Welcome! This blog is an exploration of opera – the warhorses, the familiar, those you may have heard of in a reference book, and the very obscure indeed.
We live in an extraordinary age. The average person has more access to opera than at any time in the past. The great houses of the world – the Met in New York, La Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House in London, the Paris Opéra – broadcast their productions to millions around the world. You can find a recording of nearly any opera you name on YouTube. (Want to know what Canepa’s Riccardo III, Kreutzer’s Nachtlager in Granada or Godard’s Dante are like?) Scores and contemporary musical criticism are on IMSLP and the Internet Archive, while l’Art Lyrique Français is a staggering compendium of French opera. Gallica, the Bibliothèque nationale de France’s website, has illustrations, costumes, and set designs from the original productions.
What is performed today, though, is only the tip of the proverbial. Many obscure operas are just as good as the ones everybody knows, but may only be known in their home country (most of Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky’s operas, let alone Napravník and Serov’s), may not have won popularity in their lifetime, or may have been enormously popular for decades and then disappeared (Meyerbeer). Even composers as popular as Richards Strauss or Wagner composed operas that deserve to be better known. (There are wonderful things in Friedenstag and Feuersnot, while Das Liebesverbot is more fun than Tristan und Isolde.) And some forgotten operas do deserve to be forgotten – but it’d be interesting to find out why.
With such a wealth of opera available, this blog will rely on chance. I have a list of nearly 800 operas – and a random choice generator. I plan to work my way through that list, listening to or watching whatever opera the generator suggests. (Two rules: There must be at least one near-complete recording, and a score or libretto.)
I’ll also post my thoughts on operas I see or hear otherwise, either live, at the cinema, or on the radio.