Puccini’s classic opera, Madame Butterfly was the first live opera performance I ever attended. (A point of interest for those inclined to listen to a radio broadcast of Madame Butterfly, The Metropolitan Opera will play it on February 1st.) Follow this link to the MET opera live on the radio.
Prior to seeing opera live, I would frequently listen to the weekly radio broadcast. I always enjoyed the body of knowledge associated with each opera; the history, the composer, the performers and of course the music and libretto. I was amazed at the wealth of information shared by those panelists on the Q&A period at intermission. Clearly, the critics and commentators involved possess a strong understanding of history, an exceptional command of the English language and often 1 or 2 other languages. They are all very well versed in the classics including mythology.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work for the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall and for Pacific Northwest Ballet and Seattle Opera at McHaw Hall. Working these venues allowed me to occasionally sit in for segments of the performance. In addition, there were great discounts on tickets for family and friends. It was a nice gig. I had the chance to meet and speak with some of the performers. I was also able to compile a modest collection of music CD’s signed by various artists.
Some other great opera that I have seen, Carmen, by Georges Bizet is fun, vivacious and full of life! Mozart‘s, The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute….all great fun accompanied by great music! Another, darker story relived through opera is Giuseppe Verdi‘s, Rigoletto –one of my favorites! Tragedy, betrayal and death along with great music full of powerful emotion! These are all opera that I have seen in their entirety. I enjoyed all of them immensely.
Popular opera that I have worked and had a chance to slip in for an act — two more from Puccini‘s; Tosca and La Boheme, another Verdi, Aida and Rossini‘s, The Barber of Seville. I have a nice collection of discs with complete libretti and story explained for all of these opera and for the performances I have seen live. I really think that most of the great opera can offer the listener more each time he/she listens.
One masterwork by the great German composer, Richard Wagner, The Ring — Der Ring des Nibelungen is a story based on Norse mythology and has profund cultural meaning for many natives of northern Europe. The complete work is actually 4 opera to complete the cycle. It is huge! Powerful! Deep!
I purchased a box set of the four opera performances that comprise this tremendous opera. The set includes an 18 disc recording of Georg Solti conducting the Wiener Philharmoniker in Vienna, The complete libretto. All of it compiled into four books of notes, details and history related to this massive undertaking. I have yet to have the time to actually sit down and enjoy reading while listening to the opera. What I was turned on to in Seattle was the power of this opera. It is not the ordinary romantic drama of other European opera. The Ring puts forward profound cultural messages. I can remember there was one aria, in particular, that gripped me when I had a chance to hear it live. It was the heartbreaking part of the story when, Brunhilda is cast out of Heaven for disobeying the gods. The opera’s connection to mythology intrigued me and is another reason I invested in the set. I really must spend some time studying this work!
I recommend anyone who loves classical music to listen to some of the online and radio broadcasts as a way of introduction to the world of opera. Listen to the music and read the libretto as well as follow up the discussion at intermission or post performance. There is a world of information to learn.