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Subject: "Opera audiences" Archived thread - Read only
 
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #78
Reading Topic #78
Jim

24-06-99, 00:40 AM (GMT)
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"Opera audiences"
 
   I went to an opera last night (Magic Flute in B'ham). The main thing I noticed was how quiet the audience was during the overture - compared with ballet audiences who I find tend to chatter until the curtain goes up. Is this typical, or did I get a biased sampling unit? Eugene might know...


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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Opera audiences JG 24-06-99 1
     RE: Opera audiences Anneliese 24-06-99 2
         RE: Opera audiences Eugene 24-06-99 3
             RE: Opera audiences Anneliese 24-06-99 4
                 RE: Opera audiences Jim 24-06-99 5
                     RE: Opera audiences Jonathan 24-06-99 6
                         RE: Opera audiences Jim 24-06-99 7
                             RE: Opera audiences Jonathan 25-06-99 8
                             RE: Opera audiences alison 25-06-99 9
                             RE: Opera audiences Eugene Merrett 25-06-99 10
                             RE: Opera audiences eugene 25-06-99 11
                             RE: Opera audiences Jenny Delaney 25-06-99 12
                             RE: Opera audiences Bruce Madmin 25-06-99 13
                             RE: Opera audiences Eugene 25-06-99 14
                         RE: Opera audiences Anneliese 25-06-99 15
                             RE: Opera audiences Jonathan 25-06-99 18
                     RE: Opera audiences Anneliese 25-06-99 16
                         RE: Opera audiences eugene merrett 25-06-99 17
                             RE: Opera audiences jonathan 25-06-99 19
                             RE: Opera audiences Eugene Merrett 26-06-99 20
                             RE: Opera audiences Anneliese 27-06-99 21
                             RE: Opera audiences eugene merrett 27-06-99 22
                             RE: Opera audiences jonathan 27-06-99 23
                             RE: Opera audiences Anneliese 28-06-99 24
                             RE: Opera audiences eugdog@aol.com 28-06-99 25
                             RE: Opera audiences jonathan 28-06-99 26

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JG

24-06-99, 07:58 AM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #0
 
   This is typical. Opera audiences don't eat sweets all the way through a performance either!


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Anneliese

24-06-99, 08:38 AM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #1
 
   Opera audiences tend to go for the MUSIC, of which the overture is an important component..... hence they LISTEN to the overture!

Anyway the overture to die Zauberflote is lovely. In fact you treated yourself to one of the great delights and masterpieces of the civilised world! Hope the performance was good...

My husband prefers ballet to opera and oratorio because he doesn't like the repetition and distortion of words to make them fit the music. He has yet to complain about the "four to the right, four to the left, pose turn and balance" of ballet - but he did agree with me that Bayadere was rotten because the music was so trite that the choreography had to be equally mundane to match it.


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Eugene

24-06-99, 12:11 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #2
 
   Also opera has less Children coming. The audience is more afluent and etiquette is taken more seriously. Also opera has fewer first time goers.

It is a pity your first opera is the Magic Flute. Mozart's best operas - Don Giovanni, Figaro and Cosi Fan Tutte are masterpieces of literature as well as music. I also much prefer opera subtitled in English then sung in English - it is far easier to understand! Particularly Mozart ones as they are very witty even in translation.


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Anneliese

24-06-99, 03:44 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #3
 
   Beg to differ with Eugene! Magic Flute is my favourite.


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Jim

24-06-99, 04:21 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #4
 
   >Beg to differ with Eugene! Magic
>Flute is my favourite.

Well, it grieves me to have to disagree with a fellow ornitholgist, but I did find it a bit hard going. Actually, it was by no means my first opera, I saw the Allen/Terfyl Don Giovanni a while back and I do prefer that and M.o.F. to the Flute. But it's all down to personal value judgement, isn't it?


Hey, BRUCE, why not have "favourite opera" as a silly season diversion on the mini-poll?


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Jonathan

24-06-99, 08:08 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #5
 
   Apart from all the other valid reasons above, I suspect that it is also that there are more people in various stages of sleep during an opera because performances are used as a classy backdrop to corporate entertainment. Opera also has a less immediate effect than ballet; the foreign text contorted by music leaves a lot of the audience bemused and not sure what reaction is appropriate.

On the subject of Bayadere, I have to say it again - lots of Donizetti (and even Verdi) is even more banal than Minkus, but no-one complains about that!


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Jim

24-06-99, 09:56 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #6
 
   Hooray! I agree so much with this!

> Opera also has a less immediate effect than > ballet;

Yes, I once heard it said "You have to wait for an awful long time for the climaxes (I think the actual word began with "o") in opera. I think only La Traviata has given me the sort of emotional fix that ballet does routinely.

>even more banal than Minkus, but
>no-one complains about that!

Mmmm. Agree again. If Dame Ninette de Valois can choose music from Bayadère to include in her "desert island" eight, it can't be that bad! There ain't nothin' like a dame.



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Jonathan

25-06-99, 05:44 AM (GMT)
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8. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #7
 
   What's an olimax?


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alison

25-06-99, 11:54 AM (GMT)
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9. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #8
 
   Well, my favourite's Eugene Onegin, so there! (Anyone notice any similarity to one of my favourite ballets, perchance?).

I have to say that I think ballet audiences are getting worse and worse about talking through performances, not just the overture. I'm wondering if when the ROH reopens they'll start putting something in the programmes reminding audiences about theatre etiquette! But then, that'd probably alienate all their old regulars.


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Eugene Merrett

25-06-99, 12:58 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #9
 
   Falling asleep during opera. When I go to the ENO I find it rather hard work trying to understand the English diction - I end up giving up and falling asleep. When I saw Tristan King Markes 15 minute aria (a dignified outburst of greif at Tristan's betrayal) whilst everyone else stood still was tantamount to slow water torture. But when I saw it in Canada in German with subtitles I was moved to tears by the dignified anguish of King Marke


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eugene

25-06-99, 02:14 PM (GMT)
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11. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #10
 
   …Sorry but I was interrupted by an employee querying her pay!


I think many posters here have negative feelings about opera because it seems like an unintelligible mice mash of words drown out by music. But with the advent of subtitling in English I think the same people should try opera again. I challenge anyone not to moved by the death of Mimi in La Bohemia or the not to be on the edge of their seat in Act 2 of Tosca!

Last time I saw Tosca the two girls next to me said it was the most amazing thing they had ever seen. It was their first opera and they knew absolutely nothing about classical music. And this was at Covent Garden in a semi-restricted view seat.

But opera in the original language with no subtitles is a nonsense unless you know the language. It is an impertinence to expect people to pay big money to see something they do not understand! The fact they do is telling indication of the snobbery attached to opera.

The Met go further and have subtitle screens at every seat. There is a running joke about the snobs who do not turn them on for the performance. I would use it for English operas as well Italian opera. For those who are opposed to subtitles in principle - my answer to them is do not look at them! I think a lot of snobs find subtitles a threat to their cherished status as opera fans. They see it as allowing the riff-raff encroaching in on their beloved opera.

It is just like the Princess who hated the thought of poor people having sex as it was too good for them!

But I am frustrated at the ENO refusal to show opera subtitled (even if it is sung in English). Their programme is so exciting so I hate spending all the evening trying to decipher what they are saying! It is no fun!

In the USA opera attendance has gone up 24% in last 5 years whilst concert attendance has remained static – the main reason I believe is subtitling. That to me is the last word on subtitling!

So go on! When the ROH opens laugh aloud at Falstaff, feel uplifted at Der Rosenkavalier but cry at the poignancy of La Boheme! Also consider the Flying Dutchman and if you are really brave Der Miestersingers - Wagners only comic opera but it is over 5 hours long (with intermissions)


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Jenny Delaney

25-06-99, 03:03 PM (GMT)
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12. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #11
 
   I beg to differ about subtitles.

The last thing I want to know in an opera is that someone is what they're singing - if anyone's read Terry Pratchett's Maskerade, they'll know what I'm talking about. He spoofed opera with a soprano singing "This damn door is stuck, it says push, should it perhaps say pull"?

A good synopsis, as in ballet, is what I really want. After all, how many of the ballet audience are fluent in mime and can work out that Odette is suggesting to Siegfried that they disappear down the pub and see if they *really* fancy each other?

My first opera was in English and it did nothing for me (it was one of Wexford's more obscure "forgotten" operas). My second was in Italian (I think it was Italian, it was either Italian or German, and I don't speak either, and I was 13 at the time) and it was brilliant.

Audiences are perfectly capable of following a plot without subtitles, unless they've overdone it at the corporate hospitality do beforehand.

And Jonathan, if you don't know what an olimax is, you obviously haven't had one.


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Bruce Madmin

25-06-99, 03:06 PM (GMT)
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13. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #11
 
   >…Sorry but I was interrupted by an
>employee querying her pay!

You pay them?!
(sorry Eugene!)

> I think many posters here have
>negative feelings about opera because it
>seems like an unintelligible mice mash
>of words drown out by music.

Er.. no. Not so much for me anyway.

When I see a story of 2 young lovers I want to see two young lovers. I don't want to see her twice his girth or 4 inches taller even when allowance has been made for the stacked heels. They can make the most marvelous and harmonious sounds in the world, but if the visuals are wrong all is destroyed. And opera seems all so stationary compared to ballet.

I've been to 4 operas of various types and not liked any of them. Having some words to read did not help at all. In fact I well remember (at the ROH) the immortal line "Farewell for I am dieing" which brought me out into fits of laughter - there was a Bugs Bunny cartoon of the story (I think) and it included that line, but obviously said the silly way only Bugs can say. Perhaps Manon could say it during the Swamp scene and give us all a laugh...


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Eugene

25-06-99, 04:08 PM (GMT)
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14. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #13
 
   "He spoofed opera with a soprano singing "This damn door is stuck, it says push, should it perhaps say pull"?"

In some Puccini operas the librettos is some times like that! This is the verismo style which required real dialogue. Tosca has only one aria - she spends most opera talking. One opera is set in the Wild West - it is a good one as well except when these tough cowboys complain how they miss Mama!

I am sure you can get by in some operas without subtitling if there is lots of action but in the more serious operas there would be problems. Many of these operas have virutally no action - it is just talk - rather like Greek Tragedy where the action takes place offstage.

Also the great comic librettos of Da Ponte - Mozart's librettoist are masterpieces in their own right. His characters have been compared to Shakespeare - all this would be lost if there was no subtitle. Trust me you will laugh aloud quite freely in Don G or Figaro. I use to read them freely when I was younger.

Bruce has a point about the less then attractive appearance of some of the singers. But that is changing. Looks (and weight) are improving! Except the singer who did La Traviata last year at the ENO. She was a lot thinner then Tamaro Rojo who I saw night!!! If Derek Deane saw her he would pluck her out of the opera and have her replace Rojo. More on Tamara later!


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Anneliese

25-06-99, 09:00 PM (GMT)
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15. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #6
 
   Re. Donizetti - I complained about it after "Mary Stuart"! I thought it was utterly incongruous that this high drama should be taking place to fouette music! For me, Donizetti only works in comedy. But Verdi banal? Shurely shome mishtake?!? Falstaff reduces me to tears of joy and sadness even more than Fille does! (thinks: must try and get to opening season.....)


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Jonathan

25-06-99, 09:40 PM (GMT)
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18. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #15
 
   >But Verdi banal? Shurely shome mishtake?!?

Oh, only sometimes. Most of it's wonderful stuff, but some of the colatura bits are just plain silly unless you find women screaming scales entertaining. I suppose a similar accusation could be levelled at fouettés, but at least you can't hear them and they're over in about 40 seconds. Operas are just too long for my taste.


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Anneliese

25-06-99, 09:05 PM (GMT)
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16. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #5
 
   Didn't you like the ornithological theme? I have to admit that I usually fall asleep in MoF, but the Don has always sent shivers down my spine (apart from ENO's last production which ruined it) - utterly bloodcurdling. Cosi was my introduction to opera, 30 years ago this Autumn, and I quite like that, but I also have a very soft spot for Die Entfuhrung auf dem Serail (I like happy endings). It is very possible to be totally moved by opera without hearing or understanding all the words, whatever Eugene says - in English, Salome, Tosca, Billy Budd and the Rape of Lucretia have taken me completely by surprise by moving me powerfully, and Falstaff, Magic Flute and Rosenkavalier the words just don't matter!

I was thinking today about my criteria for favourite opera singers as opposed to favourite dancers - I think that absolute beauty of sound is more important in a singer than absolute purity of technique is in a dancer.

Discuss!!


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eugene merrett

25-06-99, 09:28 PM (GMT)
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17. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #16
 
   Regarding the music for ballet and opera-there is alot of banal opera music around - Donezetti comes to mind as Jonathan has pointed out.

But the reality is that for every great 19 century ballet score there are 10 operas of similar or better quality. Even Tchaikovsky wrote more great opera music then ballet music.

In fact I can only think of 5-6 great 3 act ballets scores (the three Tckaikovsky ones, Coppelia, Sylvia, Rand J, Cinderella and P of the Pagodas). There is of course the great Stravinksy ballet scores as well but overall there are slim pickings! The limited repertoire is clear for everyone to see from the poll.

If opera had as limited a repertoire as ballet I do not think the opera house would be subject to such generous funding from the government (it is the biggest single grant from the arts council )- so maybe the opera does benefit ballet.


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jonathan

25-06-99, 09:49 PM (GMT)
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19. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #17
 
   >.
> But the reality is that for
>every great 19 century ballet score
>there are 10 operas of similar
>or better quality>

I think that to judge a ballet score without the choreography is like judging an opera score without including the singers' parts.

You're probably right about the number of ballet scores versus opera scores, but then you limited yourself to three acters. There are loads of shorter works. And what about Daphnis & Chloe, Three Cornered Hat, El Amor Brujo, Raymonda & Ruses d'Amour, The Golden Age, The Bolt, Pavilion d'Armide, Parade, Les Biches, Le Beouf sur le Toit, Jeux, Les Forains etc etc?


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Eugene Merrett

26-06-99, 02:43 PM (GMT)
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20. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #19
 
   Point taken - but there is no denying that the ballet repertoire is considerably smaller! But again one can argue that there is more new works in ballet then orchestra!

The examples you gave are fine works but I do not think they are really great works such as the operas of so many composers such as Wagner or Mozart or Britten.

I still would like those who have not seen opera in subtitle to at least give it a try even though they have hated opera in the past. And looks are improving (but still a long way to go to compare to some ballerinas)!

P.S I do not much care for Verdi myself - my interest in him was briefly revived after seeing few operas at the Met. After spending lots of money on Verdi CD I quickly realized that this is all light and shallow lyrical music. Give me Puccini and Wagner any time over Verdi.


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Anneliese

27-06-99, 12:58 PM (GMT)
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21. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #20
 
   Verdi? Shallow? Wash your mouth out! Beautiful doesn't mean shallow! Puccini uses too many second inversions. And he can't write tunes. Altogether now: "There's only ONE Giuseppe Verdi!"


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eugene merrett

27-06-99, 04:13 PM (GMT)
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22. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #21
 
   But Puccini is so Passionate. His music soars! It blows my mind!!!!! He is so unashamedly manipulative - everything is done for maximum emotional effect and I love it!

He can make the words "I am just going to the toilet" sound passionate and romantic!!!!!

Are there any ballets set to his music? He wrote a "Giselle" like opera called Le Villi. Does anyone know it?

I seem to annoy so many opera fans by my disdain for Verdi - its is like a ballet fan hating Tchaikovsky!


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jonathan

27-06-99, 11:00 PM (GMT)
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23. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #22
 
   It's very interesting to see what Stravinsky - that self-appointed arbiter of good taste - has to say on Verdi and melody. If you can't be bothered to read the Poetics of Music, he is very complimentary about Verdi, and thinks Wagner is crap. Fine by me.


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Anneliese

28-06-99, 09:19 AM (GMT)
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24. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #23
 
   Wagner is fine until the singing starts (he orchestrates beautifully) - and he needed a damn good editor (he has 5 hours to tell the story of Tristan and Isolde and you STILL need half a page of explanatory programme notes to tell you what happened before the start of the opera!). But there again I always thought Stravinsky was an all round good egg.

Had we better stop this thread before Bruce gets cross?


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eugdog@aol.com

28-06-99, 10:08 AM (GMT)
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25. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #24
 
   Last word I promise - I love Stravinsky but I do not agree with his writings - he also hated Beethoven. I think that many people who are brilliantly original are motivated by disdain for traditional works - Mark Morris does not like traditional ballet (said that ballerinas looked like dead virgin!) - thats why he is very original. What I am saying is that great artist do not have to be right all the time.

As for Wagner - I do not think it is long enough! Wagner was the very first modern dramatist to do things in real time and not compressed into a two hour time frame. Lovers do not talk for 5 minutes they go on for hours. Wagner compromises and keeps the love duet in Tristan to 40 minutes! Thats why his operas are longish. I love his singing - they are almost talking to the music - the constant change in pitch and tempo of the speach to make a point is very powerful.

But I cannot see how Bejart did a ballet to his music!


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jonathan

28-06-99, 06:35 PM (GMT)
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26. "RE: Opera audiences"
In response to message #25
 
  
>(re: Stravinsky)I think that
>many people who are brilliantly original
>are motivated by disdain for traditional
>works -

There are a lot of Stravinsky's opinions which I cannot agree with too, but I think it's unfair to say that he disdained traditional works. He had enormous respect for many composers - including Weber & Verdi, and Pulcinella is a celebration of "traditional" music. If he railed against anything it was against the interference of the performer as interpreter, a programmer in a customized desktop world.

>Wagner was the very first modern dramatist
>to do things in real time
>and not compressed into a two
>hour time frame.

So it's not really drama, I'd say.

>Lovers do not
>talk for 5 minutes they go
>on for hours

But they do a lot more than talk and sing, and there's not usually an overblown brass band in the background. Besides which, I'd rather do it myself than watch someone else.

>I love his singing - they
>are almost talking to the music
>- the constant change in pitch
>and tempo of the speach to
>make a point is very powerful.

Which is exactly what Stravinsky hated about his music - singing reduced to the level of discourse.
>
>But I cannot see how Bejart did
>a ballet to his music!

Anything's possible if you can be bothered, I suppose.



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