Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is Opera All About Death?

Chelsea, in her blog a fish out of water (lower case intentional), recently raised the issue of the abundance of morbidity in opera. She was incited to this by a comment made by a woman after seeing Georges Bizet's Les Pecheurs de Perles in which she stated that it was a good opera because Zurga, the head fisherman, is killed. I beg to differ with the woman who maintains that an opera is good when someone dies. There are plenty of operas that are wonderful that do not have any death: Strauss's Capriccio, Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, Mozart's Die Entfurhung aus dem Serail, and the list goes on and on. That woman's statement is similar to saying that all movies are good if they are dramas, or if they are limited to one specific genre, and that is precisely what makes opera or any other performing art so great, that they can inhabit any genre they wish. I think I can speak for many people, however, when I say that we as a public like the operas that do have death in them.

This creates another interesting question, also; what if the characters in operas did not die, or what if there were no death in opera? For one thing Leonora, the Count di Luna, and Manrico would be happier souls if they had a happy ending in Verdi's Il Trovatore, and Mimi and Violetta in Puccini's La Boheme and Verdi's La traviata, respectively, would probably marry Rodolfo and Alfredo. On the other side of the equation, however, Scarpia in Tosca would still haunt the heroine of that opera, we might still be reeling from Carmen's seduction of Don Jose, and we might even be deprived of Orfeo's journey through the underworld to rescue his beloved Euridice. Then, on the one side, Tristan und Isolde might have had a happy ending... This could be an endless list of pros and cons; perhaps opera is best just the way it is.

I am glad you all read this post, and mat God bless you with all of the desires of you heart.


P.S. By the way, you can access many of the scores for the operas I have mentioned and many others besides at IMSLP.

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