I have been asked by my editors to introduce the “Ask Simone” feature. What better way to do this than to ask myself some questions which I will then proceed to answer.
Today’s topic is OPERA. So here goes!
1. If you wanted to introduce a total novice to opera which one would you select?
There are two possibilities: One is “Carmen” by Georges Bizet because it has a popular theme and is very easy to follow. I would rather choose “La Traviata: by Giuseppe Verdi because it is melodic from beginning to end and tells a love story with a tragic ending. There was also a very good film by Franco Zeffirelli that was made of it in 1983 starring Theresa Stratos and Placido Domingo, and you can watch this if an actual opera performance is inaccessible.
2. Which do you think is the most overrated opera?
Definitely “Tosca” by Puccini. The story is not credible. It is melodramatic and overblown from beginning to end. It does however have great arias.
3. What is your favorite feminine aria and why?
I think Santuzza pleading with Turridu not to abandon her. This is from Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana.” Turridu is leaving her to return to Lola, his first love and Santuzza is devastated. This sounds like a tearjerker but when expressed musically it acquires a poignancy that no mere spoken words can convey. This opera is also one I would recommend to a first time opera audience. It is about ordinary people rather than mythological heroes. About the middle of the 19th century opera was turning away from “Opera Seria” (Serious Opera) to “Opera Buffa” or “Opera Comique” (which in this instance does not mean “funny” but rather ordinary)
4. Favorite male aria?
There are two…The tenor in “La fille du Regiment” by Gaetano Donizetti sings a very difficult aria requiring musical agility and stamina. In this
famous aria that starts with “Ah mes amis…
he tells of his joy at having been accepted by the regiment he applied to, and of his proposal of marriage having been accepted as well.
The second aria is “Una Furtiva Lagrima” from “L’Elisire d’Amore” (The Elixir of Love) also by Donizetti. Nemorino, a poor peasant laments his fate. He is in love with Adina a very popular girl who plays games with him, and he drinks a love potion which he thinks will alter his fate. I think this is the best example of bel canto (beautiful singing).
5. Favorite chorus?
I choose “Va Pensiero” also called the Chorus of the Slaves by Giuseppe Verdi in the opera “Nabucco.”
In this opera, he recounts the period of the Jews’ Babylonian captivity after the loss of the First Temple in Jerusalem in about 500 BC. Some saw in this an echo of the longing for reunification of Italy known as Risorgimento in the 19th century. It is by far the most moving choral work I know.
Very informative as usual.
Hi Simone, I loved the opinions on various operas. I have to ask, what is the most under-rated opera in your opinion?
There are 2. The Pear fishers by Bizet. It has beautiful arias/ The other one is Martha by Flotov. I have not seen either one, they are seldom performed
I’ll have to watch them both! Thank you so much Simone 🙂
My wife sings opera and introduced me to the art when we met 15 years ago. I hadn’t been to an opera before and didn’t think that I would like it, but I was surprised – it was amazing! The first one we went to was La Boheme. I’ve been to several now including Madame Butterfly, The Tosca, and Rigoletto. I know that it isn’t technically considered and opera by my favorite is Les Misérables which we traveled to London to see in the Queen’s Theater. I’d have to say my least favorite was Nixon in China. Thanks for posting… Read more »
Everyone in my family is opera fans except me. I’ve tried for years and have gone to several opera performances but it just doesn’t interest me. I can see the amount of talent that the performs have and if I watch the musicians it keeps me awake, but that’s about it. Give me a live rock concert anytime!
It is a matter of what appeals to a person. We don’t all like the came things.
Interesting topic for discussion. I’m just learning to love opera as my husband is a huge fan so I’m always there sitting and looking out of place when he begins to talk about it with friends and family. So, here I am gathering enough information and making my own research about it to put me in the know so I can have a little input whenever the need arises!
Have fun with your research in opera.
Agreed. “Tosca” by Puccini is really not worth the hype. The day it was to be played here for the first time, the whole town heard about it and we were all excited only to be met by something totally different. I think they would have done really better with their amazing arias.
The opera stories are just an excuse for beautiful singing. We would like opera as much if
we did not understand a word they were saying.
Wow. This is beautiful. Didn’t know you knew this much about opera. I bet I can write a whole chapter off your view about it. Thanks so much for this. It is quite useful to people like us who may be interested in seeing the whole thing from someone else’s point of view.
No doubt the Tosca story is not credible. It is melodramatic truly and I saw it and knew it was another one overblown from beginning to end. I’m not ready to start analyzing what went wrong as this is my field. I just feel the whole thing was not par standard and should have received better efforts.
We can always disregard the story and enjoy the musicWe can always disregard the story and enjoy the music.