Tag Archives: Opera

TALES OF HOFFMANN: A HALLOWEEN OPERA

Halloween month is here! As usual the next 31 days will be filled with my usual topics PLUS neglected horror films, novels, operas, etc.

Tales of Hoffmann

Tales of Hoffmann

TALES OF HOFFMANN – Yes, as if I wasn’t boring enough already I’m also into opera! Now, I know traditionally “the” Halloween Opera has always been Don Giovanni , but I’ve never bought into that notion since there’s really only one scene in the whole opera that qualifies as spooky and supernatural.

At this time of year I prefer Offenbach’s Tales Of Hoffmann. Not only is it full of appropriately eerie and menacing elements, but it’s also the perfect opera for you to share with someone who’s seeing their very first opera.

One of the reasons for that is that it’s in short segments, surrounded by a wraparound opening and finale. Offenbach adapts short stories written by E.T.A. Hoffmann, who in real life was a pre-Edgar Alan Poe author of eerie short stories in his native Austria during the 1800s. At any rate since this opera’s in short segments novices to the artform won’t have time to get bored.

Another reason is that, though the climax of these tales no doubt seemed shocking to the people of Hoffmann’s (or for that matter, Offenbach’s) time period, modern audiences are so used to anthology series’ like The Twilight Zone and Tales From The Crypt, etc that today’s viewers will spot the “twist” endings coming from a mile away. This combats another common complaint of opera novices: that they have trouble following the story. Continue reading

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DJANGO: OPERA VERSION OF THE 1966 MOVIE

HAPPY FRONTIERADO! As this edition of the holiday winds down, here’s one last seasonal post.

Franco Nero as DjangoDJANGO: AN OPERA – Here at Balladeer’s Blog I love sharing my enthusiasms. My blog posts where I provide contemporary slants to Ancient Greek Comedies to make them more accessible have been big hits over the years, so now I’m trying it with operas. A little while back I wrote about how Philip Wylie’s science fiction novel Gladiator could be done as an opera. This time I’m addressing the 1966 original version of the Spaghetti Western titled Django.

IF YOU HATE OPERAS AND YOU’D RATHER JUST READ MY MOVIE REVIEW OF THE 1966 DJANGO, CLICK HERE 

DJANGO

Original Django posterLANGUAGE: Spanish. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that most of my fellow English-speakers find English-language operas to be silly. The prosaic nature of the forced rhymes in a language we are well-versed in does seem to rob opera of its mystique and its grandeur. 

I fall into that trap myself. I’ve noticed I can never lose myself in a Gilbert & Sullivan work like I can with La Forza del Destino or Tales of Hoffmann or any other opera sung in a less familiar language. At any rate, I’ve chosen Spanish for this opera because so much of the story takes place in Mexico during the war to dethrone Emperor Maximilian.

SINGERS: A Tenor, 2 Baritones, a Soprano, 3 Basses and a Mezzo-Soprano

For Django, I’m making it a two-act opera as opposed to the three-act format I used for Gladiator.

ACT ONE: MARCH 1867. A STRETCH OF BARREN DESERT ALONG THE US/ MEXICO BORDER. 

Django and coffinScene One: The opera would open with a stage version of one of the most iconic visuals from the 1966 film. Our title character, DJANGO, clad in his long blue jacket with his well-worn Union Army uniform underneath it, slowly, wearily drags a coffin behind him as he walks along singing his mournful song. He pulls the coffin via a rope slung across one shoulder.

The coffin symbolizes the burden of grief that Django has carried with him ever since his wife was killed during the U.S. Civil War by Confederate MAJOR JACKSON. Django has pursued his ideological and personal enemy across the west and now to this battle-scarred border town.

The vile Major Jackson and his former Confederate soldiers have turned into outright Klansmen. Jackson and his men are among the former Confederate military men who took up Emperor Maximilian’s offer of land and citizenship in Mexico (where slavery was still legal). In exchange they had to fight to help Maximilian retain his throne. Continue reading

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GLADIATOR: AN OPERA VERSION OF PHILIP WYLIE’S NOVEL

GladiatorEven though there are signs here and there that audiences are getting fatigued with the oversaturation of superhero adaptations for the big and small screens, there still doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.

What better time for an OPERA version of Philip Wylie’s science fiction novel Gladiator, from 1930? Wylie’s work is often credited with inspiring the creation of Superman and every other superhero that followed.

Long before the overrated and overpraised Alan Moore wrote The Watchmen, this very first look at a superhero presented the figure struggling with the moral issues regarding the use of his superior abilities.

Gladiator 2The central character uses his powers in World War One but afterward must cope with the limits of “super-powers” when it comes to dealing with political corruption and other problems that can’t be solved with violence. Or in which flexing his super-muscles would be counter-productive, maybe even ushering in a dictatorship.

In other words, the same type of stories which today are praised as “innovative” for “deconstructing the superhero mythos” WERE ALREADY EXPLORED IN THIS NOVEL NINETY YEARS AGO! 

As a break from movie and television superhero tales I think an Opera format would be an intriguing and unexpected way of adapting Gladiator. Let’s face it – if it was done for television or movies today it would be criticized as “derivative” (irony of ironies) and “talky.”

Gladiator 4 Man God

Marvel Comics’ 1976 adaptation

That talkyness would slide nicely into a staged opera since, as I often point out in my examinations of 1970s Marvel stories, operas – like many comic books – are filled with lengthy expository monologues, but in song form. (There are countless “senses-shattering” origin stories and villain rants that are sung in operas.) 

Think of this piece as a way of using the familiar superhero formula to encourage more people to “give opera a chance.” I love sharing my enthusiasms and I was very happy with the reception of those blog posts where I wrote about Ancient Greek Comedies to make them seem relevant. I want to try doing the same with operas. Continue reading

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BEST OF JUNE 2019

Balladeer’s Blog’s year-end retrospective continues with this look at June’s best:

Dark ShadowsDARK SHADOWS: A review of the Phoenix storyline from Dark Shadows HERE plus the Leviathan Cult and more HERE 

THE CHOICE OF THE WORKING CLASS AND THE POOR – The title says it all. CLICK HERE

FLASHMAN’S GUIANA – Harry Flashman on the hunt for gold in the part of British Guiana being fought over by Great Britain and Venezuela. CLICK HERE

Killraven 1KILLRAVEN: WAR OF THE WORLDS – The first part of my ongoing look at the 1973-1976 Marvel Comics science fiction series about heroic rebels fighting Earth’s alien conquerors. CLICK HERE  

FACULTY LOUNGE FASCIST ROUNDUP: JUNE 6th – Another look at the Theater of the Absurd called the American “educational” system. CLICK HERE

Gladiator 2GLADIATOR: AN OPERA VERSION OF THE 1930 PHILIP WYLIE NOVEL  – An opera about a man granted paranormal abilities by science. CLICK HERE 

FIRST BATTLE OF MACHIAS – A forgotten Revolutionary War action. CLICK HERE

HARRISON FLOYD: A MARTIN LUTHER KING PERSON OF COURAGE – A courageous iconoclast. CLICK HERE Continue reading

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Filed under Bad and weird movies, Education or Indoctrination, humor, LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES, Neglected History, opinion, Superheroes

HARRIET, THE WOMAN CALLED MOSES: OPERA BY THEA MUSGRAVE

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman

HARRIET, THE WOMAN CALLED MOSES – This opera, with music and libretto by Scottish composer Thea Musgrave, was first performed March 1st, 1985 at the Virginia Opera in Norfolk, VA. The conductor was Musgrave’s husband Peter Mark. 

Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog will remember my articles about Thea Musgrave’s 1979 opera version of A Christmas Carol. I consider Musgrave one of the few genuine giants of opera from the late 20th Century. (Yes, I’m so boring I’m even into opera.) 

Of Republican Harriet Tubman, the famed former slave who worked with the Underground Railroad to lead other slaves to freedom, Musgrave said “Harriet is every woman who dared to defy injustice and tyranny. She is Joan of Arc, she is Susan B Anthony, she is Anne Frank, she is Mother Teresa.”

Harriet, The Woman Called Moses is a two-act opera which uses a non-linear narrative structure, jumping back and forth in time while highlighting powerful episodes in Tubman’s life. A chorus representing slaves remains on stage for the entire performance. Continue reading

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GLADIATOR: AN OPERA VERSION OF PHILIP WYLIE’S NOVEL

GladiatorEven though there are signs here and there that audiences are getting fatigued with the oversaturation of superhero adaptations for the big and small screens, there still doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.

What better time for an OPERA version of Philip Wylie’s science fiction novel Gladiator, from 1930? Wylie’s work is often credited with inspiring the creation of Superman and every other superhero that followed.

Long before the overrated and overpraised Alan Moore wrote The Watchmen, this very first look at a superhero presented the figure struggling with the moral issues regarding the use of his superior abilities.

Gladiator 2The central character uses his powers in World War One but afterward must cope with the limits of “super-powers” when it comes to dealing with political corruption and other problems that can’t be solved with violence. Or in which flexing his super-muscles would be counter-productive, maybe even ushering in a dictatorship.

In other words, the same type of stories which today are praised as “innovative” for “deconstructing the superhero mythos” WERE ALREADY EXPLORED IN THIS NOVEL EIGHTY-NINE YEARS AGO! 

As a break from movie and television superhero tales I think an Opera format would be an intriguing and unexpected way of adapting Gladiator. Let’s face it – if it was done for television or movies today it would be criticized as “derivative” (irony of ironies) and “talky.”

Gladiator 4 Man God

Marvel Comics’ 1976 adaptation

That talkyness would slide nicely into a staged opera since, as I often point out in my examinations of 1970s Marvel stories, operas – like many comic books – are filled with lengthy expository monologues, but in song form. (There are countless “senses-shattering” origin stories and villain rants that are sung in operas.) 

Think of this piece as a way of using the familiar superhero formula to encourage more people to “give opera a chance.” I love sharing my enthusiasms and I was very happy with the reception of those blog posts where I wrote about Ancient Greek Comedies to make them seem relevant. I want to try doing the same with operas.

Many people may disagree, but operas and superheroics are made for each other. Look at all the operas adapted from tales of ancient gods or other mythical supernatural figures. When you get right down to it, every larger-than life hero or heroine in any given story can be interpreted from a superhero angle. Continue reading

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Filed under Fantastic Movie Reviews, Superheroes

ANDREA CHENIER: AN OPERA FOR OUR TIME

Andrea ChenierOver the past decade or so I’ve grown fonder and fonder of Umberto Giordano’s 1896 opera Andrea Chenier. Like many Americans I used to consider myself a Liberal before Liberalism became as oppressive, totalitarian and intellectually suffocating as Christian Conservatism had always been. I’ve never gone as far as people like Roger Simon, David Horowitz and others who went overboard the other way and became Conservatives but I definitely despise the cowardly hypocrites and mindless conformists called American Liberals.

Andrea Chenier, the title figure of Giordano’s opera, was a poet who happily embraced the French Revolution at the outset but later grew appalled at the excesses of the Reign of Terror. He courageously wrote condemnations of the Jacobins, whom he felt distorted the original aims of the Revolution and turned it into a vehicle for their own personal abuse of power.

Andrea Chenier 2Chenier paid the price for his courage and for speaking his conscience. He was guillotined a few days before the mass executions ended. The demented zealots of the American Left have likewise gone too far and similarly turn on former allies over the slightest departure from dogma. Giordano’s opera is not entirely about such themes but I find myself going back to it at least once a year in these times because of how much the message still resonates.  

American Liberals have become nothing but fascists who disregard other people’s civil rights and ignore the rule of law. They favor censorship on a massive scale, the rewriting of history to suit their political fetishes of the moment and the blacklisting of anyone who opposes them. Worst of all are many fools from the 1960s generation of Liberals. They are far too spineless to confront the real issues so they endlessly restage old battles against wrongs that were addressed long ago. And all the while they pretend they’re the Young Turks in town, pushing daring new ideas even though all they do is regurgitate the conventional wisdom from five decades ago. Continue reading

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A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1982): THEA MUSGRAVE’S OPERA

thea-musgrave

Get it right this time or I’ll squeeze your balls like THIS!

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1982) – Balladeer’s Blog’s 2016 edition of my annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues with this EXPANDED look at the great Thea Musgrave’s opera version from Granada Television video in 1982.

Musgrave was British and in my opinion she was one of the few masters of opera from the late 20th Century. The world premier of this most accessible of Thea’s works was on December 16th, 1981 at the Norfolk Center Theater. That Norfolk, VA production was by the Virginia Opera Association.

Later the opera debuted at the Royal Opera House in the U.K. and at the State Opera House in Australia.   Continue reading

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TALES OF HOFFMANN FOR HALLOWEEN

Tales of Hoffmann

Tales of Hoffmann

Yes, as if I wasn’t boring enough already I’m also into opera! Now, I know traditionally “the” Halloween Opera has always been Don Giovanni , but I’ve never bought into that notion since there’s really only one scene in the whole opera that qualifies as spooky and supernatural.

At this time of year I prefer Offenbach’s Tales Of Hoffmann. Not only is it full of appropriately eerie and menacing elements, but it’s also the perfect opera for you to share with someone who’s seeing their very first opera.

One of the reasons for that is that it’s in short segments, surrounded by a wraparound opening and finale. Offenbach adapts short stories written by E.T.A. Hoffmann, who in real life was a pre-Edgar Alan Poe author of eerie short stories in his native Austria during the 1800s. At any rate since this opera’s in short segments novices to the artform won’t have time to Continue reading

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A CHRISTMAS CAROL OPERA (1978)

Christmas CarolChristmas Carol-A-Thon 2015 continues! 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1978) – From the year 1978 comes another televised Christmas Carol opera from the U.K.

This one was first aired on Wales’ Harlech Television on Christmas Day of that year. It features a libretto by John Morgan and the music is by Norman Kay. Continue reading

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