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From Broadway to Opera and back again..

metropolis10111 Profile Photo
metropolis10111
Leading Actor
joined:7/28/06
I've been a fan of musical theater from the time I was 5 and listened to my parents cast albums. I travel to NYC several times a year to see things, or rather I used to. In the past 2-3 years have been very disappointing in Broadway terms so I started to check out the Met Opera HD broadcasts and find more and more that I love the opera. It took a bit to get into at first but now I find that I'm turning to opera more and more for my theater fix. The sense of heightened drama, lavish sets and music is proving to be a very satisfying blend while waiting for Broadway to get out of it's creative slump. Anyone else on here fans of both genres?

Updated On: 1/13/13 at 10:50 AM
dreaming Profile Photo
dreaming
Broadway Legend
joined:4/24/09
*Raises hand

I have seen more operas this season than musicals and I'm not ashamed to admit it! I love it. But, I think you should catch one opera live. There is nothing like it.
Queen of the Night
Featured Actor
joined:6/12/07
Uh, check out my screen name.... My favorite opera is The Magic Flute (love Mozart). I'm also a big fan of the Met myself and love the HD broadcasts as I don't live near NYC. I got interested in musical theater first (in High school, when I saw my first show--the national tour of Cats) and then discovered opera a few years later after I saw the movie Amadeus. I have loved both genres now for years. It's not too big a leap from musicals to opera, they are very similar in a lot of ways, especially the more operatic shows like Phantom and Les Miserables. I think it's great that you have discovered the joys of both art forms.
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dramamama611
Broadway Legend
joined:12/4/07
I have tried so many times to get "into" opera. It's just not in my genetic make up, I suppose.
If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
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SporkGoddess
Broadway Legend
joined:7/27/05
I love opera, so yes.
Jimmy, what are you doing here in the middle of the night? It's almost 9 PM!
metropolis10111 Profile Photo
metropolis10111
Leading Actor
joined:7/28/06
I have seen a few downtown Chicago at the Lyric and am more and more impressed with each opera. I can't get my fix as often as I like so I'm happy with being able to go to my local cinema each Wed night right now and see one. So glad that there are other people here that like it. How did you first start?
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AEA AGMA SM
Broadway Legend
joined:8/13/09
I first started appreciating opera once I began working in it. I think getting to be in the rehearsal room and seeing that the singers are indeed thinking about a lot more than just pretty singing is what sealed it. Yes, there is the stigma that opera singers don't act, but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that the majority of the time they are singing in a foreign language, and of course the heightened style of the majority of the music that is out there and commonly performed. However, find some Youtube clips of some of the great artists (both classic and modern) performing some of the great arias and scenes and you can see just how much craft there really is to it.

You really have to look beyond the pop-culture stereotype of what opera is. For instance, before I really began delving into the repertoire I was under the belief that the famous "mad" scenes were a bunch of sopranos wailing and gnashing their teeth to the high heavens. Yet one of the most famous, Lucia's mad scene towards the end of Lucia di Lammermoor is an exercise in control and precision. And it's the moments like that that give me chills.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZX2r8ps9pUg

Anna Netrebko's performance of Lucia's mad scene, in the Met's production directed by Mary Zimmerman.
Did you know that every day Mexican gays cross our borders and unplug our brain-dead ladies?
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
An LA Opera production of Britten's PETER GRIMES about 10 years ago moved me as much as any musical since SWEENEY TODD.

(dramamama, I first learned to love opera on TV, where the subtitles can be read without taking one's eyes off the performers.)

AEA is correct that good opera singers take every bit as much care with the acting as with the singing. Outside the big opera companies, unfortunately, they don't always get as much time with the director as with the conductor.

Updated On: 1/14/13 at 08:00 PM
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CarlosAlberto
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/10
I have been expanding my horizons and this year I started really listening to opera. La Boheme being my first.
"I was raised to be charming, not sincere"
AEA AGMA SM Profile Photo
AEA AGMA SM
Broadway Legend
joined:8/13/09
Boheme is a great "starter" opera. Some others that I would usually recommend for somebody's first opera include Madame Butterfly, Rigoletto, The Barber of Seville, The Magic Flute, La Traviata, and of course Carmen. I have found people have an easier time accepting their first opera when they find that some of the music is recognizable through the many ways music from these pieces have been used in pop culture.

I do have a friend who's first opera was Salome. Sadly I have not been able to get him to see another one (I would typically advise holding off on pieces such as Salome or Elektra until you've gained more of an appreciation for the form).
Did you know that every day Mexican gays cross our borders and unplug our brain-dead ladies?
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metropolis10111
Leading Actor
joined:7/28/06
Oddly enough my first was Wagner's Ring Cycle... it ruined me for any broadway show for a while. I got into opera after going through a ShowBoat study phase and heard it sung by opera singers it was stunning to hear the score so fully sung. I started on the Ring Cycle the Met did about 2 years ago and just felt that I was just beginning to get WHY opera has lasted for 400 years. It did help to read a bit on how to listen to and understand the components of opera now I think it's going to be an obsession.
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PalJoey
Broadway Legend
joined:3/11/04
I have tried so many times to get "into" opera. It's just not in my genetic make up, I suppose.

Try again. There is a new breed of opera singers who value "acting" in a new way, although there have always been singers like Callas who were natural actors.

Watch anything with any of the following and you will be surprised and engaged:


THE WOMEN

Deborah Voigt
Susan Graham
Patricia Racette
Stephanie Blythe
Natalie Dessay
Anna Netrebko
Joyce DiDonato
Susanna Phillips


THE MEN

Jay Hunter Morris
Thomas Hampson
Ben Heppner
Samuel Ramey
Nathan Gunn
Teddy Tahu Rhodes
Erwin Schrott
Jonas Kaufman
Ildar Abdrazakov
Dmitri Hvorostovsky

With any one of then in a good role on a good night, you may very well find the level of singing and acting to be as good as or higher than anything you can see on Broadway.

yr pal,
joey




Blocked so far: suestorm, Master Bates
Updated On: 1/14/13 at 12:19 AM
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
AEA, I used to make freshmen and women in college read the libretto of MADAMA BUTTERFLY. It is of surprising quality, even in translation, and holds its own as drama with the other plays assigned in the class. (Perhaps not surprising, it was based closely on a hit play.)

Only then would I show them a video of the opera. Maybe it helped that they all knew MISS SAIGON, but the method seemed to work very well, even for kids who thought they "hated" opera.

I tried to do the same with SALOME, because it is half as long and also serves to introduce "Symbolism" as a theatrical movement, but not only was the music problematic, the over-the-top action only made them giggle. Too bad, because it's one of my favorites.
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chewy5000
Broadway Legend
joined:12/1/09
There's just something wrong about seeing the young handsome warrior in Aida played by a short, fat Italian man.
IMHO I see Queenie as being more of a brunette...
beingalive123
Chorus Member
joined:7/25/09
I'm a freshman vocal performance major at Indiana University, and this thread makes me very happy. It's good to see new fans of opera and people understanding the thrills that it brings.

I think the big stereotype that opera gets slapped that it needs to get past is that it is a dead, irrelevant art that no one follows. The opposite is true. Opera, while it has its ups and downs, is still an art form that is doing quite well, albeit it is now at an interesting point in its existence, with many people arguing over the best way for the art form to move forward with a lack of Pavarotti esque stars filling the seats of the major opera houses.

But attendance for opera is not bad, and with the recent creation with the Live at the Met HD broadcasts, it is good to see people taking advantage of the opportunity to see these operas. The only thing that worries me about the HD broadcasts is the large group of people that will see those broadcasts instead of live regional operas. But it truly is a great art form if you give it a chance.

Updated On: 1/14/13 at 01:29 AM
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
There's just something wrong about seeing the young handsome warrior in Aida played by a short, fat Italian man.

The convention in opera is that the voice is the essence of the character, not the physical appearance. I saw a PBS broadcast of Birgit Nilsson singing the title role of ELEKTRA (a teenage girl) when Nilsson was 53. It remains one of the most electric performances I've seen.

But the old "conventional wisdom" that opera singers had to be fat to sound good was disproven years ago. More often than not, especially at the major companies, you will find actors who are both great singers and as attractive as the role requires.

There are some exceptions: teenagers can't actually sing ELEKTRA. But it's been quite awhile since I've seen an opera lead who looked grossly inappropriate for his/her part.
metropolis10111 Profile Photo
metropolis10111
Leading Actor
joined:7/28/06
From Broadway to Opera and back again..

Yes it's such a shame that there are no hot men in opera...


I think one needs to look to more modern presentations of opera for this. This fat cow of a guy playing Don Giovanni needs to take a break from the fast food.


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South Fl Marc
Broadway Legend
joined:6/23/04
I grew up around opera so I knew more about that than regular theatre during my childhood.

But I disagree with Pal Joey, acting started to be the main focus when I was growing up. Some are far better than this crop of singers. I saw some of the most compelling performances I've ever seen from opera singers. Theresa Stratas being one example. Lotte Lenya called her the finest singing actress ever. I agree. Her performance in the three one acts Il Titicco is my top theatrical event I have ever experienced.

Others include Illena Cotrabas, Renata Scotto, Diana Soviero, Catherine Malfitano, Mirella Freni, Hildegard Behrens, Leonie Rysanek, Marilyn Horne, Tatiana Troyanos, Fredricka Von Stade, James Morris, Richard Stillwell, Placido Domingo (The best Otello ever, play or opera), Neil Shicoff, Jerry Hadley.

To say "There is a new breed of opera singers who value "acting" in a new way, although there have always been singers like Callas who were natural actors." is very naive and condescending.

One example would be the Mets broadcast of "Manon Lescaut" which was shown in movie theatres a couple years ago with two "new breed of singers" Karita Mattila and Marcello Giordani. They were good. But neither in acting or singing did they come close to the first time that production was filmed for TV in the early 80's with Placido Domingo and Renata Scotto.

The same could be said when two years ago the Met sent out to movie theatre the same Zefferelli production of La Boheme that had been aired in the 80s. Angela Gheorghiu, Ainhoa Arteta, Ramon Vargas, Ludovic Tezier, Quinn Kelsey could not hold a candle to Teresa Stratas, Jose Carreras, Renata Scotto, Dick Stillwell and Jim Morris.



Now living in DC. I really have to change my name on the board.
Updated On: 1/14/13 at 08:38 AM
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PalJoey
Broadway Legend
joined:3/11/04
I stand corrected because all the singers you listed are singers I love.

But there is a new energy and you can see it in the Met HD broadcasts.

I was hoping someone would mention Teresa Stratas! what I wouldn't give to have a young Teresa Stratas starting all over again in front of our eyes right now...
yr pal,
joey




Blocked so far: suestorm, Master Bates
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D2
Broadway Legend
joined:12/3/06
Count me in as an opera lover, and a convert to the Live HD transmissions.

My introduction to opera came with a Live From Lincoln Center broadcast of THE BARBER OF SEVILLE starring the late, great Beverly Sills. She was also a terrific actress, as adept at tragedy as she was at comedy. I subsequently saw her live in several of her signature roles, including her luminescent MANON.

And that's how it started for me.

And Joyce DiDonato: BRILLIANT! I'm going to the Live HD transmission of MARIA STUARDA on Saturday and looking forward to it very much (alas, not one of the signature Sills roles I saw her perform.)

ETA: PJ, your list is spot on. Of course.

Cheyenne Jackson tickled me. AFTER ordering SoMMS a drink but NOT tickling him, and hanging out with Girly in his dressing room (where he DIDN'T tickle her) but BEFORE we got married. To others. And then he tweeted Boobs. He also tweeted he's good friends with some chick on "The Voice" who just happens to be good friends with Tink's ex. And I'm still married. Oh, and this just in: "Pettiness, spite, malice ....Such ugly emotions... So sad." - After Eight, talking about MEEEEEEEE!!! I'm so honored! :-)
Updated On: 1/14/13 at 12:59 PM
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AEA AGMA SM
Broadway Legend
joined:8/13/09
While getting lost in a Google image search for Nathan Gunn (the go-to guy to counter the "all opera singers are fat and unattractive" stereotype) I found this nice little blog.

http://barihunks.blogspot.com

I will also add that as well as being insanely talented, Joyce DiDonato is a delight to work with. I worked on a production of La Cenerentola with her some years back in Kansas City and she was a pleasure both on and off stage.
Did you know that every day Mexican gays cross our borders and unplug our brain-dead ladies?
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newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
I love opera, but feel it should be acknowledged that the music always takes primacy over the text (and acting).

Even some of the more theatrical operas (The Magic Flute, Carmen, Albert Herring, etc.) have long stretches without action. As in Phantom of the Opera, sometimes they just stand there and sing.

And you have to be able to enjoy that, as well as the flashier, more active parts.

I find it really pays off to develop the discipline to enjoy Parsifal, but I know there are many who see no point to it at all.

Read Terrence McNally's The Lisbon Traviata for some fun opera vs. musical theatre dialogue.
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JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
I started attending the opera when someone pointed out that Opera has been consistently popular for 600 years or so- It must have something going for it.

My "first opera" was Turandot at the Lyric. Spectacular.
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
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Rainbowhigh23
Broadway Legend
joined:3/29/12
I never had the patience or discipline to sit through a four hour opera until I was able to see Anna Netrebko. Her ability and beauty were enough to keep me focused and appreciate the art form in its purity. I first saw her in Romeo and Juliet, and albeit a little boring at times, the scene with the floating bed was priceless as everyone in the audience, young and old, pulled out their binoculars. I thoroughly enjoyed her Manon, and saw it live for the last performance as well as the Met in HD transmission.

Additionally, the fact that Broadway and pop culture are inspired by and mine from opera consistently makes the classic operas easier to sit through. When I see Lucia di Lammermoor, I will always remember the Diva from the Fifth Element, and the same for La Traviata's “Sempre Libre” by Felicia Jolly Goodfellow and her shoe.
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PalJoey
Broadway Legend
joined:3/11/04
I find it really pays off to develop the discipline to enjoy Parsifal, but I know there are many who see no point to it at all.

I was at a seminar once in the early 1980s, around the time that Leonard Bernstein was conducting Wagner with the Israel Philharmonic and the Vienna Symphony. He said that the only way to truly listen to Wagner--the only way to truly hear him--was to sit back and "allow the music to wash over you."

I had never done anything like that before--I was a strictly musical-theater person, and listening to me was an active experience: hearing the lyrics, appreciating the rhymes, watching the performance, feeling the subtext. The same went for my appreciation of standards and folk music and pop--even rock music--I was an intent listener, focused equally on the words and music.

I had done something similar to what Bernstein was saying when I would listen to orchestral music, but it was not my "thing." I was always more engaged when there were lyrics.

But what Bernstein was saying was obviously something more intense (everything the man said was intense!) than my sleepy way of listening to symphonies and sonatas. He was urging us to allow Wagner's music in--allow it in to our ears and minds and bodies and souls. He was describing something I didn't want to do: a willing submission, a giving up of control. It felt weird, it felt scary. And then there was the German thing: Bernstein spoke in the same seminar about his love-hate relationship with Wagner and his music and his anti-Semitism and the way the Third Reich had appropriated Wagner's music and left it tainted.

Bernstein's family background Austrian, and he believed that the music of Wagner and other German composers belonged to the Austrian and German people and the rest of the world before it belonged to the Nazis. He was on a personal crusade to restore those composers to the world of music.

It took me a long time to allow Wagner to "wash over me," but I would think of his words whenever I would attend any musical event that is pure music or primarily music. I've now attended all four operas of the Ring Cycle twice. The first time I went thinking, "Well, if I can sit through Nicholas Nickelby or Angels in America, I can make it through the Ring."

The second time, I loved every minute of the 18 hours. I allowed the music to wash over me--and I've discovered that there are ways music can tell stories and evoke emotion--even if it's 4 hours long.
yr pal,
joey




Blocked so far: suestorm, Master Bates
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GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
I knew PETER GRIMES well before I saw it live. (I had written a grad school paper on its dramatic structure.) But perhaps because I didn't have to work too hard to understand the text, I had an experience similar to that which Joey describes.

The music washed over me and I thought I was moved. Then I made it about 10 steps out the exit door before I began to sob uncontrollably for several minutes. That hasn't happened to me in too many musicals.

I'll also never forget Renata Scotto doing Desdemona's death scene with her head draped off the bed, literally singing at the top of her register while upside down. If that ain't acting, then I think we need to invent a word for it!

Finally, I want to pay tribute to Beverly Sills as head of the NYC Opera. They experimented with some of the lesser known works such as MARIA STUARDA and ANNA BOLEYNA, and did them as if they were musical dramas. (No current calls at the end of Act I!) The stagings were modern but not gimmicky, the excitement among the resident company was palpable and the audience was given a glimpse of what opera can be without a few of the unfortunate conventions it has a acquired along the way.

***

newintown, very few musical theater numbers are like "A Weekend in the Country" and move the dramatic action forward with giant steps. Far more common are songs like "Now/Soon/Later" or "Send in the Clowns" where a great deal of singing about feelings is done in return for a tiny movement in the action.

Opera isn't all that different. True, MADAMA BUTTERFLY has an entire second act in which no one does anything, but that inaction is really active in its way because "waiting" is so germane to the story.

Updated On: 1/14/13 at 05:24 PM

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