Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How is the World of Opera Perceived?

Having previously bought opera recital CD's from Amazon, I receive e-mail alerts from the world's largest online retailer periodically so that they may try to solicit further business from me. Their latest alert, one of the few I actually viewed, included quite a few things of interest to me.

First, it is necessary to mention that Naxos and Amazon have joined forces to expand their respective companies' markets, and they are offering free MP3 samplers to customers. While it is performed by interpreters who are unknown to many of us, the music is of good quality, and it is refreshing to the ear. I chose one entitled Eternal Baroque, and I am quite pleased with the caliber of the recitals that are presented. The other, which I picked from the "Other Customers also liked..." box, was called The Best of Naxos Early Music, and I had no qualms with acquiring it since this is a genre I stay up late on Monday nights to hear during Harmonia with Angela Mariani. Besides all of this, they are free, so one has no risk or obligation in getting them, so if you have any predisposition to this music, you may as well try it, and the fact that both of these samplers have five star ratings by customers is an enticing elective to pursue them.

Amazon's recommendations could use more thought to what is truly worthy of mention with less regard to popularity and marketability and more forethought to the integrity of the product. Their Editor's Picks' do not suffer so much from this infliction since they offer for your selection Joyce DiDonato's Furore, which I have yet to hear completely, Anne Sofie von Otter's recent recording of Bach, which Opera News' reviewers thought rather less than excellent, though they mislabeled the artist as violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter instead of the famed mezzo-soprano, and Song of Songs by Stile Anticho, to name a few; however, their list of new and notable releases leaves something to be desired in the way of excellence. Firstly, they only list two albums of vocal music, one of Handel's Messiah and another of Bach Cantatas by soprano Elizabeth Futral, so it relies heavily on traditional classical music to fill its queue of recordings. Secondly, the artists they choose to present, except Evigny Kissin, are people of whom I have never heard prior to their mention of them. Why did they not choose to include Magdalena Kozena's new recording of Vivaldi arias, her equally enthralling Songs My Mother Taught Me, The Celtic Viol by Jordi Savall, or La Barcha D'Amore by Concert des Nations? We can have no such luck as that.

Concerning more immediately the title of this post, I have been wondering in recent days how the remainder of the population perceives those of us who entertain a favorable disposition towards opera. Is there really so much difference between us and fans of anything else? I should think not since the common denominator uniting all of us as audiences of any type of media is a matter of personal taste; therefore, the next time someone tells you that they cannot understand your liking of something so obviously archaic, antiquated, and unpopular as opera, after you chide them for their sarcastic disregard of polite manners towards your idea of entertainment, you may explain that you like it for the very reson they enjoy a different genre of music, a selection of sport, or a choice of hobby, and that is because it is merely a matter of taste. Of course, there is also the question as to why we who enjoy opera incessantly attempt to saturate the next generation of those whom we hope will possess some deference towards our beloved art with a modern portrayal of works. In my humble opinion the opera's necessary elements, which are the music and the libretto, should be adequate to maintain the popularity of any work. If this is not the case, then it can be surmised that the work will fall out of fashion with the new audience, and this will allow the creativity of new composers to flourish more easily since the public will look for new works to satisfy their expectations. However, there is a caveat with this system, and this is that opera as we currently know it, resting heavily upon its past achievements by the legendary composers, could possibly vanish. Could we really imagine opera without the works of Handel? Are any masterpieces actually safe? La Boheme might not fall victim to such an injustice since its story and music remain easily accesible to every new demographic that sees it, but in reply to the question itself, theoretically the answer is no.

Other things that I would like to iterate are as follows. I made a visit to a local library yesterday, and I was excited to see that my library system had procured some new opera and classical music recordings this year. Most of their acquisitions were unknown to me, but this is an ideal opportunity for me to learn new things about new works of which I know nothing. I may seize this wonderful allowance, but I digress. My readers who know anything of the Met's next, almost current season are anxious to see the prospect of Mary Zimmerman's new production of Gioacchino Rossini's Armida starring Renee Fleming. These informed people may also know that the plot of Armida, which I believe dates from classical antiquity, was also set to music by Haydn and, if my memory serves me well, Gluck. I was able to check out Hadyn's opera Armida, which the library only recently acquired, with Cecilia Bartoli and Patricia Pettibon. I have yet to make a foray into this piece, which promises to be one not soon forgotten, but I hope it is everything I expect it to be. If only my local library can get Bartoli and Juan Diego Florez's recent offering of Bellini's La Sonnambula, I shallbe almost content with their present selection of recordings that interest and inspire me.

For those of you who have any interest in Magdalena Kozena, three of her recordings, including Ah! mio cor, are available for download on Rapidshare. I use http://rapidlibrary.com to find things of interest on Rapidshare. The search engine is by no means complete, but it does a laudable job of finding what I want.

Thank you all for reading my posts.

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