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Beowabbit
Now mostly on Facebook (and rarely caught up even there)
The Phantom of the Opera and good company 
4th-Apr-2005 12:30 am
Misc: BiCamp campfire
Got to see The Phantom of the Opera tonight with a bunch of good people, preceded by spectacularly yummy pear, gorgonzola, and greens pizza at California Pizza Kitchen. Very good company: cathijosephine, mrpet, docorion, cathijosephine’s LJ-bereft friend C. who actually got us the tickets for cheap, C.’s sweetie D., and eisa and buxom_bey, which latter two met us at the theater after dinner.

I didn’t feel all that excited about the performance itself, but it was a wonderful experience all the same. The Opera House is physically, visually impressive in its ornate beauty; I’m glad places like that still exist and are still being maintained. The play also had a lot of ornate beauty and pageantry to it.

I definitely want to see more theater. And this made me want to see a more classical opera. I don’t like recorded opera music, but I think I’d enjoy it live.

I feel like I’ve got lots more to say, but I also feel like I should have been in bed hours ago. :-)
Comments 
4th-Apr-2005 05:04 am (UTC)
If you want some recommendations on opera, let me know.

Recorded opera is often difficult to get into. Opera was meant to be seen and heard, not just heard. And the language barrier is less when you actors communicate through the movement and expressions a lot of what is going on.

I'm sorry I haven't answered your "must have classical recordings" question yet. That really was not an easy question. But I have been thinking about it on and off and will attempt to put together a short list of essential recordings.
4th-Apr-2005 05:27 am (UTC)
If you want some recommendations on opera, let me know.
Well, I think my technique is going to be to take opportunities to buy cheap tickets to operas playing in Boston that I think I might enjoy, so I don’t know how much choice I’m going to have. :-) (I’d love to see Carmen sometime.) But if you have suggestions for stuff I’m likely to encounter, sure, I’d love to hear them.
Recorded opera is often difficult to get into. Opera was meant to be seen and heard, not just heard.
Yeah. Honestly, I don’t much like the way the voices of people singing opera sound. In opera movies (a couple of which I’ve seen), there’s enough visually going on and I can get into the plot enough that I can deal with the voices. I’m sure this is shocking sacrilege to an opera singer. :-)
And the language barrier is less when you actors communicate through the movement and expressions a lot of what is going on.
Actually, I felt like there was a significant “language barrier” for me in The Phantom of the Opera, insofar as I had to spend so much energy on picking out the lyrics that I didn’t have as much as I’d have liked left over for aesthetic appreciation. That might have had something to do with where we were sitting, but I think a lot of it just has to do with me having trouble with the register things are sung in.
I'm sorry I haven't answered your "must have classical recordings" question yet. That really was not an easy question. But I have been thinking about it on and off and will attempt to put together a short list of essential recordings.
Oh, not a problem at all! Don’t feel like you need to put too much effort into it, I’m mostly just looking for a little nudge towards stuff I might otherwise not stumble across. And if you don’t get around to it, that’s fine too.
4th-Apr-2005 05:36 am (UTC)
Honestly, I don’t much like the way the voices of people singing opera sound. ... I’m sure this is shocking sacrilege to an opera singer.

Not really. Operatic singing was developed for carrying over an orchestra in an acoustically large space. It was not meant for the intimacy of the microphone.
4th-Apr-2005 08:45 am (UTC)
I am seeing the opera next Tuesday with LJ=fibrowitch & can't wait. I've never been to any opera/musical/theater anything before so I can't wait. Was this your first time too? I've just seen the movie recently in the theater (Hollywood Hits, Danvers). The movie was amazing. So amazing I went to see it several times :) There were freaks there that were going to watch the movie twice a day for weeks. OK sure I was enthrawled with the movie too, but they were insane. So I finally talked to them & asked them what they found so appealing about the movie. Well check this out... http://kimee.blog-city.com/read/1151438.htm Yes I guess I am a bad influence :)
4th-Apr-2005 01:53 pm (UTC)
*Snicker*.I was certainly thinking of the D/S implications while I watched it. The Phantom and Christine’s scene wasn’t all that safe, sane, or consensual, of course. I haven’t seen Labyrinth or A Doll’s House.
4th-Apr-2005 12:48 pm (UTC)
*snuggles you just because*
4th-Apr-2005 01:48 pm (UTC)
An excellent reason!
4th-Apr-2005 02:00 pm (UTC)
that pizza sounds divine.
4th-Apr-2005 03:15 pm (UTC)
It was. I forgot to mention the carmelized onions!
4th-Apr-2005 02:47 pm (UTC) - A non-opera buff's guide to opera ...
Back home, I went to the opera for 10 years ... and I don't consider myself appreciative of the genre at all. Actually, to this day I find it parts of it really annoying. A friend asked me to keep her company, the student discounts were amazing (they somehow never realized I had graduated :), and I just kept going.

The visual spectacle is key, I really went for the staging, sets and acting. What made it a great experience was when I recognized the music, filtered as it's become through mass culture and advertising. (I can't *tell* you how funny it was to discover that most of the music in Carmen was known to me from an episode of Gilligan's Island ... and Warner Brothers/Bugs Bunny cartoons are another topic entirely.)

It all depends on who's in it and who's directing it of course, but I think you'd rarely go wrong with anything by Verdi or Mozart. La Traviata is a good one, and you won't be able to stop humming "The Drinking Song." You need to be careful with Wagner, it can be great or a real dud. And there's always Gilbert and Sullivan for a good time, depending on whether or not you consider it opera. (I don't care, it's always funny. :)

In Edmonton the opera had a great sub-titling system. You could hear the rhythms of the original language, and read just enough to keep up with the story. I don't know if they have the same system here, but I hope so. Really juicy melodramatic opera sounds dignified when sung in the original, but kinda silly when translated into English.

If you ever need an opera buddy, you know who to call! :)
4th-Apr-2005 03:20 pm (UTC) - Re: A non-opera buff's guide to opera ...
Oh, I've seen lots of Gilbert and Sullivan! Quite fond of that. Not exactly what springs to mind when I think of “opera”, though.
If you ever need an opera buddy, you know who to call! :)
Um, not quite, actually, since I don't know what human this LiveJournal avatar goes with. :-) I can figure out from your Friends list what general crowd you're in, but that's about it. Drop me email and let me know, if you feel like it.
I can't *tell* you how funny it was to discover that most of the music in Carmen was known to me from an episode of Gilligan's Island ...
In my case it's the movie Bad News Bears. :-)
4th-Apr-2005 03:29 pm (UTC) - Re: A non-opera buff's guide to opera ...
Oh sorry, I thought you would know me ... it's Joanne.
5th-Apr-2005 03:38 am (UTC) - Re: A non-opera buff's guide to opera ...
Ah, of course! Thanks. I am a Bear of Very Little Brain.
4th-Apr-2005 04:40 pm (UTC) - Re: A non-opera buff's guide to opera ...
If you ever need an opera buddy, you know who to call!

What she meant was, "You know you can always call spwebdesign!" <grin>
4th-Apr-2005 04:49 pm (UTC) - Re: A non-opera buff's guide to opera ...
Of course, that's exactly what I meant! ;)
4th-Apr-2005 07:54 pm (UTC) - Re: A non-opera buff's guide to opera ...
Sounds like we may have a group gathering...
4th-Apr-2005 09:11 pm (UTC) - Re: A non-opera buff's guide to opera ...
Um, maybe if Carmen is playing in Boston. (Or did you mean just opera in general? In any case, I aprove of the idea.)

Big sleepy yawn now. :-)
4th-Apr-2005 04:02 pm (UTC)
I've been discovering classical music but am still a pygmy when it comes to knowledge. So maybe we can do some of our discoveries together?

I went to the BSO for Norman's birthday, and the Hayden symphony was okay, and the Shubert symphony was okay, and the Mozart concerto made me go, "Wow!" Norman sometimes plays classical piano, and the Bach pieces he plays are very pretty, and the Mozart piece he plays makes me go "Wow!" I've concluded that Mozart is a good guy. Hundreds of years after the rest of the world figured this out, of course. :-) So if you decide to go to a Mozart opera, I'm up for it.

Oh, and if your friend comes up with that list of essential classical music for the muscially untutored, would you share it with me?

Norman and I have a book by the NPR folks on essential classical music that lists not just which pieces they recommend but also which recordings of those pieces. But it's a whole book's worth -- hundreds of pages -- so it's not exactly the ten pieces to start with or anything like that. It is at least divided into chapters on symphonic music, chamber music, solo pieces, and opera, so if you know what kind of music you're most interested in, it can steer you to those. You can take a look at the book if it interests you.

Hugs,

Cory
4th-Apr-2005 04:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, and if your friend comes up with that list of essential classical music for the muscially untutored, would you share it with me?

You already know that list will include a good dose of Mozart!
5th-Apr-2005 02:15 am (UTC)
Hi, spwebdesign. (Got another name? That one doesn't come trippingly off of the tongue. :-))

I guess even more than a list of things to listen to, I'd like a short list of simple things to read. It'll take me awhile just to listen to all of Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven -- the big three that even us hicks have heard of. But right now I react to music completely with my intuition and my emotions. Bach is pretty and pleasant to listen to. I like how Mozart's Requiem sounds majestic and creepy, because it sounds like how a human death ought to sound but doesn't. But I don't have any intellectual understanding of what I'm listening to or what else I could be getting out of it. The Hayden symphony I heard (number 92, in G, if that matters) just seemed like a wall of sound to me, but some of the people around me seemed quite enthusiastic about it. I want to know what I'm missing. While intuition and emotions seem to me like good things to have on one's side when listening to any music, my brain is usually my best feature, and I'd like to be able to use it with classical music.

Any suggestions for a primer on explaining what's going on to the completely clueless?

Thanks.

Cory
5th-Apr-2005 02:34 am (UTC)
When I studied music formally in college, I found that all this theory was just confirming that my musical instinct was correct. That said, when I listen to music, I'm not thinking, "Damn, that chord progression is something else; I can't believe he managed to resolve back to the tonic after meandering over to the minor second and the augmented sixth" -- not usually, at least.

I remember several years ago seeing a book written especially for people who don't know a lot about classical music, and I remember it got very good reviews. I don't remember what it was, though, and I can't think of anything else right now. If I remember, I'll let you know.
5th-Apr-2005 03:01 pm (UTC)
*laugh* I wouldn't recognize an augmented sixth if it bit me on the leg! No, I was thinking of something considerably less elevated than that. :-)

When I listen to some of the classical symphonies, it's like trying to drink from Niagra Falls -- there's too much, and so I can't take ANY of it in. I'm trying to figure out how to make it into small enough streams that I can encompass it.

An example:

When I listen to a concerto, it usually seems to me as if it's a conversation between the orchestra and the soloist:

Orchestra: Hey, here's a little tune
Soloist: You like that tune? Sure, I can play that tune
O: We like it even better if we elaborate it like this
S: Sure, I'll elaborate it like that if you want
O: Let's elaborate it even more
S: How about if I elaborate it with swirls and sprinkles and whipped cream and a cherry on top?
O: Yay, whoopee! You da man.

Or something like that. I'm sure people who are NOT musical pygmies have a more complex understanding than that :-), but that's a sample of the kind of thing I hear when I listen to a concerto. I guess I'm asking how to get IN to a symphony. Who's talking to whom, and how does the conversation go? All I'm getting right now is a wall of sound. (Well, not in some symphonies -- Beethoven's 9th has a lot I can hear -- but the symphonies from the high classical period often have that "wall of sound" effect for me.)

You're very nice to educate us musically untutored folks!

Cory
5th-Apr-2005 03:39 pm (UTC)
You've got the gist of it. Your description of what happens is pretty much what happens in other pieces from the classical period. In essence, you are given a theme or themes, and those themes are taken through a number of statements, restatements, transormations, etc. In a concerto, as you pointed out, there is a dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra centered around these themes. With a symphony or a solo work, the separate voices aren't always as clear. You may have opposition between different instruments in the orchestra (say, something gets stated in the strings and then the horns or woodwinds chime in) or different registers in an instrument. Or this dialogue may not happen at all. But if you listen to works from the classical period, you will always here a distinct melody or theme stated at the beginning of a movement. The composition will play around with the theme(s) in the tonic, that is the base key of the piece, the do in do-re-mi. Then a series of chord progressions will move the piece into the dominant or fifth, the so of do-re-mi-fa-so. The movement will usually explore statements and transfigurations of the theme(s) in other keys as well, but the bulk of the movement hovers in and around the dominant until it reolves itself back in the tonic, giving the movement a I-V-I arc. There are different forms for accomplishing, but all "Classical" music has this basic shape.

In the Romantic period, forms became less strictly defined and harmonic progressions strayed farther and farther away from this basic I-V-I. Listening to a piece from the late 19th century, it is easy to lose track of the harmonic movement. However, the Romantic works tended to have a more organic treatment of themes. Where as the Classical works presented a complete theme and developed it, Romantic works often fleshed out a theme from a germinal idea. That's one of the reasons Romantic works tend to be longer.

In the twentieth century, some composers abandoned the idea of the tonal (I-V-I, called tonal because it's centered around a tonic) system. Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern developed a rigorous musical system around sets of 12 unique tones and subsets thereof. Debussy also played around with 12-tone scales. Debussy, Ravel, and others played with different musical sonorities outside of tonal music and independent of the strict 12-tone (aka serial) school of music. Composers like Bartok, Stravinsky, and Ives often took folk music or other sounds and music and created new textures, rhythms, etc. The twentieth century was a very exciting time for musical innovation.

Nonetheless, the key in any musical style or period, IMO, is to allow yourself to listen to the different musical ideas put forth, whether distinct themes or special sonorities, and allow these ideas to mingle in your inner ear as the composer gradually works these ideas out for you. Yes, one can super-analyze these things, but I don't want to kill the emotional power and enjoyment of music by doing so. I think you already know how to listen to music. Some textures and styles simple require more careful listening until your ear and mind become more acclimated to them.
5th-Apr-2005 05:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your explanation! I appreciate your going to all this effort (especially for someone who's just a random friend of Jay's).

Cory
4th-Apr-2005 09:13 pm (UTC)
I am very fond of Mozart, Bach, and (to a lesser extent) Beethoven.

I guess I like Germans. :-)

(I like Vivaldi, too, though; what I've heard of him, anyway.)

Yes, I would be happy to do some of our discoveries together. After I have a nap, anyway. Right now I'm dubious of anything that involves expenditure of energy.
5th-Apr-2005 02:31 am (UTC)
Oh, for shame! Hold your tongue! Mozart was Austrian!
5th-Apr-2005 03:39 am (UTC)
Oh, so he must have composed for didgeridoo a lot, hunh?

(ducks)
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