Opera Club! The first two suggestions to watch this week.
If you follow us on Facebook you’ll have seen that we posted this week about an informal ‘opera club’ online. The idea is to give us a weekly diversion from the news onslaught and build up a community where we can chat about what opera we are watching each week: hopefully provide some operatic balm and distraction from the sobering realities of the world at the moment. We’ll adapt the idea as we go along, but to get us started, we’re beginning with an absolute classic: La Traviata, which you’ll enjoy whether you are an opera buff or completely new to it. Each week we will also suggest something a little bit different, either opera or a classical concert as an alternative. This week it is a Lieder recital in New York performed by Fleur Barron who was Maddalena in our production of Rigoletto in 2018.
If you can’t watch the version of La Traviata we suggest (as it’s time-limited) then there’s another suggested link as well, or take your pick of another production online. Maybe we can all reconvene on Facebook at the end of the week to see what you thought/answer any questions and as time goes on we’ll adapt to what works best for those who want to be involved? Thanks to our Dramaturg, Judith Wiemers, for the following contextual and production notes on each suggestion.
from the Metropolitan Opera New York
We begin our recommendations of online operas with an absolute classic: Verdi’s La Traviata, in a production from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. La Traviata (The fallen woman) holds a special place in the core operatic repertoire and is among the most-played and most popular operas of all time, maybe sharing its place at the top of the all-time favourites with Puccini’s La Bohème.
The melodic richness of Verdi’s score and the poignancy of its narrative, written by long-time collaborator Francesco Maria Piave (who also wrote the libretti for Rigoletto, La Forza del Destino and Macbeth, among others) make La Traviata (premiered in 1853, during Verdi’s so-called “middle” period) an irresistible programming choice for opera houses all over the world.
Set in Paris in the early 19th century, the opera revolves around courtesan Violetta, who faces her downfall when deciding to commit to a love relationship with her admirer Alfredo. She learns that in a society that is guided by prejudice and greed, she can only exist as an object of desire, available to all. La Traviata, marking the beginning proper of the Verismo tradition in opera, presented a novelty in depicting a heroine from a disreputable milieu, equipped with a complex personality. Despite its ensembles scenes in Act I and II, La Traviata has been described as a chamber opera, due to the dramaturgical significance of very private moments of introspection experienced by the female protagonist.
In the Met production by director Michael Myer, Diana Damrau performs the role of Violetta, with Juan Diego Flórez as Alfredo, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the podium. This relatively traditional take on the opera is both musically and visually opulent. The original broadcasting date was December 15, 2018. The video will be available on demand from 19th March at 7:30pm EDT/11.30 p.m. GMT for 20 hrs.
If you aren’t free to watch this version while it’s available, then try
La Traviata production by Willy Decker (originally for the Salzburg Festival, 2005) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RYsbUcqKSM
Fleur Barron and Myra Huang perform live at the 92nd Street Y concert hall in New York
You might remember Northern Ireland-born mezzo soprano Fleur Barron from her spirited performance in NI Opera’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto in 2018, where she sang the role of Maddalena to critical acclaim.
On her current tour, she presents some of the most revered Lieder in the repertoire alongside pianist and accompanist Myra Huang; Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder and Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children), as well as Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte. Both Mahler song cycles are based on poems by the German poet Friedrich Rückert. In Kindertotenlieder, a collection of about 400 poems, Rückert poured his grief over the loss of his two children into verse. In his musical setting of five of these poems (which exist in versions for orchestra, and piano), Mahler emulates Rückert’s introspective tone with sparse instrumental texture and moments of wonderful lyricism. His harmonic language is discomforting; full of delusions of better times, lacking resolution. The collection Rückert-Lieder combines some of Mahler’s most beloved song settings, from the eerie “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” (I am lost to the world) to the sentimental love song “Liebst du um Schönheit” (If you love for beauty). Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebe (To the distant beloved) is considered to be one of the first song cycles ever written (1816). It addresses a man’s observations of perpetually changing landscapes, which guide his memories of an absent lover.
We’ll post the details of each performance here every week (a fixed day to be determined shortly) but do follow us on Facebook too where we hope to have some friendly discussions about what we’ve watched each week with our community. https://www.facebook.com/NorthernIrelandOpera/