Culture Magazine

Today in Opera History - May 23

By Pinkall @pinkall

Last weekend, my wife and I took the opportunity to visit a Kansas City Symphony concert.  They are certainly excited for the upcoming opening of the Kauffman Center, billing it as one of the greatest performance halls in the entire world.  Oh, and the Symphony concert was great too:
1. Brahms Alto Rhapsody (he's probably my favorite composer)
2. Beethoven's 1st (so clean...the best live performance I've ever heard of this, however the audience showed their musical ignorance by clapping between the movements.  You may think that it is pretentious to critique this, but this poor etiquette is very rude to the orchestra and conductor who were obviously bothered by it.  If you are not a musician, think of it as if you are proposing to marry someone in four sentences.  However, after you finish each of the sentences, your future fiancée interrupts saying, "oh, I love that shirt! Is that the one I bought you?", "Your hands are really soft!", "Hold on, let's get someone to take a picture of us", etc.  See, it's pretty obvious that your fiancée is somewhat appreciating the situation, but isn't really paying attention to your expression of love in the proposal.  And you and the conductor and orchestra would probably ask yourself, "Why am I doing this, if they aren't caring as much as I am?")
3. Prokofiev Cantata Alexander Nevsky, written in the USSR's heyday (it's obviously propagandistic, but I couldn't help getting excited, especially with a full chorus).
If you're in town, make sure to go to the Symphony's Celebration at the Station concert at Union Station. A big fireworks show will follow!
TODAY IN OPERA HISTORY - May 23
TODAY IN OPERA HISTORY - May 23
I sang the National Anthem at the Royals vs. Rangers baseball game on Thursday.  It went ok I suppose.  I could have done better, but I received a nice ovation.  I really like doing these kinds of things - the "perks" are great.  After doing things like this so often, I almost have become too relaxed.  It seems that when I get really nervous, I perform better than when I do things "just for fun".
Last week, my mom, dad, and grandpa all had birthdays.  That got me to think about who they shared birthdays with, which also got me to think about what important events happened as well.  So, in that mindset, this next week, every day I will have a "Today in Opera History" post, sharing some of the important and very distantly related elements of Opera History.
TODAY IN OPERA HISTORY - MAY 23
Today in 1829, the Accordion, was patented by Cyrill Demian in Venia.  Amazingly, several composers have been able to put the accordion in their operas (Berg's Wozzeck; Weill's Threepenny Opera - I know, it's technically a musical).  I love the accordion, but it has that roughness that seem impossible to refine, like an old-timey bar piano, or the bagpipes.
Ignaz Moscheles was born on this date in 1794 in Prague.  He was a friend to Felix Mendelssohn (who, if you don't already know, is one of the most important composers in history).  His effect on opera history pretty much comes down to when he was chosen by Beethoven to write the piano reduction of his only opera, Fidelio. Moscheles was so ecstatic and proud of the score he produced, that he wrote, "Finished with God's help" on the top of the score. Beethoven approved Moscheles's version, but scratched out the words and wrote over it, "O Man, help thyself!."  Check out Ignaz' Ignazty facial hair...
TODAY IN OPERA HISTORY - May 23
Today is also the 99th birthday of French Opera Composer, Jean Françaix. His most famous opera was La Princesse de Cleves. Here is a clip from the non-musical film version. (skip forward to 17:00 to see an exciting racquetball contest in costumes and tights!)

Happy Birthday to the famous German soprano, Ingeborg Hallstein.  Since she is still living (and she's obviously a woman) I won't shout her age out all over the internet, but lean up to the screen and I'll whisper a hint...it's her dodranscentennial birthday.  Anyway, to spare her the embarrassment of knowing that a bunch of opera geeks around the world are going to learn the Latin duodecimal system to figure our her age, I will also post one of my favorite recordings of her timeless voice.

It is the 270th birthday of  Italian opera composer, Andrea Luchesi.  He wrote several operas, relatively unknown today, but his music was influential to both Mozart and Beethoven.
Happy 223rd Birthday to South Carolina, the setting for Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess. Actually, they were the first state to seceded from the Union during the Civil War, and they were readmitted when they adopted the 13th Amendment on November 13, 1865 - so I guess today is kind of a pseudo-birthday since they became a state twice.
Today in 1430, Joan of Arc was captured by the Burgundians, and later famously sold to the English, convicted, and burned to death at the stake.  Her story has been retold in many operas by many of History's greatest composers: Verdi, Duprez, Gounod, Tchaikovsky, Dello Joio (one of my favorites!), Bernstein (his is technically a play with accompaniment), and many others.
And finally, it's WORLD TURTLE DAY.  So, go out there and kiss a turtle.  And believe it or not, I Googled "turtle opera" and the Royal Opera across the pond actually sponsors an autism charity called The Turtle Opera Project.  Go check that out as well.
TODAY IN OPERA HISTORY - May 23
UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE

  • Administrative Director of the 33rd Annual Summer Choral Institute - 6/5-11
  • National Anthem - Sporting KC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - 6/25
  • Sugar Creek Opera Festival (Chicago) - role: chorus/cover, opera: Daughter of the Regiment - 7/20-8/7
  • Kansas City Symphony Chorus Auditions - tba

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