tired of the slavish veneration and repetition of the same old canonical works and composers should seek this one out.

    French-English libretto:

    http://imslp.org/wiki/Special:IMSLPD...rAccept/114893

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    EDIT: As this opera is not available commercially and it is difficult to locate a bootleg (nor do I wish to encourage anyone to patronize the grey market dealers, who tend to be unscrupulous crooks), I have uploaded to YouTube the entire 2008 performance referred to above. This recording is believed to be in the public domain.


  2. #2702
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Clayton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Revenant View Post
    I don't believe I've heard anything recorded in the San Carlo church, but I've found that in general it's a good idea to record in a church because they have excellent acoustics for recording, particularly ensemble pieces.
    The Cavina recording of L'Incoronazione di Poppea was recorded in the same church. Both are excellent recordings for acoustics.

  3. #2703
    Senior Member Involved Member Revenant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clayton View Post
    The Cavina recording of L'Incoronazione di Poppea was recorded in the same church. Both are excellent recordings for acoustics.
    Doh!! I received L'Inco recently but have not listened to it yet. I should've at least perused the credits more closely. Thanks. Now I guess I need a seventh L'Orfeo.
    Never try to teach a pig to sing. You will waste your time and you will annoy the pig.

  4. #2704
    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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  5. #2705
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
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    This is one of my favourite CDs ever. I remember the excitement when it was "rediscovered", buying my copy in the galleria in Milan, falling in love with the music, laughing so hard at Raimondi's "medaglie incomparabili"...
    Natalie

  6. #2706
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Love the music more every time I experience this, but I really can't come to terms with the story. Everyone does a fantastic job in this DVD. I am simultaneously in love with Peter Mattei, RenÚ Pape and der Jonas...



    ...and with Mark Padmore. And Handel.

    Natalie

  7. #2707
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post
    Love the music more every time I experience this, but I really can't come to terms with the story. Everyone does a fantastic job in this DVD. I am simultaneously in love with Peter Mattei, RenÚ Pape and der Jonas...
    I love Parsifal in part *because* one can't "come to terms" with the story. We meet a menagerie of tormented, conflicted, broken characters, in a quasi-Christian context of religious salvation at once both powerfully moving and deeply problematic. It's like Wagner working out his redemption through his own distorted lens--puzzling, sometimes frustrating, but endlessly fascinating.

    And yes, the music captures this ambiguity in all of its gorgeous, shifting colors.

  8. #2708
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post
    This is one of my favourite CDs ever. I remember the excitement when it was "rediscovered", buying my copy in the galleria in Milan, falling in love with the music, laughing so hard at Raimondi's "medaglie incomparabili"...


    When I walked through the galleria in 2010, I thought of you buying your copy of this.
    "Every theatre is an insane asylum, but an opera theatre is the ward for the incurables."

    FRANZ SCHALK, attributed, Losing the Plot in Opera: Myths and Secrets of the World's Great Operas

  9. #2709
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    I love Parsifal in part *because* one can't "come to terms" with the story. We meet a menagerie of tormented, conflicted, broken characters, in a quasi-Christian context of religious salvation at once both powerfully moving and deeply problematic. It's like Wagner working out his redemption through his own distorted lens--puzzling, sometimes frustrating, but endlessly fascinating.

    And yes, the music captures this ambiguity in all of its gorgeous, shifting colors.
    Yes, it simultaneously repels and attracts me. I like the idea of the tormented characters seeking some kind of outcome, and having really to find it in each other. I think it's the phrasing of this search in the "Christianity meets Schopenhauer" terms that repel me. It's too abstract, symbolic and alien for my humanist little self. I'm more at home in the Enlightenment.

    Luckily we are left with the music, and the singing, and the engagement of these particular interpreters.
    Natalie

  10. #2710
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post
    Yes, it simultaneously repels and attracts me. I like the idea of the tormented characters seeking some kind of outcome, and having really to find it in each other. I think it's the phrasing of this search in the "Christianity meets Schopenhauer" terms that repel me. It's too abstract, symbolic and alien for my humanist little self. I'm more at home in the Enlightenment.
    Interesting. I understand your objection, because I feel it myself--but in relation to Tristan, not Parsifal. *That's* the opera where I find myself attracted and repelled, the nihilistic longing for love-in-death going against my humanist sensibilities. On the other hand, Parsifal seems to me so much a world unto itself that I don't make such demands.

  11. #2711
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    Interesting. I understand your objection, because I feel it myself--but in relation to Tristan, not Parsifal. *That's* the opera where I find myself attracted and repelled, the nihilistic longing for love-in-death going against my humanist sensibilities. On the other hand, Parsifal seems to me so much a world unto itself that I don't make such demands.
    Well I feel that about Tristan too.

    The Ring is easier. I find the characters more recognisable as the sort of human I am.
    Natalie

  12. #2712
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post
    The Ring is easier. I find the characters more recognisable as the sort of human I am.
    Yes, Die WalkŘre in particular I find a very moving, human drama (gods, incest, and flying horses notwithstanding).

  13. #2713
    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Parsifal has never registered with me. The last production I saw, as I know I've mentioned in the past, was with Domingo - and it's hard to imagine seeing such a difficult piece better performed (but I haven't yet seen the Met/JK DVD, so..). I came away from that evening very happy.

    However, I think Natalie hit it right when she said that it's too abstract. There is something palpable in the way Wagner wielded allegory in his other operas that is spine-tinglingly satisfying - addictive, even, that eludes me in Parsifal.

    I don't listen to Tristan very often - it requires a lot of concentration, but the nihilism seems to me only a dark undertone - maybe more of a warning about the fate of ecstatic love - that is ultimately overwhelmed by the tragic love story.

    I'm not even sure how to fit the Ring into this context. T&I leaves me in awe; Die WalkŘre in tears. Not many - if any - composers succeed in eliciting those emotions from me.

  14. #2714
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    I don't listen to Tristan very often - it requires a lot of concentration, but the nihilism seems to me only a dark undertone - maybe more of a warning about the fate of ecstatic love - that is ultimately overwhelmed by the tragic love story.
    But I would argue (along with the late Joseph Kerman) that Tristan und Isolde is *not* a tragic love story. In the end, the lovers get what they want--Tristan tears away his own bandages so he can die in Isolde's arms, and Isolde expires amidst an ecstatic vision of her beloved. So the longing for death, more than just an undertone, becomes the motivating force and ultimate culmination of the drama. That's why I too can watch and listen to Tristan with awe, but always from a certain emotional distance.

  15. #2715
    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    I can't really argue with that - you probably are right - German literature is thick with symbolism, but it seems to me an intellectual deconstruction that, while Schopenhauer may have influenced Wagner when he was composing T&I, hasn't been the focus of any of the staged productions I've seen (I've seen 4 or 5) - the day and night allusions as contrasting with life and death seem to be accurate, but they are a subtext to the extraordinary love duet in the second act, culminating in the Liebestod in the third. When I'm sitting in the opera house, listening to the passionate score, the philosophical discussion isn't what I'm thinking - albeit the undertones may be a critical link in why the opera has the effect that it does.

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