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Topic: Moving from Ultimate to sublime

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  1. #1
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    Moving from Ultimate to sublime

    I have been lurking waiting for symphony discussion on the road to a dream -- more formal and less rigidly structured.

    First, let me say I am no musician beyond early vocal training. My keyboard skills are nill and my classical guitar and folk music performances of the 1960's best remain hidden.

    About 15 years ago, however, as an opera affacianado (my voice training got me there some 50 years ago) I felt that since Boito, Puccini and Verdi (Ok - maybe Gershwin), no great opera has come from the USA even though "musical theater," in its hey-day often approached this level of work.

    I do not consider "Trouble in Tahiti" GREAT...nor "Amahl & The Night Visitors." My opinion is that the former rode on Bernstein's commercial New York successes more than great music, and Amahl was made popular because of its "non-commercial," but actually very commercial religious/seasonal appeal and the infancy of TV.

    Movie scores have come close in grandeur -- and the development of the virtual orchestra I am sure has been driven by the economic needs of Hollywood needing fatter sounbd from fewer paid musicians.

    Today US Opera is in a state of economic desolation. In some ways is is in a musical desolation too.

    So let me posit this: Can we orchestrate for LIVE singer/actors as needed in true opera -- and run the instrumentation for performance virtually?

    When I started the on idea 15 or so years ago -- the midi/Synth/Sampler set up was becoming cumbersome and exceptionally expensive. Today we seem to be on the road around that.

    Imagine this -- a Junior College in Podunk or Padua wants to stage an opera with great budding voices -- but does not have an affordable orchestra -- but does have computer and amplification (with fidelity) power.

    Rather than just re-orchestrating the old scores -- we also can be instrumental in generating music and plot to capture (not rock) the modern audience in the Grand Opera Style.

    I have been working on an American tragedy libretto on and off for 15 years -- mostly off-- because we never had these opportunities. The work, with patience and intelligence, is feasible for one person to accomplish. But support and shared knowledge will make it possible.

    Anyone else in the academy dreaming along these lines???

  2. #2

    Re: Moving from Ultimate to sublime

    I'm not quite sure I'd agree that US Opera is in desolation. Do you mean that the composition of new operas in the US is dwindling? I could understand that being true, but I would say that's simply because of the times, and times change. It doesn't reflect there being less talent or skill.

    Anyway, can we orchestrate for live singers as needed in true opera? I really don't see why not. God didn't say anything about Operas in the ten commandments! We are humans and we can do whatever we like! But would people mind? I'm sure some would. Computer orchestras will never be as good as real orchestras (at least not in our lifetime), so some might see it as a loss. However, if you couldn't afford a real orchestra in the first place, it's actually a gain, isn't it?

    I think the hardest part of such a big project is generating enough interest that people will actually help you put it on. Unless you have the money to do it yourself. After all, in the arts, its the people with the money that make the fun decisions . . .
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  3. #3
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    Re: Moving from Ultimate to sublime

    I read somewhere that it costs several million to stage a new opera, and the outcome is very unpredictable. Amateur operatic societies are not interested in new work, they want to do Merry Widow for the umpteenth time. I know, asI have approached some. Could that be why there is no new opera, or very little? In London, English National Opera stage the occasional new work, but only because it is subsidised to the rafters. The operas themselves are rarely heard of again.

  4. #4
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    Re: Moving from Ultimate to sublime

    I disagree. I look around the opera world, and all I see is great NEW opera...in fact I might venture to say that some of the most radical and experimental theatre now going on in the world is opera. Multi-media, mixed media, and traditional players. There is a ton of it.

    Im not sure what you mean by your orchestration question. I believe MIDI orchestration is done all the time in MT.

    How about a mix of live and recorded/MIDI? How about electronics + Live + midi or something here and there in between. Personally, I think opera should be this way...

  5. #5
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    Re: Moving from Ultimate to sublime

    Newmewzikboy - I agree it is a step in the right direction -- to mix live and computer controlled. And that also brings into play new instrument combos like a midi strong stick controller and the final product of the Garritan Strad thrust...........

    I am sure you are right the technology is not ready yet -- but it is moving faster than ever before as the tyros get ahold of the affordable programs and "play."

    Desolation in opera--- In a full blown classical style-- I must suggest that in the USA it exists. We have too many "musicians" raised in the 2 minute and 25 second format of a pop tune without full orchestration and only an overlay of effects rather than musicianship. Songs seem to be more about desolation of lost love and lust.

    Lyrics in use for long form exposition in support of a plot seemed to stop with Phantom and Les Mis. I was hoping for a while either the Ballad of Baby Doe or Devil & Daniel Webster would fill some need -- but their musicality never seemd to soar.

    Maybe some call Boito's close to Mephistophele bombastic -- but with the proper whistles inserted by the basso --- it sends chills up and down my spine. As does the soaring curtain sequence of Andre Chenier. To me -- that is Opera!

  6. #6
    Senior Member newmewzikboy's Avatar
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    Re: Moving from Ultimate to sublime

    I dunno. What do you think of the adams stuff and that school/

  7. #7

    Re: Moving from Ultimate to sublime

    Quote Originally Posted by chmara
    Desolation in opera--- In a full blown classical style-- I must suggest that in the USA it exists. We have too many "musicians" raised in the 2 minute and 25 second format of a pop tune without full orchestration and only an overlay of effects rather than musicianship. Songs seem to be more about desolation of lost love and lust.

    Lyrics in use for long form exposition in support of a plot seemed to stop with Phantom and Les Mis. I was hoping for a while either the Ballad of Baby Doe or Devil & Daniel Webster would fill some need -- but their musicality never seemd to soar.
    I would say the difference in style between Operas and Broadway musicals (like Phantom and Les Mis) is of course quite apparent, but I don't think the creators of Broadway musicals are aiming for a resurrection of Opera anyway. While the pop tune culture can be very annoying, especially for those of us who love the grand Operas and Symphonies that never get played on the radio, we cannot blame the makers of the music. We can blame those who pay money to listen to it. And it probably all comes down to a matter of opinion . . .
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  8. #8
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    Re: Moving from Ultimate to sublime

    Tom- Thanks for the referal to Midi Maestro which I will search after answering.

    I have been off this line a few day aiding AudioGroupLtd.com gettogether a new (not just another) set of Forums AND a blog that will feature not only releases of product and news releases, but editorials AND real reviews by human users who may or may not be pros in traditional music areas, such as dramatic sound reinforcement and creation for reviews, stage drama and magic shows. I am using the wonderful model I have found here in the Garritan pages to set the tone for honesty, courtesy and civility in deiscussion for our moderated areas.

    I guess as I was making my opening entry -- I was figuring modern opera became really challenged and dissonant with "Die Frau Ohne Schatten" some of Stravinski's work and "advanced musical theories" that do not seem to appeal to the general population as melodious, let alomne memorable.

    Technically opera has always been a showcase for the talent available in both voice and dramatic ability during this modern era. Wagner Dramas - most of which suffers from a lack of tightening up -- offer grand, wonderfully sonorous and memorable music -- hours without end.

    When it comes to Stravinski, Richard Strauss, and forward, my thought becomes one of " just because the key on the instument, or the chord for the orchestra exists -- does not mean it has to be played."

    Tremonisha is more of a people's opera when it comes to style in the modern era. But it has little "snob" appeal.

    I think that it is a magnificent stroke that Korngold was involved in setting the tenor for movie music. Some of his stuff could be classified as vocally silent opera, to me.

    So, why has not opera been well translated to film?

    Carmen Jones with a very young Belfonte was successful as a "racial" operatic movie -- but I have found full blown operas too often stilted in visual interpretation when translated to film. TV most often just records a stage performance -- allowing it to be seen as a museaum piece.

    Tommy is billed as a rock opera -- and does, in my opinion qualify as opera, and the film version is pretty slick. But it reeks of the commercial world's slime that the plot tries to explore as harmful within the psychosexual theme.

    When I was a kid and teenager, (about 1950-59) my father became the president of the Long Island Opera company in New York's Nassau County. The Artistic Director Nino Lucianno came to us from La Scala. The mission was to revitalize the popular popularity of Opera with performances "en piccolo" all over the county -- shortened and narrated by Nino, who often took his cues from Victor Borge's approach. He made the ideas real to the people in attendance. No museam glass frames here.

    So, the desolation of which I speak is based upon the notion that opera needs to be both economically and emotionally acceptable to modern audiences, and I feel it has not been.

    The Libretto for Amahl and the Night Visitors, for instance, is memorable, but the music did not lend itself to any popularization --

    The story is oft told of how Verdi and Puccini had to keep arias and music secret until an opening -- because it would be so popular and singable -- that audiences would not have believed that the work had been done by those masters. And they discovered the singability of their melodic lines, became, in turn the best publicity for the opera's run.

    I guess it was much the same as the synergy between modern radio play and American Musical theater in creating "hits."

    Even with that said -- Kismet -- even after Vick Damon -- did not create a rush to Rhimsky Khorsakov.

    Now, I am getting long winded......

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