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#1607 - 05/02/10 02:00 PM Re: Opera 2
Pete Offline


Registered: 01/10/02
Posts: 5177
Loc: Newport News, Virginia, USA
I thought it didn't matter--if an opera was to be performed in Paris, it had to have a ballet in the second act?

I suppose some of those bel canto operas were never exported to France.
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#1608 - 05/02/10 04:08 PM Re: Opera 2
Barbara Offline
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Registered: 04/24/99
Posts: 13033
Loc: Citrus Heights, CA , US
The history of this opera is kind of skimpy; I couldn't find anything online to indicate it had ever been performed in Paris. It premiered at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, but later Rossini was so lionized in Paris that it may have been revived by the Opéra. Was the ballet inserted then? Possibly. However, it does fit into the opera nicely and doesn't seem like an add-on. It's also about twenty minutes too long.

Armida struck me as being a kind of hybrid opera; I'm with Rita on that. But the singing should be paramount, and that's what satisfied me. Fleming's runs weren't always crisp, but that must surely be one of the most demanding roles in opera. I was amazed she was still on her feet at the end. And she ended strong. Lawrence Brownlee has lost a lot of weight and looks great, and he still sounds great. And I was much taken with Barry Banks's voice; he doubled as Gernando and Carlo.

The production itself was flat and unimaginative; the Palace of Pleasure was especially disappointing. Why does the Met keep hiring Mary Zimmerman and her collaborators?

[This message has been edited by Barbara (edited 05-02-2010).]

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#1609 - 05/03/10 05:22 PM Re: Opera 2
Anonymous
Unregistered


The opera was written for the newly(ish)-rebuilt San Carlo, so a bit of spectacle would have been appropriate. The ballet was definitely written for Naples, not Paris, and it's the only ballet music that I'm aware of that Rossini included in any of his operas before he moved to Paris (Guillaume Tell certainly had a ballet, so did his French revision of Mosè - which recycled some of the Armida ballet - and I'm fairly sure there's some dancing in Il Viaggio a Reims.)

I can't find any evidence that Armida was performed in Paris, though an opera called Robert Bruce (a pasticcio, with music culled from various Rossini operas including Armida) was premiered there at the end of 1846.

Another oddity is that Rossini wasn't in favour of supernatural elements in opera - hence Cenerentola had no fairy godmother - but that isn't apparent in Armida, with demons and allegorical figures and what-have-you. Lots of composers, notably Handel, Haydn, Salieri, Lully and Gluck, had already written Armida operas, however, and the well-known story probably meant that Rossini was unable to avoid magic on this occasion.Incidentally, it was one of three operas that he wrote within ten months.

One of my books says that Armida wasn't much appreciated at the time, but that it was a big stepping-stone towards his later operas.

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#1610 - 05/03/10 09:35 PM Re: Opera 2
Jon Offline


Registered: 04/25/99
Posts: 6422
Loc: Newark, Delaware, USA
I wasn't able to see it, though I had wanted to (grading hell, all weekend kept me chained to my desk). It's definitely unusual (almost unheard-of, I would say on the basis of my admittedly partial knowledge) for an Italian opera of the primo ottecento to have a ballet.

They all, however, have chorus. (It's Baroque opera seria that almost never has an actual chorus -- the final "coro" is an ensemble of all the soloists.) One oddity in this period is that the chorus is fairly often male-only (Barber of Seville and Rigoletto come to mind.)

All these stories of the knights of Charlemagne are, as Andrew said, part of the same long episodic saga -- I first read it as Part III of the collected "Bulfinch." Armida, Alcina, Orlando, Rinaldo... the stories go on and on. Even Huon of Bordeaux (see Weber's Oberon) links up to it.

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#1611 - 05/04/10 07:50 PM Re: Opera 2
Anonymous
Unregistered


Opera Grove has an article entitled "Dance". Mostly, this is about French opera, but it does say, in the Nineteenth Century section, "In Italy, where they had never been institutionalized, opera dances occurred less frequently than in France, suites in the French manner being rare (Rossini's Armida, 1817; Donizetti's L'assedio di Calais, 1836)." It goes on to mention dance in Verdi's non-Paris compositions - Ernani (1844), Rigoletto (1851), La traviata (1853), Ballo (1859).

I've actually seen L'assedio di Calais (at Wexford, where else?), but have no recollection of any ballet in that rather sombre work.

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#1612 - 05/04/10 09:40 PM Re: Opera 2
Jon Offline


Registered: 04/25/99
Posts: 6422
Loc: Newark, Delaware, USA
Quote:
It goes on to mention dance in Verdi's non-Paris compositions - Ernani (1844), Rigoletto (1851), La traviata (1853), Ballo (1859).

I don't remember Ernani very well, but in the other 3 cases, these are "realistic" dances on a social occasion -- not a balletic divertissement for the audience alone. Traviata comes closest to the latter, as there are two extended numbers as part of a party, each with a full stop for applause. (Rigoletto's dances pass quickly as background in the opening scene, and Ballo's serve as background to the intrigue of the masked ball that is its final scene.)

Other examples of Verdi providing important dance segments in non-Parisian works might include Macbeth, which even in its earlier version (which I have seen) pre-Paris-revision has a ballet movement in the incantation scene; and, much later, Aida with its ceremonial and slave incidentals, and the big Triumphal Scene ballet midway -- which, though later expanded for Paris (the only case, I think, where a Paris revision became a standard part of the definitive Italian score), was there in substantial form from the beginning. Aida is in some ways an Italian twist on the idea of French grand opera.

[This message has been edited by Jon (edited 05-05-2010).]

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#1613 - 05/05/10 05:43 PM Re: Opera 2
Anonymous
Unregistered


To complete the picture, Verdi also produced ballet music for Paris performances of Il Trovatore and (would you believe?) Otello.

When I was trying to convince myself that I ought to like ballet, I saw The Lady and the Fool at Covent Garden in the 1960s. Charles ("Pineapple Poll") Mackerras had used music from some of Verdi's lesser-known operas - not necessarily music specifically intended for dancing, but the really really dire story-line was one of the things that pretty much put me off ballet for life.

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#1614 - 05/06/10 11:11 AM Re: Opera 2
Lorna Offline
Member

Registered: 04/22/05
Posts: 2676
Loc: Dayton, Ohio
Sorry to hear that, Andrew. You're missing so much.

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#1615 - 05/06/10 10:45 PM Re: Opera 2
Kay Offline


Registered: 04/25/99
Posts: 17046
Loc: Roanoke, VA , USA
And it was at Covent Garden many years ago that I saw La fille mal gardee which is performed to a pastiche that includes a bits and pieces of operas...

I rather liked it, but the thing I remember most was some dancing chickens.

On that same trip to London I saw the original production of "Cats" and I liked it a lot better.



[This message has been edited by Kay (edited 05-06-2010).]
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#1616 - 05/08/10 08:44 AM Re: Opera 2
Jon Offline


Registered: 04/25/99
Posts: 6422
Loc: Newark, Delaware, USA
Right, dance music in Verdi's French (or revised-for-Paris) operas is a familiar concept; it's finding it in Italian operas that's unusual.

Otello has actually been recorded at least twice with the Paris ballet included (oddly, as none of the other Paris alterations were made). It makes for an odd interruption before the Act III finale. Even odder, the novelAria, which concerns the making of a recording of Otello in Rome, acts as if the ballet music were a standard and essential part of all recordings of the piece. And it's written by a former record executive, who ought to know better. But it's a dreadful book in so many ways, I suppose one more isn't surprising.

I don't dislike ballet, but it doesn't do much for me. NYCB used to come to Ravinia in the summer, so I saw the full-length Jewels when some of its original dancers were in it, I saw Villella in Dances at a Gathering, and so on. Another time, I saw Fonteyn and Nureyev in Swan Lake. I guess I'm glad to have been present for now-classic performances, but I probably can't really tell the difference. I was always more interested in the music. When I saw the Stuttgart Ballet do Romeo and Juliet, I was thrilled, only to be told the next day how bad all the choreography was. I had barely noticed -- for me, it was about Prokofiev's wonderful music, and the action was the familiar story synchronized with it, so what's not to like?

[This message has been edited by Jon (edited 05-08-2010).]

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