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IT was the scalawag Schikaneder who had put together the singular dramatic phantasmagoria known as Mozart's Magic Flute, and acted the part of the buffoon in it, who, having donned the garb of respectability, commissioned Beethoven to compose the only opera which that supreme master gave to the world. The opera is Fidelio, and it occupies a unique place in operatic history.
MM. MICHEL CARRE and Jules Barbier, who made the book for Gounod's opera Faust, went for their subject to Goethe's dramatic poem. Out of that great work, which had occupied the mind of the German poet for an ordinary lifetime, the French librettists extracted the romance which sufficed them — the story of Gretchen's love for the rejuvenated philosopher, her seduction and death.
THERE is no reason to question Gounod's statement that it was he who conceived the idea of writing a Faust opera in collaboration with MM. Barbier and Carré. There was nothing novel in the notion. Music was an integral part of the old puppet-plays which dealt with the legend of Dr. Faustus, and Goethe's tragedy calls for musical aid imperatively.
La Damnation De Faust
IN an operatic form Berlioz's Damnation de Faust had its first representation in New York at the Metropolitan Opera-house on December 7, 1906.
La Traviata
La Traviata' last night a failure. Was the fault mine or the singers'? Time will tell.
Two erroneous impressions concerning Verdi's Aida may as well as not be corrected at the beginning of a study of that opera : it was not written to celebrate the completion of the Suez Canal, nor to open the Italian Opera-house at Cairo.
Der Freischutz
A DESCRIPTION of Carl Maria von Weber's opera, Der Freischütz, ought to begin with a study of the overture, since that marvellous composition has lived on and on in the concert-rooms of the world without loss of popularity for nearly a century.
NOTHING could have demonstrated more perfectly the righteousness of Wagner's claim to the title of poet than his acceptance of the Greek theory that a people's legends and myths are the fittest subjects for dramatic treatment, unless it be the manner in which he has re-shaped his material in order to infuse it with that deep ethical principle to which reference has several times been made.
Tristan Und Isolde
A VASSAL is sent to woo a beauteous princess for his lord. While he is bringing her home the two, by accident, drink a love potion, and ever thereafter their hearts are fettered together. In the midday of delirious joy, in the midnight of deepest woe, their thoughts are only of each other, for each other.
A LAD, hotfoot in pursuit of a wild swan which one of his arrows has pierced, finds himself in a forest glade on the side of a mountain. There he meets a body of knights and esquires in attendance on a king who is suffering from a wound. The knights are a body of men whose mission it is to succor suffering innocence wherever they may find it.
Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg
THE best definition of the true purpose of comedy which I know is that it is to chastise manners with a smile (Ridendo castigat mores) ; and it has no better exemplification in the literature of opera than Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.
IN the last hundred lines of the last book of his epic poem to which Wagner went for the fundamental incidents, not principles, of his Parsifal, Wolfram von Eschenbach tells the story of one of the Grail King's sons whom he calls Loherangrin.
Hansel Und Gretel
IN many respects Hänsel und Gretel is the most interesting opera composed since Parsifal, and, by being an exception, proves the rule to which I directed some remarks in the chapter on Don Giovanni.
Biblical Operas
WHETHER or not the English owe a grudge to their Lord Chamberlain for depriving them of the pleasure of seeing operas based on Biblical stories I do not know. If they do, the grudge cannot be a deep one, for it is a long time since Biblical operas were in vogue.
Bible Stories In Opera And Oratorio
IT was the fond belief of Dr. Chrysander, born of his deep devotion to Handel, in whose works he lived and moved and had his being, that the heroic histories of the Jews offered no fit material for dramatic representation. In his view the Jews never created dramatic poetry, partly because of the Mosaic prohibition against plastic delineation of their Deity.
Rubinstein's "Geistliche Opera"
I HAVE a strong belief in the essential excellence of Biblical subjects for the purposes of the lyric drama - at least from an historical point of view. I can see no reason against but many reasons in favor of a return to the stage of the patriarchal and heroic figures of the people who are a more potent power in the world today, despite their dispersal and loss of national unity.
Samson Et Dalila
THERE are but two musical works based on the story of Samson on the current list today, Handel's oratorio and Saint-Saens's opera ; but lyric drama was still in its infancy when the subject first took hold of the fancy of composers and it has held it ever since. The earliest works were of the kind called sacred operas in the books and are spoken of as oratorios now.
Die Konigin Von Saba
THE most obvious reason why Goldmark's 'Konigin von Saba' should be seen and heard with pleasure lies in its book and scenic investiture. Thoughtfully considered the book is not one of great worth, but in the handling of things which give pleasure to the superficial observer it is admirable. In the first place it presents a dramatic story which is rational.
IN the ballet scene of Gounod's most popular opera Mephistopheles conjures up visions of Phryne, Lais, Aspasia, Cleopatra, and Helen of Troy to beguile the jaded interest of Faust. The list reads almost like a catalogue of the operas of Massenet whose fine talent was largely given to the celebration of the famous courtesans of the ancient world.
Lakmé is the daughter of Nilakantha, a fanatical Brahmin priest, who has withdrawn to a ruined temple deep in an Indian forest. In his retreat the old man nurses his wrath against the British invader, prays assiduously to Brahma (thus contributing a fascinating Oriental mood to the opening of the opera), and waits for the time to come when he shall be able to wreak his revenge on the despoilers of his country.
FOR a quarter of a century 'Cavalleria rusticana' and 'Pagliacci' have been the Castor and Pollux of the operatic theatres of Europe and America. Together they have joined the hunt of venturesome impresarios for that Calydonian boar, success ; together they have lighted the way through seasons of tempestuous stress and storm.
Cavalleria Rusticana
HAVING neither the patience nor the inclination to paraphrase a comment on Mascagni's 'Cavalleria rusticana' which I wrote years ago when the opera was comparatively new, and as it appears to me to contain a just estimate and criticism of the work and the school of which it and 'Pagliacci' remain the foremost exemplars, I quote from my book, 'Chapters of Opera'.
The Career Of Mascagni
IT would be foolish to question or attempt to deny the merits of the type of Italian opera established by Mascagni's lucky inspiration. The brevity of the realistic little tragedy, the swiftness of its movement, its adherence to the Italian ideal of melody first, its ingenious combination of song with an illuminative orchestral part - these elements in union created a style which the composers of Italy, France, and Germany were quick to adopt.
'LIGHT is the language of the eternal ones - hear it !' proclaims the librettist of 'Iris' in that portion of his book which is neither said nor sung nor played. And it is the sun that sings with divers voices after the curtain has risen on a nocturnal scene, and the orchestra has sought to depict the departure of the night, the break of day, the revivification of the flowers and the sunrise.
Madama Butterfly
THIS is the book of the generation of 'Madama Butterfly' : An adventure in Japan begat Pierre Loti's 'Madame Chrysanthème' ; 'Madame Chrysanthème' begat John Luther Long's 'Madame Butterfly,' a story ; 'Madame Butterfly,' the story, begat 'Madame Butterfly,' a play by David Belasco ; 'Madame Butterfly,' the play, begat 'Madama Butterfly,' the opera by Giacomo Puccini.
Der Rosenkavalier
IN the beginning there was 'Guntram,' of which we in America heard only fragmentary echoes in our concert-rooms. Then came 'Feuersnot,' which reached us in the same way, but between which and the subject which is to occupy me in this chapter there is a kinship through a single instrumental number, the meaning of which no commentator has dared more than hint at.
ONCE upon a time a witch cast a spell upon a king's daughter and held her in servitude as a goose-herd. A prince found her in the forest and loved her. She loved him in return, and would gladly have gone away from her sordid surroundings with him, though she had spurned the crown which he had offered her in exchange for her wreath of flowers.
Boris Godounoff
FROM whatever point of view it may be considered Mossourgsky's opera 'Boris Godounoff' is an extraordinary work. It was brought to the notice of the people of the United States by a first performance at the Metropolitan Opera House, in New York, on March 19, 1913, but intelligence concerning its character had come to observers of musical doings abroad by reports touching performances in Paris and London.
Madame Sans-Gene And Other Operas By Giordano
THE opera-goers of New York enjoyed a novel experience when Giordano's 'Madame Sans-Gêne' had its first performance on any stage in their presence at the Metropolitan Opera House on January 25, 1915. It was the first time that a royal and imperial personage who may be said to live freshly and vividly in the minds of the people of this generation as well as in their imaginations appeared before them to sing his thoughts and feelings in operatic fashion.
Two Operas By Wolf-Ferrari
WHEN the operas of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari came to America (his beautiful setting of the 'Vita Nuova' was already quite widely known at the time), it was thought singular and somewhat significant that though the operas had all been composed to Italian texts they should have their first Italian performances in this country. This was the case with 'Le Donne Curiose'.
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