Culture Magazine

Blog You Like a Hurricane

By Superconductor @ppelkonen

First: a Hurricane Irene update.
Blog You Like a Hurricane

Although I'm not really sure why you should be getting your hurricane news from a classical music site, I can tell you that the onset of Hurricane Irene has put a damper (pun intended) on music activities this weekend in New York City.

  • Tomorrow night's season-ending performance of the Mozart Requiem has been cancelled, which makes tonight's show the last of a highly successful festival. Review to follow.
  • Also axed: the first two nights of the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD Festival which would have featured showings of last year's Don Pasquale and a 2010 Simon Boccanegra with Plácido Domingo. The Festival will (hopefully) open on Monday with the scheduled showing of Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride starring Susan Graham.

Which makes a nice transition to the following feature article!

Daniel Barenboim conducts the Prelude to Act I of Die Walküre.
© 2010 La Scala.

The Top Five Storm Scenes in Opera Storm effects have always been an integral part of opera composition. Whether adding the effect of wind by a hand-turned drum or thunder with strategically placed metal sheets, the storm is a standard element of many dramatic works, and even comedies.5) Britten: Second Sea Interlude from Peter GrimesBenjamin Britten's opera about a misanthropic fisherman living in perpetual exile from a small English fishing village swims with powerful imagery of the vast oceans. The storm's fury is unleashed in the Second Interlude, which depicts the hero's struggle to reach his fishing hut during a ferocious storm.4) Rossini: Temporale from Act II of Il Barbiere di SivigliaRossini worked storms into a number of his operas, including a memorable one in the overture to William Tell. Barbiere has one of his best comic tempests, starting with little stabs and drips in the strings before unleashing the full fury of the heavens (and the orchestra.) Although it can be played by a small orchestra, Rossini's brilliant writing packs a mean meteorological wallop. And like most summer rainstorms, it is over before it begins. 3) Gluck: Introduction and Chorus from Act I of Iphigénie en TaurideThe great operatic reformer Christophe Willibald Gluck created the model for an orchestral tempest with the powerful overture of his second opera based on the tragic story of Iphigenia. The opera has no overture (another innovation) drawing the listener in with a few string chords that swell like clouds about to burst. When the storm breaks, the leading lady and her priestesses sing an evocation against soaring, chugging strings and rolls on the timpani, an effect later borrowed by Verdi for the opening scene of his Otello.2) Wagner: Prelude to Act I of Die WalküreThe Ring has its share of stormy moments. But nothing is more impressive than this scene which depicts Wotan's conjured tempest chasing poor hapless Siegmund into the hut of his enemy. The heavy, descending figure carries the weight of the raindrops, and the Wagner tubas ring out with Donner's "He-da! He-da! He-do!" theme, which last appeared when the thunder god let out a bolt of lightning at the end of Das Rheingold. An perfect operatic storm.1) Verdi: "Bella figlia dell'amore" (Quartet and Storm) from Act III of Rigoletto.The third act of Rigoletto is the full flowering of the mature Verdi's genius. He creates a mighty storm with the simplest effect: a group of choristers in the orchestra pit, humming a wordless melody to create the effect of oncoming thunder and rising, gale-force winds. The storm serves as background to the great quartet (sung by the Duke, Maddalena, Sparafucile and Gilda) which ends in the leading lady's death at the hands of the assassin.

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