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Music Monday

Ed asked me to do an spotify opera playlist. So I did one.


I didn't want to do just soprano arias, or even just arias, and because really what works best is a whole three hour beast of a full piece, live in a theatre, without ad breaks or even CD track stutters, I needed to find some way of linking some quite random bits together. And what better link than *ME* (darlings!), just because it might as well come from my experience. So here are my wee reasonings:

1: from A Midsummer Night's Dream - Benjamin Britten
This is the first opera I was ever in. Being twelve, and having no concept of what opera was/should be, or even what makes a "tune" (my Dad, for example, wastes a lot of breath saying Britten has "no tunes"), I fell in love. Partly because I was already in love with the Shakespeare, and even as an adult, I can pretty confidently say this is the best musical setting of a Shakespeare play ever. The bit I've chosen is not a bit I was in, but I just think it's dramatically and musically magical (which, given the subject matter, is appropriate). The four lovers - Hermia & Lysander, Helena & Demetrius - wake up the morning after being lead a merry dance by Puck and Oberon, and having magic potion on their eyes, and find themselves in love with the right partner and not knowing how or why they got there.

2: Lensky's Aria from Eugene Onegin - Tchaikovsky
A huge skip, to a stand-out memory of watching opera. I had gone to the Royal Opera House to see two big opera stars sing Onegin and Tatyana (the main two parts) and was not enjoying myself. Onegin is a difficult opera, not in it's lack of tunes, but because to me the main characters are Just Not That Interesting. In a really good production, I can see that they might be interesting, but on this night, no. And then Rolando Villazon came on as Lensky, and I burst into tears, not really knowing why. He's not really the right singer for the job, but he is so in love with singing and sings with his whole soul, it's just astonishingly thrilling. Lensky is a poet, and sings of his love for Olga, just before dying in a duel with Onegin for her honour.

3: from Madama Butterfly - Puccini
On my 26th birthday I sang Madama Butterfly. And we had to cut this bit, because we didn't have enough singers. I don't know why I love this so much, I think it's just the colours, and the humour. It is just after Butterfly has sung her famous aria (Un bel di - One Fine Day), 3 years after Pinkerton has left her, but she still believes he is coming back. She's grumpy when someone knocks at the door, but she is all smiles when she realises it's the American Consul, Sharpless. He has come to tell her that he's had a letter from Pinkerton saying he's remarried an American and will never come back. But they keep getting interrupted. She offers him cigarettes, anything american she can think of.... She wants to know when american robins nest, because Pinkerton had told her he would come back when the robins build their nests. Goro the marriage broker turns up with the Yamadori (a rich Japanese suitor for Butterfly), and the Yamadori's music I think is the most brilliant moment in the whole opera - and it's shimmering joy shows utterly the other life that Butterfly could have, if only she could forget Pinkerton, but she rejects him, and it's followed by the music that Puccini uses earlier when she's describing her father's death (he was a Samurai and committed hari kuri (sp? right words even? honourable suicide, anyway), and will use again when she decides to die to allow her son to have a life with his father.

4 Soave sia il vento from Cosi fan Tutte - Mozart
This could have gone in at several points, but I first sang in this not long after I sang Butterfly, for the same company. Mozart can't help himself, but if the situation wasn't so funny, would the music be as sublime? The two sisters with their friend Don Alfonso sing to wish their lovers safe journey as they sail off to war. The girls are being melodramatic, and Alfonso is humouring them, but it's not even true (the boys are pretending to leave and will swiftly return in disguise to woo the sisters again as a bet with Alfonso who is convinced all women are fickle. At this stage, they don't believe him). The nice thing about this recording is the Fiordiligi (the top part, which I sing) is sung by Margaret Marshall, who taught me a bit in Scotland.

5 Pierrot's song from Die Tote Stadt - Korngold
I don't know this opera. I don't really know anything about it, but while I studied at the RSAMD I had to listen to all my classmates sing, all the time. Felipe, our baritone, would often sing this, and it's just SO BEAUTIFUL. Pierrot is old, and when asked to sing a song, he sings this, about his youth. (nb - in this recording it goes on a long time after the aria, it's all good, but you're allowed to skip on when the woman starts singing - I won't mind).

6-9 from Der Rosenkavalier - Richard Strauss
Der Rosenkavalier is such a wonderful piece. One day, I want to sing the Marschallin, but that is many years off. When I was studying at RSAMD in my first year, we had to rehearse and perform opera scenes, and I was in this one. We were working with Lee Blakeley, who remains one of the top directors I've ever worked with (though blooming heck it was tough). the scene opens with Sophie (a young girl with a rich, but not upper class father) musing on her forthcoming wedding. Marianne her maid (as played by me, "a bit Carry On" - Lee) is beside herself excited and keeps shouting over the top of Sophie's wonderings, describing the scene outside (offstage). Sophie is to marry a Baron, and in the upper class tradition, the baron has sent a young relative as his formal wedding proposal - Octavian (a trouser role - sung by a woman), who is dressed up formally (the first time I saw a full producition - David McVicar's at Scottish Opera, Sarah Connelly was dressed entirely in a silver suit of armour, with a tremdous train) and carrying a silver rose. Of course, what with Octavian being a gorgeous young man, and Sophie being a gorgeous young woman, they fall in love at first sight. Oh, but the MUSIC! And the lovely moments- they are so gauche, and don't know what to say to each other. Oh just have a listen.

10 Salve Regina from les Dialogues des Carmelites - Poulenc
In my second year at RSAMD it was my turn to sing in full operas. I did Cosi (see track 4) and this. Also, the summer before, I sang as one of the un-named nuns in this scene as the closing piece of the closing concert of the Edinburgh International Festival. This is pure drama. The nuns have been condemned to death and sing this Salve Regina as they are sent one by one to the guillotine. One by one the voices are cut off until only Soeur Constance, the youngest nun is left. She, terrified, goes to the blade. Watching all this has been Blanche (the central character) she had gone into hiding some time before, and suddenly, she steps out of the crowd, in her civilian clothes, and finishes the song before dying with her sisters.

11 Song to the Moon from Rusalka - Dvorak
If it's possible, this opera as a whole is even sadder than the Poulenc. BUT this aria is from the beginning of the opera, and it is such a lovely expression of hope, and love. Rusalka is The Little Mermaid, essentially. Well, she's a water nymph. When a prince swims in her pool, she wraps herself around him, and falls in love with him, but he doesn't even know she's there. She sings to the moon about him, and begs the moon to tell her where he is, and also to tell him that she's waiting for him with her arms open, and begs that they could be together, even if only for a short time. I sing this aria in auditions (and also sang a large chunk of act 3 in the same scenes as 6-9) and this recording is of my singing teacher - Amanda Roocroft.

12 Parez vos fronts from Alceste - Gluck
This is what I was just singing in at the Festival Lyrique d'Aix- en-Provence. I utterly love this moment. Again, it's another shaft of light, joy and hope within a tragedy. It is towards the beginning of Act 2, and the chorus are celebrating Alceste and Admete's marriage, because Admete has miraculously come back to life. Everyone knows that this is because an un-known hero has offered up their life instead, but as yet no-one knows that the hero is actually Alceste, who has offered to die so her husband can live.

13 Klange der Heimat (Csardas) from Die Fledermaus.
a little taste of the future - I'm singing this aria at the end of the month in South Wales. The scene is a huge Viennese ball, and Rosalinde, there to catch out her husband (also in disguise), has come as a Hungarian countess. The Prince Orlofsky asks her to sing, and staying in character, she sings a Hungarian dance "sounds of my homeland".

14 Ah! Mio cor from Alcina - Handel
I've mentioned this one before. It just gets me, the aria is beautiful, the singing is what I aspire to. One day, this will be me.

Hope that's enough to be going on with!!!


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 2nd, 2010 11:16 am (UTC)
Blimey catbo, how odd, just this morning I was thinking - ooh I wish someone would do a classic/opera mix or playlist so I can EDUCATE MYSELF re: That Sort Of Thing, and gosh - you have gone done it!

I will make sure to listen to this at home (bah no work spotify).
Aug. 2nd, 2010 11:29 am (UTC)
it's quite heavy, as such things go, but I thought that might be more interesting than just the regular greatest hits you hear all over the place...
Aug. 2nd, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
Awesome, thanks Cat!

Aug. 4th, 2010 04:43 am (UTC)
Aug. 4th, 2010 04:44 am (UTC)
Aug. 5th, 2010 02:28 am (UTC)
Aug. 5th, 2010 02:29 am (UTC)
May. 1st, 2012 12:31 pm (UTC)
Margaret Marshall taught you in Scotland? Where is she now? There is no information about her on the Internet. Was she a good teacher? Is she still alive? Is she still working? I would be very grateful for any details:)
May. 3rd, 2012 09:12 pm (UTC)
she is in Glasgow as far as I know - teaches at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, though she wasn't my voice teacher I took repertoire classes with her. I did leave in 2008 and I haven't seen her since though...
She's not singing any more. Her recordings are SO gorgeous though.
May. 4th, 2012 09:26 am (UTC)
Thanks a lot:)) She’s got admirers in Russia: http://m-a-marshall.livejournal.com/
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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