Showing posts with label Opera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Opera. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

CANTONESE OPERA

Cantonese Opera exhibit at the Museum
Cantonese Opera exhibit at the Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Would I want to be a Cantonese opera singer? I attended a workshop at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and found the answer to that question. I learned there are 350 kinds of Chinese opera- each based on a different Chinese dialect. Cantonese opera is the genre most common in Hong Kong. The young woman who was our opera workshop instructor had been studying opera for five years. She told us she was only a beginner. It takes more than twenty years to become a really good performer. This explains why many 'opera stars' are over the age of fifty. Our guide taught us how to distinguish between male and female, and comic and tragic opera characters by their dress, make-up, voices and body movements.

After she had introduced us to the plot line of an opera we tiptoed into a theatre where an opera was in progress and watched it for about twenty minutes. The female character sang in a falsetto voice all the time. The singers didn't always seem to know where the tune of their song was leading them and the audience was talking throughout the performance. Later our guide told us there are no written or designated notes in Chinese opera scripts. 

Actors are provided with only a set of lyrics. The singers make up the tune as they go along. The tradition of female characters using a falsetto voice is an ancient tradition stemming from a time when only male performers were allowed on the stage. They used a falsetto voice to sound feminine. A Chinese opera is apparently performed as a tribute to the gods. Since the deities are the intended audience, the human audience can talk and even eat or play games like mahjong or chess while the opera is going on without insulting the performers.

The second part of our tour took us through a museum exhibit where we saw opera costumes. They are extremely ornate and very expensive to create. Our guide explained the thick face paint worn by characters. Evil villains wear mostly white make-up, while good heroes have predominantly red faces. The museum had a computer program set up that allowed you to put on the make-up and costume of a classic opera character. You chose a character, positioned your face on the computer screen and then waited for your face to appear in the costume and make-up of that character. I chose a Warrior Woman. I thought I looked quite stunning in my Cantonese opera persona and even took a photo of myself.



Although I thought I looked quite powerful and exotic in my costume I found out several things about Chinese opera singers during the workshop that would make me think twice about becoming one. Cantonese operas are between four and five hours long. Actors must memorize thousands of lines. Opera costumes weigh many pounds and female actresses wear narrow-toed, high-heeled shoes. Most performances are held outside in the humid heat. Although it was fun to learn more about Cantonese opera and even see how I would look like a Chinese opera singer, I don't think I'd like to be one.


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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

OPERA MUSIC: History, Evolution, and Rebirth

English: Photograph of the facade of the Metro...
Photograph of the facade of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, New York
 (Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
If you've ever attended an opera, chances are you were enchanted by the timeless allure and sense of sophistication of this beautiful style of music and performance.  It is truly amazing to reflect on the fact that this enduring genre has been going strong for over 400 years, and even enjoying a resurgence in popularity in the United States and abroad.

Opera's roots are firmly European.  The very first opera house, actually a theater designed to host opera performances, was built in Venice, Italy in the 1630's.  Composers of the day were mingling dramatic stories with music that ebbed and flowed.  Audiences clamored to experience this blend of music and literary art on stage, and thus opera was born.

In those years, singing and dancing were commonplace at most public gatherings.  Due to the size of crowds, strong powerful voices were recruited to perform certain singing parts, both male and female.  In time, singers were specifically trained for operatic performances, a practice that continues to this day.

As the 17th century dawned, the popularity of opera spread to other European countries, like France, Germany, and England.  Indeed, some of opera's most famous works come from composers not native to Italy, like Mozart, Richard Strauss, and Georges Bizet.

The Passion Blooms In The United States

As a land of immigrants, it is only natural that those coming to the United States brought along their skills and passions.  Certainly, this is clearly most evident in New York, where the Metropolitan Opera House opened in 1883.  Opera spread to other cities across the country, and audiences filled theaters nationally.  Later, well-known opera master like Enrico Caruso, Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti, and Giuseppe Di Stefano displayed their unique talents to a vast and appreciative American audience.

The Present Day

Opera continues to attract and enchant, witnessed by the fact that 135 opera companies operate in the United States today.  Recently, there has been a surge in opera's popularity, as these innovative companies reach out to those unfamiliar with this musical style.  An inclusive educational approach has taken hold and broken down some perceptions that opera is only for the elite.  Casual informative lectures, subtitles, and relaxed dress codes are just a few strategies opera companies use to attract attendees.

Most importantly, many of these same companies have developed training programs for young singers.  Many of these young artists are now performing and thriving in venues across the country.  It is hoped this continuing education approach will keep opera thriving and vibrant for generations to come.



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Great Moments In OPERA, Works of MOZART: “Cinque, Dieci, Venti, Trenta” The Opening Of Mozart’s Opera “Figaro”

English: An original poster for Wolfgang Amade...

An original poster for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera, The Marriage of Figaro
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The opera “Figaro” starts off with an aria which is explosive in its opening notes. It builds up to an enthusiastic first piece which is called “Cinque, Dieci, Venti, Trenta” (five, ten, twenty, thirty); these being the numbers which Figaro is using to measure a space in the room he hopes will be the one he and his wife to be; Susana will be sleeping in.

It is as Figaro is measuring a space for his wedding bed that his fiancée, Susana enters the room asking him to look at a hat which she has made for herself by saying “guarda un po mi caro Figaro, guarda un, guardo adesso il mio capello”, (take a look at my hat). The music at this point builds up as one can sense the almost ecstatic joy which Figaro and Susana feel knowing that they soon will be man and wife. It being as if they are in a climatic spiral, where things could not get any better than they already are; as they are on the threshold of the most wonderful thing the world has to offer.

Figaro, for his part, on the one hand, is glad that Susana has made herself such a lovely hat and that they will be getting married but on the other hand, is slightly annoyed that she will not let him concentrate on measuring the space in which he has planned to place what will be their wedding bed. Figaro, however, is won over by Susana’s near ecstasy, as he starts singing with her that her hat is indeed beautiful and all would appear to be made just for them in the sheer delight which surrounds them. It is in my opinion that this particular area captures almost to perfection the joy which most couples experience before they are about to get married as well as the general mood which encircles them before such an event.



From my point of view, I also find this opening piece to be the one which sets the tempo of the opera, not only musically but of the story and its eventual happy ending which goes through several moments of humor before Figaro and Susana; can be declared man and wife. Apart from liking this aria another reason why I have chosen to write about it is because the opera “Figaro” will be performed this year in Warsaw’s “Teatr Wielki” for the first time and it is with tremendous hope that I might be escorted by my Joannuszka Slisznuszka that I try to point out the magnificence of this particular piece. It is one of many classics in the opera “Figaro” which in fact is one of Mozart’s most successful operas along with “Don Giovanni” and “The Magic Flute”.

    My name is Gianni Truvianni, I am an author who writes with the simple aim of sharing his ideas, thoughts and so much more of what I am with those who are interested in perhaps reading something new. I also am the author of the book entitled “New York’s Opera Society”.

    Article Directory: Article Dashboard


Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Short History of OPERA

Queen of the NIght
Queen of the Night - Magic Flute - Photo   by   VilleHoo
Opera is an entertainment style involving combined with orchestral music and singers who perform with characteristic classical method top project their voice. Besides being trained in singing, the Opera performers are also trained in stagecraft.

Opera was invented by a group of actors the mid-1500s in the Italian city of Florence, they were actually performing classical Greek theater. In addition, these actors were noble men educated in Latin and Greek.

The music style played in original Greek plays was quite simple with only a handful of instrumentalists playing flute, drums and lyre.

Fuller instruments often had drowned out the voice of the performers leading actors to develop techniques for amplifying the voice. This helped the singers to sing their parts. Singing allowed performers to project their voices further during the renaissance time as it was changing from religious austerity to more creative endeavors.

This new style of theater was becoming popular by the end of the 16th century. New productions especially are written for singing with accompaniment started appearing. The De Medici family in Florence paid a composer Jacopo Peri for the very first opera entitled 'Dafne' in 1598 performed in their private court. Unluckily much of the score was lost but it still has a place in the history of opera.

After few years, opera spread from Florence to the rest of Italy, German Principalities, far west as England, north to the Austrian Empire, Spain and France. Florence and other great Italian cities like Venice, Rome and Milan dedicated opera houses started to be built and tickets for performances sold. Venice took the lead starting in 1637 eventually becoming the spiritual and cultural home of opera.

One of the fathers of opera, Claudio Monteverdi took the decision early in his operas to add short performances within his works that were designed to appeal to a wider audience. Ultimately these short pieces were dropped as the crowds started to appreciate full length opera without interruption.

The growing demand for opera created different schools of thought on the nature of opera. Some composers preferred complex subtexts and interwoven plots while others preferred a modest approach.

As opera productions generally told the story of love, many characters appearing on stage were of course meant to be women, but renaissance society frowned on female actors which led all actors being men. This situation encouraged castrated men from all over Europe and the Arab world to make their way into the theater.

The language of original operas was written in the Italian of the great cities such as Florence and Venice. However, Opera proved popular in other languages and has been able to transcend the language barrier to become popular elsewhere in Germany and France. In the 20th century, English operas became very popular.


English opera had developed wholly different directions after getting banned during Cromwell's reign. After the return of the monarchy, opera prospered again but opera buffa proved more popular which led to a clearly English style of opera humor.

European immigrants in the US brought the love of opera with them and passionate Americans adopted the opera quickly as their own. In New York, the Metropolitan Opera company in the 20th century was leading in the development of modern opera providing a base for modern opera to flourish.



Monday, September 3, 2018

Theater Arts – ITALIAN OPERA

Interior view of the Royal Italian Opera House...
Italian opera is the earliest known opera form. Although the Greek and Roman Theater had inspired it, it inspired many countries around the world, including most of Europe. Some say that the word opera has been derived from the Italian words “Opera in Musica” which means work in music. The evidence of the very first opera performed in Italy was at the wedding of Marie de Medici and Henry IV of France. The Italian opera had three stages namely the baroque, the romantic and the modern.

Baroque period is the name of that period of Italian opera that originated in Italy at the beginning of the 17th century. The voice used was very high pitched along with the instrumental music. This style was known as monody and was developed by Giulio Caccini and Jacopo Peri. It was reflected in the opera Euridice that was based on the story of Eurydice and Orpheus. When there were no dialogues during the performance, there were songs with music. This type of opera inspired many other writes, one of them was Claudio Monteverdi who wrote La Favola D’Orfeo that had the monody style. It was his first play and it still is famous with the audience today. Monteverdi worked hard on synchronizing instrumental music with the words and showed this effort in Mantua, with large choruses with nearly forty instruments that created a really good effect.  He was named as the Maestro Da Cappella in Venice in the year 1613.

The first opera house for the public was opened in the year 1637. Monteverdi wrote many compositions for this theater and his works L’Incoronazione di Poppae and I Ritomo d’Ullise in Patria were prominent out of the many. He even brought the Bel Canto and Buffa styles into Italian opera. Bel canto had a more even tone and eased the singing stress. Buffa had more comic touch with amusing and mocking elements. All these acted as the stepping-stone for many other later composers. At the end of the century, there were three hundred and fifty opera created for the theaters in Venice alone. Many young artists were inspired to work in these theaters and bring out their talents. People came from outside Italy too.


In the 19th century, romantic opera began to rise and Gioacchino Rossini was responsible for it. The romantic opera involved lots of emotions and imagination along with lots of music and arias. This music was so fine that it overshadowed the blunders in the stories. His composures such as La Cenerentola and Barber of Seville are famous till today. Many others such as Vincenzo Bellini, Giuseppe Verdi, and Gaetano Donizetti followed him.

Giuseppe Verdi changed the way opera was written at that time. Nabucco was his first work and it was a very big success because of the great choruses along with enormous liveliness in the music. He even wrote Va Pensiero, a chorus presentation to inspire the warriors at the time of Italian independence struggle. The works, which followed this had a more patriotic theme and were also based on older romantic works. He began to venture into different musical forms and finally his creation Otello replaced Rossini’s opera. His last work Falstaff finally changed the conventional form of theater and made music and words more free-flowing.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Great Moments In OPERA, Works Of MOZART: "La Ci Darem La Mano"

La Ci Darem La Mano

„Max Slevogt Don Giovannis Begegnung mit dem steinernen Gast“ von Max Slevogt - Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin.
Quelle: Wikipedia

Don Giovanni’s aria of seduction “La Ci Darem La Mano” from Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni”.

About the aria “La Ci Darem La Mano” is taken from Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni” which is based on Seville’s famous seducer “Don Juan”.

It being “Don Juan” or “Don Giovanni” who makes it his life’s goal to seduce as many ladies as possible regardless of any factor other than that they be of the opposite gender. It is in the first act of this two-act opera that Don Giovanni spots a lovely peasant girl by the name of Zerlina, whom his taste dictates he must introduce to the acts of sexuality.

This in spite of the fact, or perhaps motivated further by it that she is engaged to be married to a man by the name of Masetto. Don Giovanni, however, being one who is not deterred by such factors approaches the group in which Zerlina finds herself in at the time and offers the hospitality of his home so Masetto and her friends might take refreshment in his generosity; naturally while Don Giovanni himself keeps Zerlina in the private delight of his charm.


Masetto, however, is cautious of Don Giovanni and mentions that Zerlina cannot remain at a distance from his society; only to be told by Leporello that she is in the hands of a gentleman who will take over his role of protector of her in the most gallant of ways. This precisely what Masetto feared leads him to protest further yet only to be told by Don Giovanni that if she does not leave without further reply; his actions he will repent. It is then that Masetto accepts Zerlina’s decision to remain in the exclusive company of Don Giovanni and declares he has understood how his love for Zerlina will be his ruin.


 Once alone Don Giovanni declares that though Masetto is a man of gallantry, he is not appropriate for Zerlina, for she deserves more than the mere life of a peasant; as he himself wishes to take her to wife. This being that which captures Zerlina by surprise as she in confusion repeats his offer to which Don Giovanni confirms what her ears have taken in by offering his castle and all that is to be found in it in the ways of joy. Zerlina for her part is still wondering as to the sincerity of his offer as Don Giovanni begins his aria of seduction with the words “La Ci Darem La Mano”.

This meaning “let me take your hand” as he continues by adding that she will say yes. Zerlina still not sure converts this aria into a duet with thoughts expressed as “I want to but I do not want to, my heart shakes a little, I know I will be happy but I feel sorry for Masetto”. Don Giovanni, however, being of the ways of gentle persuasion continues his seduction by telling her he will change her lot in life. Zerlina at this point influenced not only by Don Giovanni’s words as well as caress becomes unsure as she claims again she wants to but does not want to, only to have Don Giovanni repeat he will change her lot as he urges her tenderly to go with him. Zerlina at this point no longer feels capable of refusing as she claims “non sono pui forte” (I am no longer strong) and joins Don Giovanni in a common cry of “andiam andiam a veri, a ristorar di veri, un inocente amor” (let’s go and consummate this innocent love).

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Don Giovanni has been successful at his attempt of seduction and sure that theirs will end in the ecstasy of passion takes Zerlina into his arms and kisses. Zerlina being more than willing to allow him to go on to her body as he will; for she will do likewise on to him. It, however, is as all was ready for Don Giovanni’s and Zerlina’s carnality that Dona Elvira (one of the many in Don Giovanni’s love life) appears and warns Zerlina not to give in to her seducer. This being advice which unfortunately for Don Giovanni, Zerlina heeds to as she and Dona Elvira take their leave of Don Giovanni and his ways.

 I, however for what concerns me would love to seduce the worship of my opera life, Angela Gheorghiu in the same fashion and though I can not sing; I most assuredly can create fantasy of delight that she might wish for ours to end in sexuality yet I, however, would not like for ours to be interrupted; as was the case with Don Giovanni and Zerlina.



Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Professional OPERA SINGER's Life - The Inside Story

Image from page 484 of "The grand opera singers of to-day : an account of the leading operatic stars who have sung during recent years, together with a sketch of the chief operatic enterprises" (1912)
Photo  by Internet Archive Book Images
The truth is that to "make it" as a professional opera singer involves a lot of studies, practice, and dedication and most professionals will not set foot on a stage until they have been training for at least 10 years.

Whether an opera singer is preparing for a live opera performance, opera gala, singing at a wedding, providing operatic entertainment for a corporate event or doing a Singing Waiter performance or 'gig' (as it is called in the profession), there is a lot of preparation that takes place beforehand in order for the performance to come across as effortless, stylish and enjoyable to an audience.

If an opera singer is singing in an opera, they often know well in advance what they will be performing, as well as when and where they are doing it. It can sometimes be as long as a year or more in advance of the performance that an opera singer will be offered a role. This gives them ample time to prepare for it; learning the music, the words (which can be in several different languages) researching the character, time period and anything else they need to do to feel polished and prepared.

However, sometimes it can be a completely different story. A singer might fall ill, and suddenly the singer gets a call asking if they can step in at short notice. This could happen months, weeks or even days in advance. Sometimes, it even happens on the day itself! Many well-known operatic names have got their "big break" this way.

When an opera singer performs in an Opera Gala, at a wedding, corporate event or Singing Waiter performance, it is much more usual to rehearse and perform on the day of the performance. Often they are very familiar with the repertoire, and sometimes they arrive and the first time they perform that particular programme is on that very day. When an opera singer does these one-off performances, it is much more likely they have had to step in at the last minute, so they have to constantly make sure that their sight reading is up to scratch!

Doing a job as a Singing Waiter is quite easy in some respects, as an opera singer doesn't need to worry about costumes as they are dressed as waiters. The same goes for Christmas carol singing, where they normally perform in traditional Christmas Carol outfits.

For corporate entertainment performances it can be anything; from Singing Waiters to full opera gala costume. At times a corporate entertainment performance will have a theme in the sense that the client wants a certain "look" whether it is traditional gala dresses or "Phantom of the Opera" theme. It all depends on what the client wants.

Whatever the occasion, rest assured that an audience will always be enthralled by their magical singing!



Monday, June 18, 2018

SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE - An Australian Landmark

Sydney Opera House viewed from the side
Sydney Opera House viewed from the side (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Australia is easily among the most popular tourist destinations around the world, offering travelers everything from a vast wilderness to explore, and wonderful modern cities teeming with culture. As a huge country that is sparsely populated yet is among the first ranks of the developed nations, Australia is a land of contrasts. The wilderness of the outback populated with dangerous and exotic animals is a sharp contrast to the cosmopolitan nature of cities like Sydney and Melbourne.

Sydney is home to over 4M people - a significant portion of Australia's population. It is a beautiful city with much to do and a lot to see. You could take weeks and still not fully explore this magnificent city, but there is at least one sight you just have to see.

That sight would be the Sydney Opera House. A landmark that is as famous and intrinsic to the city as New York's Statue of Liberty, the Opera House ranks constantly among the most photographed destinations in the world and is considered among the seven modern wonders. The Opera House was designed as an embodiment of Australia and all that Australians stand for - boldness, strength, passion and a lust for life. Its architecture, thoroughly unique and evocative, invokes these very same qualities.

What adds to its charm is its location. Situated at the edge of the Sydney Harbour, it offers a breathtaking view of Sydney and is a photographer's dream come true. At night, it lights up the entire coastline and is a sight to behold.

Once you are through admiring the architecture of the building, you may want to step inside to see some of the world's best opera singers perform live. As one of the premier opera houses in the world, it frequently stages some terrific productions.

Whatever you do, if you visit Australia, make sure that you at least catch a glimpse of the Sydney Opera House. It will bring out your inner talent for photography and give you memories worth cherishing a lifetime.



Tuesday, May 29, 2018

MESSIAH of HANDEL - An Example For the Charitable Engagement of an Artist in the 18th Century

Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel Deutsch: Ge...
Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel Photo credit: Wikipedia)
With his "Messiah" Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759) created his most widely acclaimed and most popular composition. No other oratorio has received so much general admiration. One of the reasons is certainly the amazing richness of content, the depth and variety of the musical expression and in the unprecedented grandness of the artistic creation.

Charles Jennens, a well-known art lover, compiled the textual part, which in itself is a masterpiece in form and construction, from quotations of the original, English text of the Bible. To what extent Handel himself was involved in the compilation is not documented but the influence on the lyrics' character is undeniable.

The storyline is developed along a line of images that depict the life, passion and the resurrection of the Saviour, who is announced in the Old Testament.

English: Portrait of Charles Jennens
Portrait of Charles Jennens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Assuming the actual content as known, it uses the names of the solo parts, marked only with the voice they are written in, and thus avoids the introduction of any real person that could lessen the sublime effect of the religious text.

According to his own words, Handel composed the music to the "Messiah" in London in only 24 days. He started August 22nd and finished on September 14th, 1741. As the oratorio was firstly composed for Dublin, it was adapted to rather modest conditions Handel had to meet there. The choirs were written for just four voices and the orchestra limited to a smaller range of instruments than was common in London.

After Handel's arrival in Dublin on November 18th, he organized twelve concerts within the next 5 months, and let the much-awaited new oratorio be announced in April, to be performed in support of three different charity institutions.


The final rehearsal taking place on April 8th, Handel himself conducted the first performance on April 13th, 1742 at the Dublin "New Music Hall". The success of the oratorio turned into a triumph for the composer. The first London performance took place in March 1743 at the Covent Garden theatre, after many changes and additions to the score. Handel organized during the years of 1749 to 1758 annual performances at Easter in support of a London orphanage, these were continued with undiminished success even after his death. The first German performance took place at a private concert in Hamburg in 1772.



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Theater Arts – History of OPERA

Interior of La Fenice opera house in Venice in...
Interior of La Fenice opera house in Venice in 1837. Venice was, along with Florence and Rome, one of the cradles of Italian opera. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the 1600s Opera started to flourish in Italy. French opera was popular for adding the element of dancing to opera other than the already existing elements such as singing and music. In Italian, opera means works and in Latin, it means the plural of labor. This means that there can be a duet, trio, and group singing. It also utilizes various aspects of the spoken theater, like costume and backdrop.

Greek was the first known theater artists especially people from Athens. Their theater plays included all the elements like acting, dialogues, singing, scene, dancing, chorus and music. This art was cultivated by different civilizations having few or all the elements. One of them was the opera. The western classical theater arts which involve conveyance through singing and dancing and not through dialogues is known as Opera. Composition by Jacopo Peri, Dafne, was written in 1597 and was the first known composition specifically meant for opera although it was inspired by Greek theater arts, it no longer exists. Euridice composition by Peri wrote in the 1600s was the first recorded composition which is available till this date.

The performances are most of the times accompanied by chorus and instrumental music. The libretto is the word in opera and there have been great composers who have written famous libretti like Richard Wagner. Handel was the famous German composer who wrote for theaters in England. Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte are famous for the great musical works which were played during the opera performances.

There are two types of singing in opera. The first is recitative in which the story is being narrated in a non-melodies style and the second is an area, where the performers were more melodious. Chorus is used as a commentator and sometimes as a narrator. Subcategories of recitative are secco or dry recitative and Accompagnato or stromentato in which orchestra accompanies the performance.  Opera can be further classified as a singspiel, operetta, semi-opera and opera comique. In these types of opera, dialogues are used on the contrary, instead of recitative. Arioso too is replaced by semi-melodic passages.

Opera started with court performances and then shifted to royal theaters. In 1637 this performance was open to the public when the idea of opera festival in Venice was brought up by Monteverdi. It was then known as Baroque opera which had a mixture of both the tragic and comic elements along with some education. This started a reform which was promoted by Venice’s Arcadian Academy. Metastasio was a part of this academy and his libertti became famous till the end of the eighteenth century in Italian opera. And this mixed with baroque opera was known as opera buffa.


The characteristic of Opera Seria is that it had a high tone along with secco kind of recitative. It was greatly liked due to it highly stylized form and the singers at that time were very popular and Opera Seria was in great demand all over Europe except France. The hero had the castrato voice such as Farinelli and Senesino and the heroines had the soprano’s voice such as Faustina Bordoni. Alessandro Scarlatti, Porpora, and Vivaldi were some of the great Opera Seria composers.

But Opera Seria had few loopholes. It concentrated more on drama and left music, singing, and ballet behind.  It was Francesco Algarotti who brought all these elements back with his composition Essay on the Opera. He was then followed by other great composers such as Niccolo Jommelli, Tommaso Traetta and the most successful, Gluck. He used a rich orchestra and vocal lines and brought a reform in Opera Seria.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

How To Get Into OPERA - From Wagner to Singing Waiters

English: Spanish opera singer Jose Mardones (1...
Spanish opera singer Jose Mardones (1869-1932) as Ramfis in "Aida" by Verdi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
HOW OPERA IS PERCEIVED

Opera has been performed in the UK since the 1700's but for many, it is stuck in the 18th century and is the pastime of the rich and snobby elite. Art forms like opera are shrouded in mystery and mystique.

However opera is still very popular and just like the past for numerous reasons - Escapism and a combination of things for people to enjoy - music, singing, acting, costumes - plus it can be a social event. Interest in opera is growing, especially among younger audiences.

Opera is one of the most all-encompassing art forms - there is more than enough to appeal to everyone. Anything that introduces a new audience to this wonderful art form they haven't encountered before is a fantastic opportunity.

WHAT IS OPERA ABOUT?

In opera, you can find the same emotions that we experience in our daily life (jealousy, impossible love, betrayal, friendship, love-duty conflict...) By identifying ourselves with the characters and the situations they go through, we can recognize in them part of our own being. In that sense, opera can be a means to better get to know ourselves.

The big emotional impact that it can trigger is what makes opera a source of such a powerful intense enjoyment that leads so many people in the world to fall in love with this great performing art.

WHICH OPERA SHOULD I CHOOSE TO SEE FOR MY FIRST TIME?

As there are over 2,500 operas that have been composed, our advice would be to start at the "shallow end" with going to see a popular opera that has a grand story and big tunes - Carmen by Bizet, Madam Butterfly by Puccini, The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart.

Before you go to a performance find out the story-line, listen to some of the famous arias in advance on a recording and you will appreciate the live performance so much more.

There are plenty of places to see opera from the more traditional - Opera houses to the more cutting-edge cinemas and even pubs (Cock Tavern/King's Head) if you are on a lower budget.
You'd be amazed how much opera you probably know already:

  • "Nessun Dorma" from Tosca by Puccini- made famous by the Luciano Pavarotti for the 1990 FIFA world cup - Hear Puccini's Nessun Dorma in the movies Chasing Liberty, Man on Fire, and Bend it like Beckham.
  • "Flower Duet" from Lakme by Delibes - made famous in fairly recent British Airways adverts - Hear Delibes's Flower Duet in the movies The American President, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, and Meet the Parents.
  • "Lascia Ch'io Pianga" - Rinaldo - Handel - the famous Harrods advertisement theme tune.
  • Renee Fleming singing Un Bel Di from Madam Butterfly in Fatal Attraction
  • Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walkure, Wagner - Featured in cartoons and movies, and everything in between, children and adults alike are very familiar with this piece. To many, Ride of the Valkyries represents the stereotypical large opera female festooned with braids, horned helmet, and metal breastplate with a spear in hand. Hear Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries in the movies Apocalypse Now, The Blues Brothers, and Full Metal Jacket.

If you want to hear and see a selection of the "very best opera arias" go to a popular opera gala. There is normally a sit-down meal and wine and it's a fantastic way to hear some of the best operatic repertoires whilst enjoying a delicious meal and it's an opportunity to hear and see professional opera singers live, up close.

English: Postcard - russian opera singers Vasi...
Postcard - Russian opera singers Vasily Vasiliev (Vasiliev the 2nd; 1837-1891), Melnikov, Yalmar Frei (born 1856) in opera "Pique Dame" by Tchaikovsky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another way to hear and see opera singers up close is to hire Singing Waiters and Waitresses to entertain and surprise your guests. They are very popular surprise entertainment at wedding receptions, corporate events and private parties.

THE MYTH OF FAT OPERA SINGERS

The picture in your head an image of an opera singer. Like many people, you may see the stereotype of a fat lady in an extravagant gown belting it out like there was no tomorrow. Why are opera singers fat? Or, to be more accurate, why is there such a stereotype about opera singers?

There are several theories attempting to explain why opera singers were often pleasingly plump. One holds that a large amount of fatty tissue surrounding the voice box (larynx) increases its resonance capability and thus produces a more pleasing sound. The amount of this fatty tissue varies from singer to singer. It is almost impossible to have a great deal of fatty tissue around the voice box without carrying a great deal of fatty tissue elsewhere on the body.

A second theory holds that opera singers need a far more powerful diaphragm than normal to be able to project their voice above the sound of a large orchestra in a large opera house. A large chest cavity and good control of the lungs will provide a suitable mass to help drive the diaphragm to some extent. A large body mass and a large body frame to support it help even more, so there is a huge advantage in being huge.

There are countless slim, attractive opera and classical singers, male and female. The "fat lady singing opera" is a stereotype. Just look up Anna Netrebko, Elina Garanca, Kate Royal to name just a few.



Sunday, April 1, 2018

Beijing Opera - History and Characters

Bejing Opera - Photo: Flickr
The Beijing Opera, with its distinctive Chinese opera masks, is one of China's most recognizable cultural icons. Combining Music, Dance, Theatre, and Martial Arts, it has existed for over 200 years portraying Historical Events and Literature with beauty, style, and dynamic performance. It is most prominent in Beijing, but almost every Province in China has some form of Opera theatre. With its elaborate costuming, complex musical orchestrations and seemingly limitless Make-up and Mask designs, the Beijing Opera is seeing revitalization in popularity with both young and mature audiences.

What is now called the Beijing Opera originally came from a combination of several sources. In about 1790, four great theatre troupes from Anhui came to perform for the Royal Family. They brought arias and melodies called Xi Pi. Around 1828, performers from Hubei came to the same area and staged combined shows adding their local pieces of music called Er Huang. These performances were for the Royals but soon were to become more mainstream during Emperor Qianlong's reign as well as support from the notorious Empress Dowager Ci Xi. During this time, thousands of pieces of repertoire were developed covering the historical events, classic novels and stories of China as well as revisions of Western stories.

There are four basic categories of characters in the Beijing Opera style.

· SHENG- The main Male actors in a performance. Either civil or military, there are several different aspects of training for the various lead male parts.

i. LAO SHENG- Senior Male roles, middle-aged man with a beard of black, grey or white. A soft or pleasant voice with dignity.

ii. XIAO SHENG- Junior male role or young man. No beard and a high sometimes shrill voice that may, on occasion, crack denoting immaturity and adolescence.

iii. WU SHENG- Acrobatic male roles or roles that require much activity. Military plays or civil plays that demand high standards of acrobatics. Performs the stylized martial arts fight scenes with sword or spear. Not usually trained as an opera singer.

iv. WAWA SHENG- Kids and children roles. DAN- Female roles of several categories.

i. QING YI ( Ch'ing I)- Lady of good character. Quiet gentle disposition. Graceful flowing movements in "water sleeves" costume. Elegant but not vivid. The singing voice is high pitched.

ii. HUA DAN ( Hua Tan)- Flirtatious young girl role. Usually not as high a social standing as Qing 
Yi. Coy and quick movements. A very difficult part to play. Attractive eye movements and continually changing facial expression. Vivid costume featuring handkerchief to flutter in her hand. Strong voice but more speaking than singing.

iii. GUI MEN DAN (Kuei Men Tan) - Young unmarried girl. This role may turn into Qing Yi or Hua Dan. Mischievous but not as much as Hua Dan. Immature reactions and movements.

iv. DAO MA DAN (Tao Ma Tan) - Female Warrior role. Trained for acting and singing but performs highly skillful martial movements often with a feathered headdress. Still a very feminine role. The now-famous role of Disney's "MULAN" was based on Hua Mulan who disguised herself as a man to prevent her father from being conscripted into the military. She served for 12 years during the SouthNorth Dynasty and was decorated as a national hero.

v. WU DAN (Wu Tan) - Female Acrobatic roles. Steps into any role that requires high acrobatic ability. Purely an acrobat but role can demand a talented actress to make for a successful performance.

vi. CAI DAN (Cai Tan) - Female Comedians. Serves to add relief to stressful scenes in serious plays. See also CHOU roles.

· JING- Painted face male roles. These parts are known more for courage and resourcefulness than for scholarly intelligence. Often a high-ranking general or warrior/official. Jing actors are usually extroverts. A robust, sometimes gruff, bass voice. Full of swagger and self-assurance. There are many common color schemes associated with Jing roles but some of the more common are easily recognizable.

v Red- Good character and virtuous person.

v White- Treacherous and guile

v Green-Lack of self-control, rash, stubbornness

v Black- Brusque character

v Blue- Wild perhaps a Robber

v Gold/Silver- Used only for Gods and Spirits

The facial painting patterns also give information about a character. There are hundreds of patterns and designs for many situations and roles.

There are 3 main types of Jing roles:

i. DONG-CHUI- (T'ung Ch'uei) Also know as Hei Tou (Black Face) this role is a good singer and usually a loyal General

ii. JIA ZI- (Chia Tze) - A very good actor for more complicated characters.

iii. WU JING- Fighting and acrobatics. Seldom plays a prominent role.

· CHOU- Comedy Roles. Dim but likable and amusing characters. Sometimes slightly wicked perhaps a rascal or a scholar/Prince who would not command much respect. There are two basic types of Chou roles:

i. WEN CHOU- Civilian roles.( Jailer, servant, merchant, scholar)

ii. WU CHOU- Minor Military roles but skilled in acrobatics

Of special mention should be the popular role of SUN WU KONG -The Monkey King.
This is a famous story of a Monks journey from China to India to collect scriptures to bring back to China... He is usually accompanied by a Pig for comedic effect, a not-so-learned monk to mediate the many quarrels and the Monkey King. This is played by a Wu Sheng actor. Known for the bent knees and an arms forward stance that imitate monkey movements. He has mastered Longevity, the 72 transformations of his physical body and can do somersaults in the clouds. Sun Wu Kong is followed by a troupe of monkeys who behave in the same manner but have individual personalities (greedy, naughty, sleepy, etc.). The Monkey King continues to be one of the most popular storylines in all of Chinese Opera Theatre.



The Opera Theatre form suffered during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) when all traditional pieces were banned. New versions became stories concerning "Class Struggle". The "Eight Model Plays" were a very popular theme, as were stories concerning Communist Activities, Anti-Japan sentiment, and the Civil War against Nationalists. The traditional stories were allowed to be shown in 1978 but by then they seemed out of date and the productions lacked historical and theatrical knowledge. Audiences lost to more contemporary forms of entertainment were hard to replace with the exception of those who were children when the Beijing Opera was at its peak. Many who lived through the Cultural Revolution preferred the newer versions and still favor those melodies.

Campaigns exist to bring back this lost art form as well as other Theatrical Arts. The Plum Blossom Award, sponsored by the Chinese Opera Journal, gives awards, judged by the Journal, to new artists. The actors and actresses must be under 45 years of age and come from all over China. These and other competitions are seen on the CCTV, China's main television network, and radio stations, particularly during the New Years special concerts. There has even been designated a Beijing Opera Month.

In recent years, performances worldwide of Beijing Opera theatre have brought this marvelous art form to broader audiences. It has served as ambassador to the West providing many new opportunities for people to enjoy a performance style that rivals any of the Grand Operas and Symphonies of Europe and North America.

Timothy Jordan was born in Detroit, Michigan where he began a career in music at a very early age. Having studied with the regions top teachers and performers he set off on his own "MUSO SHUGYO" or musical wanderings and ended up in Boston, Mass. While there he has performed in some of the top music groups, touring, and recording for the living, television, theatre, and movies. His percussion skills took him to Japan where he had an intensive study with the drummers of KODO. Mr. Jordan also has studied several martial arts styles including Iaido, the Japanese Sword. He continues today to further his cultural studies and is currently the owner of an Asian art and cultural goods Internet retail business, LIVE COMPLETE and ZENSHO PRODUCTS.com

Article Source: EzineArticles



Wednesday, February 28, 2018

MARIA CALLAS: Supreme Opera Diva

English: Publicity photo of Maria Callas (Dece...
Publicity photo of Maria Callas (December 2, 1923 – September 16, 1977) as Violetta in La Traviata by Houston Rogers
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The 2004 Athens Olympics is over, but certain things linger on. My thoughts drifted to the ambitious opening ceremony that heralded its start. Only one among the millions of television viewers, I saw with much excitement and expectation the grand opening ceremony on yet another biggest sports show on earth. I also marveled at how the patrolling troops on land and air managed to guard the entire security operation. All for the game.

Athens played host to a beautiful and moving Opening Ceremonies in Olympic history. The spectacular and theatrical event featured a vast expanse of water representing the beautiful seas that surround Greece, massive flying artifacts, a rolling stage, among other magical visual displays. The audacious performance painted a dramatic picture of a country steeped in pride for its remarkable cultural heritage - civilization and its contribution to the arts and sciences, politics and society. And lest the world forgets, it was the ancient Greece that created the Olympic Games nearly 3,000 years ago.

Then the Olympic ceremony presented the 'Book of Life' part, where Eros swooped down to greet a pregnant woman, the final figure of the 'Clepsydra' parade. The background music clearly came from a distinct voice that I swore could only belong to one operatic diva, to me, the greatest of all: the voice of Maria Callas. By impulse, I got excited and stood up when I heard it. I said, "It can't be. It's Callas!" I was under the assumption that all performances were live. Naturally, I was right about the voice. Within a minute, the television commentator said so. Obviously, the Greeks are ever proud of the voice and the singer. Nevermind that she was born and raised in the USA. But she was born of Greek parents. Besides, a legend should be shared with the world. A legend is a child of the universe!

The American operatic soprano Maria (Kalogeropolous) Callas (1923-1977) was born in New York of Greek parents. She studied at Athens Conservatory and made her debut there in 1941. With a voice of fine range and a gift for dramatic expression, she excelled in opera. In 1947, she appeared at Verona in La Gioconda, winning immediate recognition. In 1949, she was married to Giovanni Battista Meneghini. She appeared at La Scala, Milan in 1950, at London's Covent Garden in 1952, and at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1956. Among her most famous roles was Bellini's Norma in the title role, and Amina in La Sonnambula, while her magnetic stage presence as an operatic actress yielded memorable portrayals of Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata and in the title role in Puccini's Tosca. Callas sang with great authority in all the most exacting soprano roles, excelling in the intricate bel canto style of pre-Verdian Italian opera. Other operas include Madame Butterfly, Aida and Medea, and many more.

It's more than twenty-five years since her death, and yet Maria Callas continues to ignite the imagination of a new generation of opera-goers who never experienced her on the stage. I never did. My discovery of Callas is through my collection of her records, some almost warped to let go, perhaps no different from her recordings when she was just beginning to reach an international market, or when her career was still confined to Italy. Through the CDs, I came to love Callas's exquisite voice with all my senses engaged. Not that I don't admire the likes of Kiri Te Kanawa, Ely Ameling, or Joan Sutherland, among others. I have Maria Callas's 'First Official Recordings', mono dated 1953. And as I compare this recording with a more polished production, a recent 1997 EMI recording of a lifelong favorite Bellini's Norma, I can feel the same intensity of feeling, the ever-engaging sound of the voice itself.



I can go on and on and rave about this operatic diva, this legend whose greatest role was herself. For her life was an intense opera in itself - her tempestuous outbursts as sensational as her entrances and exits, as well as her doomed relationships. From 1959 until her death, she had an intense relationship with the shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. But always, she remained the ever-consummate professional in her art.

While writing this piece, I'm up to Callas Rarities. and almost always, I end my listening satisfaction with her interpretation of my all-time favorite: "Casta Diva"(Chaste Goddess) from Bellini's Norma. Her exquisite voice lulls me to divine slumber: "Casta diva ... tempra, o Diva, tempra tu de' cori ardenti, tempra ancora lo zelo audace ..." Translated in English: "Chaste goddess, ... temper thou the burning hearts, the excessive zeal of thy people."

To experience the magical voice of Maria Callas, I need only listen and take pleasure in the solace of her recordings.

    Tel Asiado is an Information Technology professional turned writer, author, and consultant. Employed by multi-national organizations in information technology, computing and consulting, she has several years of varied experience as project manager, business solution manager, process and information analyst, and as a business writer. Her writings also reflect her passions for inspirational/motivational and Christian insights and classical music. 
    Article Source: EzineArticles