Culture Magazine

Worst National Anthems for Opera Singers & BREAKING PULITZER PRIZE NEWS!

By Pinkall @pinkall

The sheer freakiness of number 10 blows my socks off.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but that guy sang two high E flats!!!!!!!!!!  Good luck EVER hearing someone do that again in your lifetime.  I certainly cannot sing that high.
However, I will sing the "normal" version of the National Anthem at the Kansas City Royals game versus the Cleveland Indians tonight at 7.  I am very honored (and excited) but I also am excited for the perks.  Believe it or not, singers don't get many perks in the real world, other than a free glass of water.  One time I even had to pay for water, at a church no less!  But, the Royals have been VERY generous, and seemingly have offered me unlimited tickets and parking passes.  Sorry for anyone out there wanting to go, but I have already requested the number that I needed.  Now as for the Sporting KC soccer game that I'm singing the Star Spangled Banner and O Canada at in June, they are actually trying to guilt me into buying season tickets, which are several hundred dollars.  That is very annoying and frustrating, it feels like perk revenge or like a friend borrowing your screwdriver and then charging you to get it back.
Nevertheless, all this National Anthem stuff has made me remember when I was a little boy.  We had a computer CD that had a map of the world.  When you clicked on a country, it would show a map of that country.  Also, there was button on the screen that I could press and a picture of their flag would wave and rise up a flag pole while their national anthem was played.  I was VERY addicted to this and eventually listened to every national anthem, some so many times that I memorized them!
From what I can remember, there were some pretty strange ones.  I tried to remember some of these, the weirdest ones, and now that I sing operatically, I came up with a list of what I think would be the most awful.  Here is my list of the 5 strangest (or impossible) national anthems for opera singers.  If you have more, please add it on as a comment - and no matter what you have always heard about America's National Anthem, it is not that weird or difficult compared to the rest of the world.
5. Japan
This is the world's shortest national anthem with only 11 measures and 32 notes.  The lyrics were written 1000 years ago but the melody was written only a little over 100 years ago.  Kimigayo is elegant and simple, just like their flag, but the melody is certainly unique compared to the rest of the world.  It is beautiful, but it's a folk tune and not a traditional western music piece.  An opera singer could sing this, but it's obviously Japanese; let's not ruin it by making it sound Italian.

Below is a link to the Japanese National Anthem when it was played at the Opening Ceremony of the Nagano Olympics in 1998.  I have always remembered it since I saw it live on TV.  I love the instruments in this eastern music tradition.
4. Spain
Marcha Real
This is the first adopted National Anthem in the world.  It officially became the National Anthem of Spain in 1770 (yes, there are other countries who have older anthems, but they weren't "official").  It is particularly difficult for opera singers to sing, because it doesn't have any words.  It is really catchy though.  Here is a clip of the anthem from the 1992 Summer Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Barcelona, Spain. (it begins at 1:28)

3. South Africa
National Anthem of South Africa
This is a very interesting anthem because it begins and ends in different keys - the only National Anthem in the world that does that.  Not only that, but every stanza is in a different language (five languages all together).  This could be especially difficult if you have never learned these African tribal languages (I'm assuming most opera singers have not).  Below is a translated version with the names of the languages in parentheses.

2. India
Jana Gana Mana
Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tangore wrote the lyrics and music for India's National Anthem.  It is very unique because it too is a folk tune (and should be sung as such), it has an eastern harmonic structure (in other words - lots of little weird notes) and it is written in a dialect of Sanskrit.  Not only that, but if it isn't sung, it usually is played quite fast.  Here is a slower version:

1. Djibouti
Djibouti evidently gave up on creating awesome names after they invented the word "Djibouti" (sounds like "jih-boo-tee").  Their capital, country, and national anthem are all named Djibouti. Don't give up on creativity! If you made one great name, surely you could do it again! Anyway, this give-up attitude has certainly translated itself into the music of their national anthem.  This has to be the least fun national anthem to sing.  Just follow along, I've tried listening to it four times and still haven't been able to listen to the whole thing - I guess their give-up-ness is contagious!  On second thought, if you value your time, you probably shouldn't listen to this.  It is a ridiculously poor composition, with very little harmonic structure.  In other words - it's boring.  Here is the English Translation:
Arise with strength! For we have raised our flag,
The flag which has cost us dear
With extremes of thirst and pain.
Our flag, whose colours are the everlasting green of the earth,
The blue of the sky, and white, the colour of peace;
And in the centre the red star of blood.
Oh flag of ours, what a glorious sight!

But, what then is the best National Anthem?  Mozart wrote Austria's, Haydn wrote Germany's...hmm.  Well, certainly I will have to be quite biased, but the Star-Spangled Banner gives quite a majestic punch.  Here is one of my favorite renditions, conducted by Lorin Maazel on a trip to North Korea of all places, the undisputed greatest orchestra on earth, The New York Philharmonic treats Kim Jong Il with the Star-Spangled Banner.

On a final note, just minutes ago, a UMKC Conservatory Professor of Composition, Zhou Long, won the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Opera "Madame White Snake".  What an incredible accomplishment for one of our own - and in the genre of opera!!  Here is an article from the Kansas City Star about the announcement:
  • National Anthem - Kansas City Royals vs. Cleveland Indians - 4/18
  • Conservatory Finale  - Poulenc Gloria (probably on my top 10 favorite pieces ever) featuring the Conservatory Choirs and Orchestra - 4/23
  • National Anthem - UMKC School of Nursing Commencement - 5pm 5/5
  • National Anthem - UMKC School of Computer & Engineering - 10am 5/6
  • National Anthem - UMKC School of Arts & Sciences - 1pm & 4pm 5/6
  • National Anthem - Bloch School of Business and Public Administration - 7pm 5/6
  • National Anthem - UMKC School of Education - 10am 5/7
  • National Anthem - UMKC School of Pharmacy - 1pm 5/7
  • National Anthem - Kansas City School of Dentistry - 7pm 5/7
  • National Anthem - DOE Small Business Conference & Expo - Kansas City Convention Center - 5/10
  • 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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By Louvenia
posted on 12 December at 05:41
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