Anna Bolena Reminiscence of Loyalty through Opera

The lyric tragedy Anna Bolena is a two–act Italian opera composed by Gaetano Donizetti on an Italian libretto by Felice Romani. The opera’s libretto was largely based on two plays with accounts of the life and times of Queen Anne Boleyn. One account was by Marie-Joseph Chénier in Henry VIII while the second was by Alessandro Pepoli in Anna Bolena. The opera was first premiered in Milan’s Teatro Carcano on 26th December 1830. What made and maintains the opera among the greatest of all time is the duet between Anna and Jane Seymour in soprano and mezzo soprano respectively. None like it has ever been achieved to date in the operatic repertoire.

Anna Bolena gained wide acclaim and recognition in Europe at that time and was performed, though irregularly, from the 1850’s to the early 20th century. But it was not until after the Second World War that the opera was revived and placed forever on the global opera scene. When on 30th December 1947, the Gaetano Donizetti’s opera was performed in Barcelona to celebrate the centennial of Gran Teatre del Liceu, the audience shed tears of joy. The theatre had actually been opened back in 1847 with the same opera, Anna Bolena. During this performance, the lead cast included Sara Scuderi (Anna Bolena), Giulietta Simionato (Jane Seymour) and Cesare Siepi (Henry VIII).

Anna Bolena - Queen Anne Boleyn

Anna Bolena - Queen Anne Boleyn

After that, Luchino Visconti directed a lavish production of the opera performed on the April of 1957 at La Scala for Maria Callas. This was to be one of Luchino’s greatest moments of triumph. From there on, Anna Bolena opera gained worldwide support in opera theatres, thereby earning regular performances and even numerous recordings.

The story of the opera was derived from a historical account of Queen Anne Boleyn, although experts argue vehemently that Continue reading

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Aida in the Real Perspective of Opera

Aida backgrounds all successful operas of the 20th Century. It has been recorded and translated into many editions, putting it on a class of its own as a basic operatic repertoire. Aida is indeed the standard measure of opera composition and has a legendary performance history to affirm it.

The first misconception of Aida arises on the original intent of the opera. It is commonly known that the opera was composed by Giuseppe Verdi in around 1871, meant for a performance in December of that year. It was not meant for the inaugural opening of the Suez Canal as is said in some quarters. Indeed, when Verdi was requested to compose a celebratory ode for the opening of Suez Canal, his reply was, “I do not oblige to writing occasional pieces.” It was Ismail Pasha, the art-loving Khedive of Ancient Egypt who commissioned it, purely for pleasure purposes.

Aida Opera

Aida Opera

The first performance of the opera, conducted by Giovanni Bottesini, was at the Khedivial Opera House, although not to celebrate its opening as is commonly believed. Again, the four acts of Aida were based on a unique scenario origin written by Auguste Mariette, the French Egyptologist. Mariette was actually the designer of most of the performance costumes for the premiere of the opera. It is a misinformation to document the scenario on which Verdi based the opera as originally done by Temistocle Solera. The inaugural reception was great and by the next morning, 25th December 1871, Aida was acclaimed by all critics as the best of its kind. The premiere performance had starred, especially with the brilliant designs of Auguste Mariette on the stage, in costumes and even accessories.

Records show that Verdi’s intent was to compose an orchestral prelude and not an overture, though he later changed his mind and let the overture be performed. Later on, during the performance of Aida at Cleveland, Ohio, the orchestral prelude would be considered and then dropped from the composition, again. In its setting, Aida specifies no time frame although experts attribute it only as a production of the Old Kingdom, ancient Egypt.

Many sources have different explanations as to why Verdi did not attend the virgin performance of the opera in Cairo on the 24th of December the same year. The true account is that Verdi was protesting against the exclusion of the general public in the audience. The audience of the Cairo performance was strictly invited guest, mainly politicians, dignitaries and elite critics. Consequently, Verdi pushed hard for the European Premiere on February 8th, to be the real premiere of the opera. Critics say that Verdi was just being proud after the initial success of the opera in Cairo, and felt exploited to have accepted a mere 150, 000 Francs for it.

As with all great pieces of art, love forms a basic motivation to creativity, and the raw material for a composition. It is said that when Verdi wrote the opera he was in secret love with Teresa Stolz. He wrote a role specifically for her voice in the opera, which she actually took during the Milan premiere. Later on however, Maria Waldmann would take the role for several performances. The word Aida has an etymological origin of Arabic, for a female name. It refers to a concept of a visitor or a return.

In the four-act story, Aida is the Princess of Ethiopia, who is captured and enslaved in Egypt. Here, she meets Radames, a high ranking military commander, who falls greatly in love with her. Radames is in a dilemma, since his loyalty must be to the Pharaoh, whose daughter is actually in love with Radames. Such great emotions are uttered on stage as Radames aspires for glory in battle against Ethiopia and the love of Aida, the slave Princess from Ethiopia. Such irony is further amplified by the fact that Radames has to return the love of the jealous Pharaoh’s daughter, Amneris. Through the intrigues, until Radames is arrested as a traitor, a dishonored commander, they plan to run away with Aida. However, they later die together in a vault as Amneris weeps at the top of the vault.

Aida’s success never stopped after the first performances. In fact, in all the opera premieres, the attendance and reception was great. From the period 1873 to 1877, Aida had premiered in Buenos Aires, New York, Berlin, Vienna, Madrid, Budapest, St Petersburg, Prague, Paris, London  and Melbourne in that order. The popularity of the opera is still outstanding even today. For instance, it is placed 16th out of the 20 most popular operas in America.

Among the conductors who have successfully conducted the opera is Arturo Toscanini. He actually began his career as a conductor during the Rio de Janeiro performance of 1886 where inept conductors were heatedly rejected by the audience. Arturo, 19 years old at the time, was a mere assistant chorus master. Although a cellist, he took on the baton and not only conducted the opera well, but also from memory, the entirety of it. From there on, he would grace many performances as a celebrity conductor.

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Modern Opera Trends

Many opera lovers today are the transition from classical opera to modern opera that occurred concomitantly with the death of Puccini in 1924. There are epitaphs that can easily be spotted in Little Italy as well as Lincoln Center in New York. A change in operatic repertoire has been noticed since the turn of the 21st century.

Most of the decisive advancements that have taken place in contemporary times are yet to be fully acknowledged. The operas that were performed in between the two world wars are twice as many as those that were performed during the period that many people prefer to refer to as the Golden age.

The period between 1900 and 1918 saw the introduction of operas such as Pelleas et Melisande, Salome, Rosenkavalier, Bluebeardís Castle, Plestrina Elektra, among many others. During this time, the greatest pointer of the future was Leos Jefuna, although he was not given any recognition at the time. Jefuna made it to the Prague performance and gained wide international exposure.

Opera House

Opera House

Many post-war changes in operatic performances took the form of a wave. Some of the greatest names that rode in this wave were the elderly legends of opera such as Janacek who premiered in 1921 and the Cunning Little Vixen who hit the premiere stage three years after Vixen. Opera at this time was characterized by simple emotional overloads that were unlike anything witnessed during neo-classical times.

One remarkable change that saw the birth of modern opera is the break-away trend that saw Italian and Continue reading

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How to Enjoy Opera

To people who have never been to a live opera performance, the experience of a grand opera may be rather mysterious. However, everyone in the real world is always exposed to opera music without even realizing it. It is not uncommon to hear music in TV commercials that can only be described as operatic in nature

The modern communication technology presents us with many avenues through which we can share fun through opera music. Whether the communication channel is email or flag articles, opera music has a way of spreading the message of love to every corner of the world.

If you visit any library, you are going to be amazed at the richness of variety in terms of opera music collection search efforts. In the case of those libraries that are owned by consortiums, one can easily order a CD or DVD containing nothing but operatic performances. Once you have bought and turned on the music, donít listen to it as if it were a philosophy lecture. Just put it on in such way that it appears like background music.

Enjoy Opera

Enjoy Opera

A tuneful work is ideal at the beginning. A tune that bears a close semblance to the modern reality is the best option. Verdi’s “Rigoretto” is a typical opera performance that is just the one to make a man feel relaxed. It could also form a favorite for any beginner. This kind of music appears rather familiar to every father with a natural urge to protect his children from the sordidness that characterizes this life.

Opera productions are very rich sources of quality opera music. Examples of these operas are the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Continue reading

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