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I have just started to seriously listen to operas. I have listened to The Magic Flute, and am now working on The Marriage of Figaro - both of which were written by Mozart. Two things -

1) Are there any opera fans out there? If so, what have you listened to, who are favorite composers, etc.

2) (contingent on 1) Do you have any tips to a beginner? I check out CD's from the library, and I am experimenting with my listening styles. To explain - I first tried to following along (in the libretto) line by line, but that got hard to do - plus I missed the music. I then tried reading the page, and then sitting back and listening to the music, but then I would lose my place frequently, and also lose track of the story. Any suggestions?

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1) Are there any opera fans out there? If so, what have you listened to, who are favorite composers, etc.

As far as Classic Grand Opera, I love some of the overtures & specific arias. I also enjoy some of the recitatives & "dialogue" singing to a limited degree. I do NOT enjoy much else about it & I especially loathe most of what passes for subject matter.

Favorites would be selected arias of Verdi & Mozart; overtures of Beethoven & Wagner. Wagner was especially good at summarizing his "leimotifs" (character thematic materials) in overture form & terrible at letting them go on & on in the context of the action of the opera.

Wagner was the King of the Deceptive Cadence. Just soon as you think the line is over...he resolves to a relative minor &/or modulates to yet another key to start the whole thing over again. I mentioned this & my general distaste for large doses of Wagner to a "Wagnerite" once in a musical conversation. His reply was, "In order to truly appreciate Wagner you must completely divorce your mind from reality".

That would probably help. :thumbsup:

Beethoven only wrote one opera "Fidelio". Which is interesting for a few reasons. It's one of the only Classical Grand Operas that has outright spoken dialogue in the context of the piece. He wrote several different overtures for the heroine "Leonore" all of them great (of course!). The story line is a great struggle for freedom. Unfortunately, it gets very bogged down in places & ulitmately when the hero is set free it feels like it has taken too long without much real effort being put in. Fortunately, all the music is great!

Tchaikovsky also brought his wonderful melodic sense & dramatic orchestration to writing four operas. "Eugene Onegin" & "The Queen of Spades" have some great moments.

2) (contingent on 1) Do you have any tips to a beginner? I check out CD's from the library, and I am experimenting with my listening styles. To explain - I first tried to following along (in the libretto) line by line, but that got hard to do - plus I missed the music. I then tried reading the page, and then sitting back and listening to the music, but then I would lose my place frequently, and also lose track of the story. Any suggestions?

The fundamental problem with Grand Opera is that it's not in English!

You should listen in different ways, several times, to get an overall sense of what is going on. But, this is dependent upon your initial desire to go back & listen more than once based on something that interested you or "caught your ear". There's so much existent opera available & only so much time. One listen through to any opera is often enough to know whether or not repeated listening will be of value to you.

Several things to keep in mind:

1. Listen to the music! This includes the vocal parts, but not necessarily for the lyric content. Unfortunately, much opera like Mozart's is painfully stupid & boring if you know what they are saying. The music is the thing!

2. Do try to listen all the way through, don't just get a "highlights CD". Many times what a manufacturer will put on a CD as "the best tunes" from an opera will leave out some more unknown gems. After you listen through once, you will know which "tunes" you like & can revisit when you desire.

3. Finally, remember that opera was originally intended to be experienced as a performance on a stage. To this end you might consider renting/buying some DVDs/vids of operas to experience them (somewhat) in their proper setting. I wouldn't suggest going to see an opera live until you know it's one you enjoy (in part or as a whole).

Happy listening!

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Favorites would be selected arias of Verdi & Mozart; overtures of Beethoven & Wagner. 
I have found Mozart to be terribly boring. The plots in his works, at times, is funny and/or interesting. Other than that, I forced myself through them.

Wagner was the King of the Deceptive Cadence.  Just soon as you think the line is over...he resolves to a relative minor &/or modulates to yet another key to start the whole thing over again.  :huh: I mentioned this & my general distaste for large doses of Wagner to a "Wagnerite" once in a musical conversation.  His reply was, "In order to truly appreciate Wagner you must completely divorce your mind from reality".

That would probably help. :)

Thanks, it does!

Beethoven only wrote one opera "Fidelio".  Which is interesting for a few reasons.  It's one of the only Classical Grand Operas that has outright spoken dialogue in the context of the piece.  He wrote several different overtures for the heroine "Leonore" all of them great (of course!).  The story line is a great struggle for freedom.  Unfortunately, it gets very bogged down in places & ulitmately when the hero is set free it feels like it has taken too long without much real effort being put in.  Fortunately, all the music is great!
I, overall, do not like Mozart; but I am a great fan of Beethoven. I was at the library the other day and I was thinking about whether or not he had written any operas.

Tchaikovsky also brought his wonderful melodic sense & dramatic orchestration to writing four operas.  "Eugene Onegin" & "The Queen of Spades" have some great moments.

The fundamental problem with Grand Opera is that it's not in English!
:D

You should listen in different ways, several times, to get an overall sense of what is going on.  But, this is dependent upon your initial desire to go back & listen more than once based on something that interested you or "caught your ear".  There's so much existent opera available & only so much time. 

Exactly my problem. Operas take a long, long time to finish. I watched the Magic Flute performed on video, then I went and re-listened to it on CD. Waste of time. The Magic Flute is a ridiculous opera. (BTY, is that opera a metaphor of some kind? If not, it seems rather childish)

One listen through to any opera is often enough to know whether or not repeated listening will be of value to you.

Several things to keep in mind:

1. Listen to the music!  This includes the vocal parts, but not necessarily for the lyric content.  Unfortunately, much opera like Mozart's is painfully stupid & boring if you know what they are saying.  The music is the thing!

Check.

2. Do try to listen all the way through, don't just get a "highlights CD".  Many times what a manufacturer will put on a CD as "the best tunes" from an opera will leave out some more unknown gems.  After you listen through once, you will know which "tunes" you like & can revisit when you desire.

Check. I only have listened to complete versions.

3. Finally, remember that opera was originally intended to be experienced as a performance on a stage.  To this end you might consider renting/buying some DVDs/vids of operas to experience them (somewhat) in their proper setting.  I wouldn't suggest going to see an opera live until you know it's one you enjoy (in part or as a whole).
Check.

Happy listening!

Thanks a lot for for input, it is much appreciated!

PS - BTY, what is the difference between a opera and a operetta? Is a operetta easier to digest?

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I have found Mozart to be terribly boring.

Conventional wisdom says Mozart was a "genius" & perhaps one of the "greatest composers of melody". His operas are in some respects the most well known works in the genre. There is a great deal of evidence that this conventional wisdom is mistaken & on some points just plain wrong.

I defy any average listener (a non-musician) to hum a Mozart melody from memory. Chances are you will get "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" perhaps a bit of the intro to "A Little Night Music" serenade for strings but little else. Then ask this average listener to hum a Beethoven or Tchaikovski melody. You might get Beethoven's theme from Sym 5, "Fur Elise", "Ode to Joy", "Minuet in G"; you might get a number of Tchaikovski's themes from "The Nutcracker", "Swan Lake", "Sleeping Beauty", etc. Alternately, even if our listener doesn't know the name of the composer, I would be willing to bet they know more "melodies" by Beethoven or Tchaikovski than by Mozart.

There is a great deal of pointless bather & endless, rambling lines/parts/sections that don't add up to much in Mozart's music. Much of his work is whimsically, capriciously structured. I know from Music History that he wrote some things very quickly just to turn a buck.

Now...Having, blasted him :dough: ... I do greatly enjoy some of his works. Later symphonies (35-41) have great parts. Later piano concertos also. In his opera's though I really have to limit it to some of his arias written for female parts. Now, some of those are sublime. But within the context of writing an aria, essentially a complete miniature composition (a "song" or "tune" if you will) he really knocked out some gems.

I, overall, do not like Mozart; but I am a great fan of Beethoven.

Congrats. You said in one brief sentence what it took me 4 paragraphs to say. :)

Exactly my problem. Operas take a long, long time to finish. I watched the Magic Flute performed on video, then I went and re-listened to it on CD. Waste of time. The Magic Flute is a ridiculous opera. (BTY, is that opera a metaphor of some kind? If not, it seems rather childish)

This site has an...ummm....interesting (?) perspective on that issue:

http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/mozart...MagicFlute.html

My estimation, is that like most Mozart operas, it has a couple of nice arias, a decent overture, & a whole lot of pointless stuff in between.

Thanks a lot for for input, it is much appreciated!

You are welcome.

...what is the difference between a opera and a operetta? Is a operetta easier to digest?

This might help:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operetta

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Conventional wisdom says Mozart was a "genius" & perhaps one of the "greatest composers of melody".  His operas are in some respects the most well known works in the genre.  There is a great deal of evidence that this conventional wisdom is mistaken & on some points just plain wrong.
I suspected as much. People tend to take things on authority.

I defy any average listener (a non-musician) to hum a Mozart melody from memory.  Chances are you will get "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" perhaps a bit of the intro to "A Little Night Music" serenade for strings but little else.  Then ask this average listener to hum a Beethoven or Tchaikovski melody.  You might get Beethoven's theme from Sym 5, "Fur Elise", "Ode to Joy", "Minuet in G"; you might get a number of Tchaikovski's themes from "The Nutcracker", "Swan Lake", "Sleeping Beauty", etc.  Alternately, even if our listener doesn't know the name of the composer, I would be willing to bet they know more "melodies" by Beethoven or Tchaikovski than by Mozart.

I understand what you are saying, but I don't think one can consider that evidence for Mozart's lack of musical brilliance. Rachmaninov, in my opinion, is the greatest composer that has ever lived, but few (if any) people can whistle his works.

There is a great deal of pointless bather & endless, rambling lines/parts/sections that don't add up to much in Mozart's music.  Much of his work is whimsically, capriciously structured.  I know from Music History that he wrote some things very quickly just to turn a buck.
You have it right on. Pretentious is defined as " seeming or pretending to be very important or excellent; showing off" (Webster's New World). This sums up Mozart's work. In my opinion, his music is generally nothing more than flashy scales and high notes sung in female arias. However, the works Turkish March and his

(I believe) 11th Symphony are great.

Now...Having, blasted him  :dough: ... I do greatly enjoy some of his works.  Later symphonies (35-41) have great parts.  Later piano concertos also.  In his opera's though I really have to limit it to some of his arias written for female parts.  Now, some of those are sublime.  But within the context of writing an aria, essentially a complete miniature composition (a "song" or "tune" if you will) he really knocked out some gems.

I will have to check that out.

:)

This site has an...ummm....interesting (?) perspective on that issue:

http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/biography/mozart...MagicFlute.html

I didn't read through the entire article, but I liked the following line:

"While his libretto has been derided until recently as "childish" and unworthy of the superb musical score, Goethe remarked that "More knowledge is required to understand the value of this libretto than to mock it!" "

My estimation, is that like most Mozart operas, it has a couple of nice arias, a decent overture, & a whole lot of pointless stuff in between.
Yo have it right on. I did like some of Cherebino's arias, and also the last aria (sung by Susanna), but other than that - pointless.

Thank you. It was what I expected.

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I understand what you are saying, but I don't think one can consider that evidence for Mozart's lack of musical brilliance. Rachmaninov, in my opinion, is the greatest composer that has ever lived, but few (if any) people can whistle his works.

Actually, I think the ability to create a memorable melodic thread (that even the non-professional musical listener can follow) is a key component is estimating the relative power of a composer's skills. It shows that they are able to understand & use musical materials in a manner that is consistent with the requirements of an objective view of epistemology. A melody is after all a conceptual-auditory unit.

So, specifically I was not knocking Mozart's lack of musical brilliance (which he certain could be at times) as much as his overall compositional method (logical, purposeful form & structure, etc. or lack thereof in much of his works).

I actually have never heard Mozart's 11th symphony, I was actually thinking of Beethoveen's 7th. Sorry.

Beethoven's 7th symphony is my absolute favorite work (by my favorite composer!). Both Mozart & Beethoven wrote piano pieces called "Turkish March"; Beethoven's is "The Ruins of Athens" whereas Mozart's is generally called "Rondo Alla Turka". Beethoven's is a wonderful miniature composition; Mozart's is delightful in places also; but also degenerates into overly baroque ornamentation in places.

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Actually, I think the ability to create a memorable melodic thread (that even the non-professional musical listener can follow) is a key component is estimating the relative power of a composer's skills.  It shows that they are able to understand & use musical materials in a manner that is consistent with the requirements of an objective view of epistemology.  A melody is after all a conceptual-auditory unit.
COuld you explain that a bit more? I have always been wondering what exactly the nature of music is. Let me give you an example, and maybe you can shed light on it. I will, on occassion, watch BET. I don't exactly know why (my conscious philosophy is in direct conflit with all the trash on that station), but I do. Nevertheless, I find that songs that I were "pop into my head" (if that makes any sense), and I can't "get them out". That song may be with me for the rest of the day, the week, or may "pop into my head" after a month. Why does my mind do that?

So, specifically I was not knocking Mozart's lack of musical brilliance (which he certain could be at times) as much as his overall compositional method (logical, purposeful form & structure, etc. or lack thereof in much of his works).

I agree. I think that he (Mozart) was technically brilliant, but I still don't like his music.

Beethoven's 7th symphony is my absolute favorite work (by my favorite composer!).  Both Mozart & Beethoven wrote piano pieces called "Turkish March"; Beethoven's is "The Ruins of Athens" whereas Mozart's is generally called "Rondo Alla Turka".  Beethoven's is a wonderful miniature composition; Mozart's is delightful in places also; but also degenerates into overly baroque ornamentation in places.

Interesting. On a side note, I just finished Verdi's opera "Otello", and I found it much more bearable and interesting than anything Mozart has done. Have you seen it? BTY, OCON this year has a optional course called "Giuseppe Verdi: The Man and His Operas" . Are you going?

I also have started watching hte operas on DVD. That has made the shows much more interesting.

Edited by ASelameab
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COuld you explain that a bit more?

There are a couple of threads I posted info about the nature of music:

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=2853

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=2299

If that helps, good. If not, let me know & we can explore it more in depth or in a more suitable manner.

...I find that songs that I were "pop into my head" (if that makes any sense), and I can't "get them out". That song may be with me for the rest of the day, the week, or may "pop into my head" after a month. Why does my mind do that?

Too many variables in that equation to determine without more info (what songs? what genre? what do you like about them? what do you dislike about them? what characteristics of the songs in question are virtuous/non-virtuous, etc.).

In a general sense, this type of situation can possibly be an example of how music work in an epistemological sense. Many pop songs have just a few catchy notes repeated over & again. Or one catchy chord change, a catchy line, a catchy rhythmic accent, a catchy instrumental timbre or part. Sometimes it's a catchy set off words strung together in a "poetic" manner. Sometimes it's just the phonetic sound of the specific words & not even their meaning that is catchy.

The point is that in all these examples I have qualified them as catchy. So what makes something catchy? An auditory object that is easy enough to recall upon hearing once or twice. What makes it easy to recall? Its manner of construction. Generally, it has enough repetition to attract your attention; but then it has enough variation to "close off" the object as in "This is the end of the object, it is now complete".

Does that help at all?

Interesting. On a side note, I just finished Verdi's opera "Otello", and I found it much more bearable and interesting than anything Mozart has done. Have you seen it?

Yes, I enjoy some of Verdi's works. He had a much better sense of line, form & melody than Mozart (among others).

BTY, OCON this year has a optional course called "Giuseppe Verdi: The Man and His Operas" . Are you going?

No. Are you? If so, have a wonderful time!

I also have started watching hte operas on DVD. That has made the shows much more interesting.

Great! I hope you find something you can value.

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There are a couple of threads I posted info about the nature of music:

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=2853

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=2299

If that helps, good. If not, let me know & we can explore it more in depth or in a more suitable manner.

I will look into that, thanks!

Too many variables in that equation to determine without more info (what songs? what genre? what do you like about them? what do you dislike about them? what characteristics of the songs in question are virtuous/non-virtuous, etc.).

In a general sense, this type of situation can possibly be an example of how music work in an epistemological sense. Many pop songs have just a few catchy notes repeated over & again. Or one catchy chord change, a catchy line, a catchy rhythmic accent, a catchy instrumental timbre or part. Sometimes it's a catchy set off words strung together in a "poetic" manner. Sometimes it's just the phonetic sound of the specific words & not even their meaning that is catchy.

The point is that in all these examples I have qualified them as catchy. So what makes something catchy? An auditory object that is easy enough to recall upon hearing once or twice. What makes it easy to recall? Its manner of construction. Generally, it has enough repetition to attract your attention; but then it has enough variation to "close off" the object as in "This is the end of the object, it is now complete".

Does that help at all?

Yes it does; but let me rephrase my question more simply: Why do I get songs in my head? (I realize I added way too much unnecessary info there!)

Yes, I enjoy some of Verdi's works. He had a much better sense of line, form & melody than Mozart (among others).

I agree!!!

No. Are you? If so, have a wonderful time!

Someday, but right now I am too poor! :dough:

Great! I hope you find something you can value.

Thanks! (I like how you worded that as well!)

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