Saverio Mercadante: Pelagio (1857)

Opera in four acts. Running Time: 1 hour 56 minutes.

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Although it premiered a decade before Virginia this was Mercadante’s last completed opera. It relates the story of a king of Asturia in 8th century northwestern Spain, Pelagius, his daughter Bianca, and her husband Abdel-Aor, her father’s mortal enemy.

LOOK OUT FOR:

ACTS 1 & 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgNcbHGp32k

ACT 1: (36 minutes)

Scene 1: A dense forest near the Moorish Palace of the Prince of Islamic Gijon Abdel-Aor.

0: The prelude * starts off a little odd but has one good tune, it is all of two and a half minutes and is followed by a rather dramatic recitative for Pelagio as he addresses his soldiers. He meets up with Commander Mendo who like everything else things Pelagio died in battle.

5: The “opening chorus” of soldiers sounds like Verdi on an off-day *. Pelagio asks for news of his daughter Bianca, but is met with silence before singing is heard in the distance. Bianca is being escorted to the palace of Abdel-Aor, her father’s mortal enemy, to marry him!

8: Bianca’s cavatina * is a mild piece, not bad in any way, but not particularly memorable either. Both female chorus off-stage and male chorus on-stage thicken the mixture. Still it sounds like low temperature Verdi.

12: The soldiers and Pelagio finish off the scene with some tuneful flute work *.

Scene 2: The interior of the Palace.

17: Bianca’s arioso *, goes on for several minutes but isn’t actually a number for some reason. She fears that her dead father’s phantom will curse her for marrying their enemy even if she does genuinely love Abdel-Aor.

25: The Bianca/Abdel-Aor duet ** as he leads her to the altar. Do Muslims get married at altars though? It is very nice, and is followed by a choral sequence (first men, then women, then men again).

33: The stretta of the duet is probably the best part ** and is very catchy.

ACT 2: A room in the Abdel-Aor’s apartments. (26 minutes)

0: A lovingly warm little prelude ** leads to Bianca’s interview with a stranger–her father Pelagio in disguise.

3: The father-daughter duet ** is very forlorn, there is no happy reunion here at all. After two minutes Bianca bursts into some odd fioritura. Frustration is the best word for this number.

7: Bianca goes into a mildly accompanied (horns and strings) arioso * in which she explains her actions to her father and asks his forgiveness. His acceptance of the situation is far less conclusive.

11: Abdel-Aor’s singing ** is heard in the distance.

13: The proximity enrages Pelagio and he rejects his daughter, leading to tormented stretta * in which Bianca’s vocal line goes mad, but tunefully so.

17: Abdel-Aor comes on to a prelude which is based on the love duet theme and then Captain of the Guard Asan tells him that Pelagio broke into the palace and is plotting with Bianca to destroy him. Abdel-Aor does not believe this at first, but it leads to a rather fetching aria ** in which he declares how beautiful and true she is.

21: The soldiers come on and tell him that Pelagio has been found in the palace. This piques Abdel-Aor’s suspicion of his wife, leading to a cabaletta con coro **.

ACTS 3 & 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrnc1Q6VOGA

ACT 3: (33.5 minutes)

Scene 1: A plain surrounded by cliffs and woods.

0: The act starts with a prelude ** which is rather nice if a little fragmentary. It is followed by a delicate male chorus for Mendo and his men.

3: Things get rather furious ** Pelagio arrives and asks them to defend their people.

8: Pelagio’s cavatina * in which he declares that he no longer had tears for his daughter but now must weep.

11: An inhabitant of Gijon comes on and tells them that Abdel-Aor has published a law demanding the Christians give up their religion and embrace Islam. This is almost a theatrical trope and leads to a patriotic but rather low temperature scene finale *.

Scene 2: Same as Act 2.

15: Abdel-Aor has yet another aria, just about as good ** as he rages. A very lyrical aria as our tenor contemplates betrayal by his beloved wife.

20: Pelagio is brought before Abdel-Aor and a very bel canto duet ** develops turning into a trio ** rather quickly with the arrival of Bianca who saves Pelagio from being immediately killed by her husband by admitted he is her father.

28: In the stretta ** the people revolt against the new religious law and Pelagio is imprisoned (to be killed when the revolt is crushed). Bianca goes into something mildly heavenly as she agonizes over the conflicting interests of both her father and her husband. Overall, this tableau is the most consistently good.

ACT 4: A locked room in the palace leading to the prison. (21 minutes)

0: An agitated prelude ** leading to a tripartite singular number that the entire act consists of.

3: The number consists of a rather striking prayer *** for Bianca, which is sort of copy-cat Verdi but really very lovely as she continues her struggle between loyalty to her father and to her husband (mutually exclusive as they are).

9: This is followed by a duet with Abdel-Aor in which he mortally stabs her *. Much of it consists of manic rage which is expressed in near random bursts from the orchestra. You really feel sorry for Bianca here, probably as no where else.

13: The murder attack itself is actually rather well constructed and the music for once is dramatically dark enough **. His hatred of her at the juncture is so extreme that she pleads with him to kill her.

16: The last stage is the immediately connected finaletto in which Pelagio discovers her (still alive, not dead as Abdel-Aor so viciously promised her although he is presumably after jumping from a balcony) learning all. She dies in his arms after a lovely harp accompanied cavatina *** in which she begs for him to forgive her and Pelagio, along with his men, swear eternal revenge as the curtain falls.

COMMENTS:

Overall, I’m not in love with this opera. That doesn’t mean however that it isn’t a good opera. The plot is not so much bad as vicious, and a little formulaic. The first scenes of acts one and three are very similar, taking place in a forest inhabited for some reason by Spanish rebels, and are a little boring. Abdel-Aor’s music in the first three acts really raise the temperature but the final act is entirely Bianca’s and she ends up more magnificent than him.  Instead of a love triangle we have a father-daughter relationship in conflict with an otherwise happy marriage. The ban on Christianity is a stereotype which was already old when this opera came out and seems more like filler to get the show on to the finale curtain by creating a public conflict. The score at its best is late early rip-off Verdi, but rather good rip-off. Bianca, and her agonizing problem of balancing her father and her husband, does garner sympathy from the audience but only because both her father and her husband are so dreadful as men and her husband ends up murdering her in such a brutal way that it is hard not to shed a tear. The other characters (there are eight in total) are not very well developed with Asan being rather stereotypically the Muslim baddy even more so than his master. Like a Verdi opera, each act improves on the previous one until the final act (very brief though it is) when the opera fully flowers. B+, possibly A-.

And now to see what The Opera Scribe says:

http://www.operascribe.com/2018/08/20/83-pelagio-saverio-mercadante/

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37 thoughts on “Saverio Mercadante: Pelagio (1857)

    1. I don’t know, you gave it 4 out of 5, I gave it a B+, maybe an A-, that is about equal. It’s definitely a massive improvement on the last four operas I’ve done, I just didn’t fall in love with it like I did even with Stone Guest.

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      1. Your review, though, is rather critical – stereotypical plot and characters, score a rip-off of Verdi. You also find the Act II duet frustrating.

        What do you think of the recording?

        What! How can an Italian opera be better than Parsifal?

        BLASPHEMY!!!

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  1. Oh, and if anyone’s ripping off anyone, it’s Verdi ripping off Mercadante. Many musicologists see Mercadante as “the ‘missing link’ between Bellini and Verdi”. Pierre Scudo, Marco Marcelliano Marcello, Amintore Galli, and Michael Wittmann all believed Mercadante’s innovative orchestration, retreat from the bel canto style, and concern for dramatic truth and expression over purely musical values, influenced Verdi’s.

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    1. Admittedly, Italian operas by Meyerbeer sound like Rossini (the dark tone of Emma di Resburgo aside), because that was the popular style in Italy at the time. Basically everyone in Italy until 1830 or so just copied Rossini because that was what the public wanted. Meyerbeer did it far better than others, including Donizetti or Mercadante, though the finale to Amleto might indicate something… in any case pre-1830 Donizetti doesn’t get aired out for a reason but we are talking about Mercadante here. The recording has a lot to do with it. Like you mentioned the tenor warbles about, but one can tell from the orchestral work that these are the better numbers in the first two acts and the second scene of act three is far stronger than the first scene. I actually found the soprano a little shrill as well at times (particularly in act 1), but she wasn’t as bad as the tenor who seemed to be singing through his nose or something. The baritone is obviously singing this like it’s late-early Verdi (maybe Luisa Miller or Battaglia?). The draw back of the opera are the forest scenes with the Spaniards in acts one and three, they are just so boring and in spite of their relative brevity, they drag! They also remind me a lot of the male choruses in Verdi’s Attila. The main plot has all of the good music, which makes sense.

      I did not say that I found the Act 2 duet “Frustrating” as you say, I said that “frustration is the best word for it”, meaning the orchestral music accurately portrays the frustration of Pelagio in regards to Bianca’s bizarre behaviour (marrying his enemy because she loves him and to save her people). I gave it two stars, that should be a clue that I liked it. Usually a three-star item has to make me tear up or else has to blow me away “Wow, awesomeness!/Me Like!”.

      I know you meant the Parsifal reference as a joke. Tons of Italian operas are structurally, melodically, and dramatically far more interesting than the Wagnerian sex-rejection drama that is Parsifal.

      Mercadante was the missing link of mid-19th century Italian opera, the mostly forgotten one, but never the less the missing link. From about 1836 until the mid- to late-1840s he was THE innovator of Italian opera, one can see this in Virginia which was composed from 1849-1850. Fioritura is limited, basically restricted to the soprano leads (Bianca is the only obviously bel canto role in Pelagio). But by 1857, Verdi was the dominatrix of Italian opera (his style shockingly improving starting with Macbeth, how or why I am unsure because Macbeth was written before he went to Paris although the “Teutonic” darkness of Attila might be a clue of sloppy copy first drafting, being the worst in terms of caballet-ism but richer in terms of orchestration then any of the previous Verdi works), and Mercadante here seems to have taken on aspects of Verdi’s more popular (at the time) style (at least to me), making it Mercadante’s most modern sounding opera. This is especially true of act 4. This makes sense, though, it was his last after all, and Verdi was as big an influence at that point as Rossini had been thirty/forty years earlier. The numbers are extremely long, often encompassing entire tableau or even acts in the case of act four. Through-composition is almost total, at least within tableaux, but not so far as to include scene changes. But yet again, even in Falstaff Verdi never connected tableaux together like Wagner nor even that intriguing first scene change in act 1 of Mozart’s Idomeneo (is it the first of its kind?). And yet although he never goes into Verdi’s oom-pah cabaletta-isms, there are still obvious cavatine and cabalette in the score.

      Overall, I wished I knew more of Mercadante’s other late works. Violetta or Medea or some of his 1840s works other than Il reggente might be a clue here.

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      1. My comment on Meyerbeer’s Italian operas seems to have vanished! I wouldn’t call them derivative; they’re *responses* to Rossini, rather than imitations.

        Emma di Resburgo, Semiramide, and Romilda e Costanza show the most Rossinian influence; I find them slightly chilly and old-fashioned. (“I did not want to imitate Rossini or write in the Italian manner, even if I ultimately felt compelled by my state of mind to do so.”)

        With the last three, he became one of the most important opera composers in Italy, with a distinctive voice. The Harminocon, reviewing an 1825 performance of Crociato in Trieste, wrote: “Of all living composers, Meyerbeer is the one who most happily combines the easy, flowing and expressive melodies of Italy with the severer beauties, the grander accomplishments, of the German school.” And Rossini himself wanted an introduzione alla Meyerbeer for his later operas – so the influence went both ways!

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      2. I still have to investigate Italian opera in the 1820s, but what I’ve read suggests that, even before Bellini and Donizetti came along, composers weren’t simply recycling Rossini. Some were, of course, as Pacini admitted, but they also pushed the boundaries, rebelled against it, or experimented. (Audiences, though, didn’t always like the results!)

        Wikipedia says this: “After Rossini moved to Paris in 1824, Pacini and his contemporaries (Giacomo Meyerbeer, Nicola Vaccai, Michele Carafa, Carlo Coccia, Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, the brothers Federico and Luigi Ricci, and Saverio Mercadante) collectively began to change the nature of Italian opera and took bel canto singing in a new direction. Orchestration became heavier, coloratura was reduced, especially for men’s voices, and more importance was placed on lyrical pathos. While there were exceptions, romantic leads were assigned to tenors (in Rossini’s time, they were frequently sung by alto or mezzo-soprano women). Villains became basses or later baritones (while they often were tenors for Rossini). Over time, far more emphasis was placed on the drama.”

        I really only know Meyerbeer, Bellini, Donizetti, and a few Mercadante operas, but I’m looking forward to investigating the period! I have Pacini’s Ultimo giorno di Pompei coming up soon.

        The through-composition of Pelagio impressed me: those big, extended numbers, made up of arias, ensembles, choruses, arranged in paragraphs. French grand opéra may also be an influence; it was Halévy and Meyerbeer that inspired the reforms of Elena da Feltre and Il giuramento.

        I rather liked the forest scene in Act 1. I agree the Act III is conventional.

        Verdi the dominatrix of Italian opera? Composer by day, leather-clad transvestite by night!

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      3. Well Verdi does dominate Italian opera from about 1845 until 1875. Dominatrix isn’t exactly gender appropriate but it got the joke across.

        It is true though that Pelagio does have long through-composed scenes with some of them encompassing entire tableau, certainly this is much further down the path towards Verdi’s Otello than Rossini’s Otello.

        I more fault the plot than the music, even when I called it a rip-off, I said it was a good rip-off. Otherwise we get into the scare theory that Verdi is really just popular Mercadante! The plot is vicious and brutal (it ends in a murder-suicide), the male characters are unsympathetic, including Pelagio himself. There is also the factor of race and Islamophobia. All of these are similar to Otello, but it is also possible to perform Otello as a non-racial story. I can’t really say much negative Bianca though.

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      4. “Otherwise we get into the scare theory that Verdi is really just popular Mercadante!”

        Isn’t he? 🙂

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      5. I would prefer not to believe this, it shatters my world. Also I really don’t think he was. Mercadante would never have written Otello. There are claims, however, that Bianca’s prayer in act 4 is solidly based in Verdian influences on Mercadante. Look at the Wikipedia page and find the citations for the Grove Dictionary and David Laviska’s article on Pelagio.

        I think it is likely that early Verdi is based on Mercadante more so than Donizetti or Bellini, but from around Simon Boccanegra and especially Un Ballo in maschera the similarities really start to disappear and no one with ears could claim Don Carlos or Falstaff are Mercadante. Maybe Aida though, it is a glorified opera seria after all….

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      6. The influence might go both ways! Mercadante’s a better MUSICIAN, I think, at least until the Ballo period. His instrumentation is certainly more refined, and he’s a master of form. Probably his classical training. Verdi, though, is more concerned with drama than musical form.

        There’s certainly Mercadante in Aida – have you heard Orazi e Curiazi? – and, as you noted, Poliuto!

        But Verdi, as I’ve said, could assimilate influences, without being absorbed by them: bel canto, grand opera…

        Have you seen the Toulouse Prophète yet?

        I’ve wanted to see the opera for 11 years. Utterly extraordinary. It’s one of the half-dozen best operas ever, if not at the absolute pinnacle. “People of my father’s generation would rather have doubted the solar system than the supremacy of Le Prophete over all other operas” (Reynaldo Hahn). It’s intense, with the sardonic brilliance of Euripides. Meyerbeer is telling at once a small, intimate story – Fidès’s, Jean, and Berthe’s relationship – and an epic social drama about tyranny, revolution, and religion.

        The production is mod trad; there are some vaguely regie elements, but it works terrifically. Kate Aldrich is a stunning singer and actress; and John Osborn excellent (definitely better than McCracken). We need more grand opera!

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      7. You know what…you’re right. As an historian I should know better than to assume anyone as a superhero whose origins have no connection whatsoever to the world around them.

        The possible exception is Meyerbeer’s Le Prophete (re: Hahn). But even then the plot is based in the principles of Euripides.

        And you are right about Verdi, he could adapt new forms without sounding like he was merely imitating. Adaptation was his musical strength. But yes, the drama was Verdi’s chief concern, and that may be why we still remember him.

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      8. So I got about seven minutes into Orazi e Curiazi and I feel like I’ve found the evolutionary missing link! Expect a review at some point, but I really want to get out of Les Martyrs alive soon.

        Operawire also had an interesting article about 5 Mercadante operas that might trigger a revival and the section on Pelagio strongly argues for my “Verdian” influence theory. The first time I heard Pelagio, about three years ago, my immediate impression was pseudo-early-Verdi. It is probably stronger than that (after all some early-Verdi is down right awful) but nevertheless I’m holding out on Verdi being an influence on the composition of Pelagio. Earlier, though, like Virginia, it is obviously Verdi copying from Mercadante and not the other way around. I wonder what caused the Mercadante eclipse? Why did I have to go opera-rebel to find him. Could it have been Verdi?

        Le Prophete is THE grand opera, the compositional answer to the woes of Wagner and a warning of the dangers of ideological extremism in all its forms. It truly is The Prophet and the combination and contrasts between private and public are even more stark than in Les Huguenots, where the public tends to dominate (not that that is a bad thing). But no flying monkeys like in that production with Domingo and Baltsa please! To this day only Les Huguenots and Le Prophete have earned an A+ from me (Iolanta’s temporary inflated grading aside), there is a reason.

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      9. As for Verdi’s Macbeth – Meyerbeer was popular in Italy from the 1840s, so Verdi must have heard him even before he went to Paris.

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      10. Pacini never came off to me as being influenced by Rossini, more Donizetti, but I know his 1830s and 1840s works a lot better than 1826’s Pompei. The eruption sequence though could have been an influence on Auber’s La mutte (same volcano after all!).

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    2. Meyerbeer himself was influenced by Mozart, Rossini, Gluck, and Beethoven, among others. He studied Handel’s scores for Le prophète. And he acknowledged his influences. “So much the worse for the fourth act of Les Huguenots!” he told a friend who clumsily tried to flatter him by praising the opera at the expense of Don Giovanni.

      A historian’s first duty should be to the truth!

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      1. I should tell you, my journalist friend, that although in theory historians strive for the truth, that is not always the case. History isn’t a science, it is an art, and it frequently gets retooled as propaganda. My mistake was idiotically taking composers in isolation, and thus violating my own principle that the greatest art and culture is the result of combining influences. Hence my bugaboo with Wagner (although more because he refused to acknowledge outside influence other than German ones, not that he wasn’t). You know Handel and Le Prophete actually makes sense!

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      2. I could give a lecture on history and truth. Ethically, you are of course correct. The problem is in the way facts gets interpreted, omitted, and spun around for ideological purposes. Usually historians do not write blatant falsehoods unless their sources support them, but this happens. How do you think we end up with both conservative and progressive interpretations of history, or even national interpretations on the same events that contradict each other? Of course, in a field like music history this is far less controversial (Wagner aside), but in nationalist histories ideology can overtake the narrative rather quickly.

        My own thesis is about this: I took a museum exhibition on the War of 1812. The exhibit’s expressed purpose was to depict four distinct and segregated narratives of the same war. The exhibit was designed in a circular floor plan with each “quadrant” delivering a national narrative. For Americans it was about the British not recognizing American sovereignty on the oceans, for the British it was an annoyance in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, for Canadians (more properly at this time British North Americans divided between the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada or present day Ontario and Quebec respectively) it was about defending their livelihoods from the Americans, and for Native Americans it was a final fight to save their way of life while also having a European ally (Britain) against American hegemony. It was all these things (and more) but each is in large part mutually exclusive. Even the way in which the exhibit was ultimately perceived by the general public was all over the spectrum. Americans seemed awed and confused by it, Anglo-Canadians frequently felt nationalistic pride, French Canadians really didn’t care even though their ancestors were actually in North America during the war unlike Anglo-Canadians and most Americans. My thesis presents the exhibit as part of a conservative government attempt to gin up nationalism and militarism in Canadians. It failed completely in the D.P.R.Quebec (I joke, I love Quebec!), it had pre-existing supporters in rural Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. It didn’t really gain any new followers (Nova Scotians were actually enraged by it for not including “enough” about them even though a third of the Canadian section of the exhibit was just about Halifax) and the media was decidedly negative even though the exhibit was the biggest in terms of sheer size the National War Museum in Ottawa had ever done and was one of its most successful with an 89% high approval rating from visitors.

        American textbooks paint their revolution as a fight for freedom, British textbooks are much more cognizant of the economic and mercantile factors and persons involved. Or the Korean War from the side of North or South Korea, both narratives are bizarre. The Yugoslav War has three conflicting narratives, all including elements of truth ignored in the other two but also a lot of damming omissions. American textbooks would rather cover creationism than the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Recent scholarship has cast doubt on the extent of the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Usually the less ideologically up beat or stridently nationalist/religious a history is the closer it is to the truth, but neutrality is infrequently something an historian strives for.

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  2. I feel like I need to take a break. Although I have 36 drafts of reviews in various levels of completion, the quality of my writing and my critique is declining. I also feel less interested in what I’m doing and I really don’t know which opera I want to continue with. I had planned on a double review of Donizetti’s Poliuto and Les Martyrs, but my motivation is zapped and I’m stuck just after the act 2 ballet of Martyrs.

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    1. You sound overwhelmed! (I know what my next seven operas will be, and that already makes me feel locked in!) If you don’t enjoy something, or you’re tired, take a break, and come back to it later, when you’re fresh.

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      1. No, it had more to do with feeling like I had lost a friend over a disagreement over a Mercadante opera. Not even something that would matter like Verdi, Meyerbeer, or Mozart. So I ended up with a brief bout of confidence failure. Reviewing Ksenija helped, but I think you would do a better job of it than me.

        I’ll admit that doing Poliuto and Les Martyrs at the same time is way too big for me so I’ll probably finish Poliuto tonight and work on the rest of Les Martyrs over the rest of the week. Usually I can do an opera that is under 2 hours rather quickly, usually a single sitting, but 3+ hours and I start to panic. Incidentally I’m reviewing the Callas/Corelli 1960 recording.

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      2. I feel so conflicted, the omniscient random generator values randomness over omniscience! Might I suggest a seashell? The Italian half of me is disturbed by this but the German half of me is oddly excited.

        Italian Half: Italian opera is not sodding, racists! We have the best operas, far exploding Euro-Trash like Gounod beyond Neptune! Excluding Super-Jew, (re: Meyerbeer), we write the most lyrical and vocally accomplished operas, and even Meyerbeer learned it from US! Mozart’s Italian operas far exceed any of his German/vermin compositions! Yeah, so that Wagner dude expanded the orchestra, now no one can hear the singers! What is the point of going to the opera if you don’t know why E is stabbing C or making love to M?

        German Half: So you will do something Scandinavian? Trying to out do your whiteness, eh? I assume that is what you mean by Nordic and not German even though I know a lot of German Americans post-WW2 called themselves Nordic (long story, re: the non-racist Germans in America, not creepy-pastas like their prez, I am so ashamed!). Suggestion: Maybe Pacius’ Kung Karls jakt? There are other Swedish and Danish titles I can think of, even a few Finnish and Norwegian. Oh, why have I waited so long to do a Scandinavian opera!

        Beatrice di Tenda, ah, well you can read my review! After two Mercadante’s and a Pacini in a row, yeah I wouldn’t do a Bellini either! I’ll look at Caritea now! Notice I did all that without mentioning Verdi! 🙂

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      3. Nordic isn’t a racist term – unless the BBC, the Guardian, Wikipedia, and the Nordic Council are secretly run by the KKK! Nordic countries = Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden.

        “Sodding” is a fairly mild British term of exasperation – and I didn’t think I could face another Italian opera!

        No one country has a monopoly on great opera. Isn’t this partly the point of your writing about obscure Georgian and Serbian operas? 😉

        You don’t like The Magic Flute, or The Abduction from the Seraglio?

        Wagner wanted the audience to hear every word clearly; that’s why his later style is a kind of arioso, with one syllable to a note, rather than a dozen notes to a syllable! (It was Strauss who said, “Louder, louder, I can still hear the singers!”)

        I prefer Wagner *as music* to Verdi. He had a wonderful imagination, and is often sublime. I just wish his operas weren’t swamped in turgid drama and philosophizing.

        Ah, well! Off to watch Springtime for Hitler, a gay romp for Adolf and Eva in Berchtesgaden.

        Exits right, whistling the Horst-Wessel-Lied!

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  3. I was joking, hence the split-personality issue, I thought you would get it because I had Italian and German alt-egos battling it out for operatic supremacy and called Meyerbeer “Super-Jew”, which is actually a term of endearment. And I know what “sodding” means, I spent most of my childhood watching British television shows. I just wanted a little shock-horror to go with my “Italian opera rules!”. I think you know from my suggestion that I know that by Nordic you meant Scandinavian countries. Nielsen’s Masquerade might be a nice change if you are looking for a Danish work? Hallstrom’s Den Bergtagna or Stenhammar’s Tirfing are Swedish. I really don’t know any Norwegian works, Finnish, maybe Sallinen’s Kullervo?

    I actually have a confession to make: I hate Seraglio! I don’t know what it is about it but I’ve heard it five or six times, usually in telecast, I just find it boring. I like Flute, especially the Queen of the Night, but I’m not in love with it the way I am with Figaro, Don Giovanni, or even Tito. Yet again I don’t really care for Cosi or especially Idomeneo either….

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    1. Aha! I woke up groggy from sleep to find an apparently schizophrenic German-Italian denouncing me as a racist.

      I rather like Idomeneo, myself! I’m not sold on The Magic Flute; it’s got some great music, but it’s also an early version of the Romantic German mystical fairytale with heavy philosophical underpinnings. That way lies Hoffmann, if not Wagner!

      I wish I liked Serail more. There are some delightful pieces in it – but, frankly, isn’t the story boring?

      My copy of Elena da Feltre arrived. I’ll listen to two or three other operas before throwing myself back into second-tier live productions of obscure bel canto!

      By the way, my email: nickfuller819@gmail.com. Might be easier to communicate that way!

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      1. What is apparent? The schizophrenia or the German-Italian bit? Simon Boccanegra is more fun than Serail. My personal opinion of it is also influenced by its genre: as a rule I despise Singspiel as a musical perversion. Flute I like (not love) for the music, I try to ignore the plot after the serpent gets killed. Bird-people, misogyny, Freemasonry, I’m really not buying it. Idomeneo is probably better, at least the story isn’t mystic trash.

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      2. I’ve never thought of Simon Boccanegra as “fun”. It’s Verdi at his gloomiest, with a strong baritone role, and a magnificent Council scene, but a convoluted plot and few memorable tunes!

        If you hate Singspiel, what’s your take on French opéra comique?

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      3. It depends on if it has spoken dialogue or not. I find the switch from a catchy tune to basically stage acting a bit off-putting. So something like Lakme, still a comique albeit extremely late, is fine, but after ten minutes of dialogue in act 1 of Le pre aux clercs I’m thinking “What am I doing here?!” Opera comique, by and large, also tended to have more complicated plots and ensemble numbers than singspiel. So you never end up with a Fidelio situation where the dialogue actually stalls the plot while the music progresses it.

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