Monday, October 29, 2007

Recent listening: opera, opera, and more opera

Tosca (Giacomo Puccini) - Callas/Di Stefano/Gobbi/De Sabata

Turandot (Giacomo Puccini) - Nilsson/Tebaldi/Bjoerling/Tozzi/Leinsdorf

Cosi Fan Tutte (Mozart) - Te Kanawa/Murray/Hampson/Blochwitz/McLaughlin/Furlanetto/Levine

Rinaldo (Handel) - Bartoli/Daniels/Hogwood

Little Women (Mark Adamo)

Divas, Volume 2: 1909-1940 (Nimbus Records)

The Art of Arleen Auger (Koch International Classics)

Il tenero momento: Mozart & Gluck Arias - Susan Graham

David Daniels: Handel Opera Arias (Virgin Veritas/EMI)

Wagner: Operatic Scenes and Lieder - Kirsten Flagstad

Wolf Lieder - Bostridge/Pappano (EMI Classics)

One goal of my listening lately is to learn what the spectrum of soprano voices sound like, how they fit into fachs (voice/role categories), and figure out where my voice fits in the spectrum.

Another goal is to get familiar with a few works in the standard operatic literature, so that when someone on the New Classical Singer Forum mentions an aria, I can recognize what opera it's from, who wrote it, and what kind of voice sings it. This also comes in handy for researching and choosing new repertoire for myself.

I am fast losing my prejudice against opera. It's not all viking horns, bombastic voices, and tenors who sound like all the veins in their neck are standing out. There's a lot more diversity of sound and style within the opera genre than I realized. I can find operas that I enjoy listening to and singing parts of.

I think I'm also beginning to see why solo professional classical singers emphasize opera, as opposed to other forms of vocal music. Since it takes weeks to months to mount an opera production, which may then run for several weeks, and since singers get paid by the performance(? and per rehearsal?), it is the professional classical singer's bread-and-butter. And it is arguably the most demanding form of vocal music, in terms of technique, interpretive/acting ability, and definitely stamina--so if you can manage to do opera well, you can certainly handle concert/oratorio/song recitals. (Although art song has its own subtle nuances that challenge the singer and require mastery.) Also, once you learn a role for one production, you can audition it around and hopefully perform it at several other opera houses--a decent return on the time and effort invested.

The opera Little Women was pretty amazing. It is a modern opera, in English and written by an American in 1998. The musical idiom is a contemporary one, but not jarring or painful (at least to my ears :) - just some spicy dissonances and harmonic structures :) It's based on the book, but unlike the book, the focus is on the conflict between Jo and the passage of time/growing up. A heartrending portrayal; I could really relate.

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