Monday, March 21, 2011

Music & Libretto

The Unrepentant Pelleasite quotes Harold Schoenberg thusly:
Operas don't remain in the repertory because they have great librettos. They remain because the music is great.
Just for fun, a few operas with great music that somehow haven't quite become repertory staples because of their librettos:

  • Ernani Lots of great, dark-tinted, Don Carlos-like music, but an unbelievable, confusing, poorly-structured libretto that ends with the hero committing suicide. What?
  • La Forza del Destino has not exactly dropped from the repertory, but has been replaced, more or less, by Don Carlo. Why? Because modern people mostly don't buy the whole fate thing, plus the careening plot and Preziosilla are both a little hard to take.
  • La Fanciulla del West has absolutely glorious through-composed music....and the libretto, which isn't by Puccini's usual librettists, is a dog. It's undramatic, it has no real climax, the ending is mild....woof! I predict that after the round of Voigt-inspired revivals it'll go back into hiding for another 15 or 20 years.
  • Pelleas et Melisande. The exquisite music just isn't enough to conquer the obscure-to-most, allusive, undramatic libretto. It'll never be repertory standard.

6 comments:

Joe Barron said...

>>Pelleas et Melisande ... It'll never be repertory standard.

Uh oh, now you've done it. To this list we may add all of Schubert's attempts at the genre.

Lisa Hirsch said...

And Haydn's.

The Unrepentant Pelleastrian said...

Pelleas et Melisande. The exquisite music just isn't enough to conquer the obscure-to-most, allusive, undramatic libretto.

It'll never be repertory standard.


*****

No, it is a part of the standard repertory. It simply occupies a side niche... That's all.

"just isn't enough to conquer the obscure-to-most, allusive, undramatic libretto"

I think it has absolutely nothing to do with the libretto and everything to do with the predominantly subdued nature of the music -- the epitome of aristocratic sensuality.

The Unrepentant Pelleastrian said...

I've never heard a note of the operas of Schubert or Haydn.

Perhaps it's time to crack open my DG recording of Fierrabras

Joe Barron said...

>>No, it is a part of the standard repertory. It simply occupies a side niche... That's all.


Sort of like Schoenberg, I guess.

The Unrepentant Pelleastrian said...

Joe,

Sort of like Schoenberg, I guess.

Probably.

What I find astounding is that Moses und Aron still doesn't inspire the love that it deserves... It is such a musically perfect opera.

According to Operabase there will be only one performance of Moses this year, a new production on April 29 in Zurich.

And then that's it...

Fini.

Nada.

Se termino.

No performances of this masterpiece anywhere in the world for at least the next 3 years.

Amazing.