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Article

Stephen Johnson

Opera in four acts by Zakhary Petrovich Paliashvili to a libretto by P. Mirianashvili after the Georgian legend Eteriani; Tbilisi, Georgian National Opera House, 21 February 1919.

Paliashvili began work on Absalom and Etery in 1909, three years after co-founding the Fraternity for the Creation of Opera in the Georgian Language. His studies with Taneyev (...

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

Musikalisches Lustspiel in one act by Eugen d’ Albert to a libretto by Ferdinand von Sporck after a comedy by August von Steigentesch (1828); Frankfurt, 28 October 1898.

The action takes place in late 18th-century Germany. Gilfen (baritone), whose relationship with his wife Luise (soprano) has cooled, debates whether or not to go on a long-planned but much delayed journey: an absence might help his marriage, but he is suspicious of the motives of his friend Trott (tenor) in encouraging the journey and making the necessary arrangements. Finally Gilfen pretends to leave, but returns almost at once, to discover that Trott has wasted no time before pressing his attentions on Luise. Gilfen and his wife are reconciled, while it is Trott who takes the journey he has so carefully planned....

Article

Erik Levi

Opera in one act, op.43, by Boris Blacher to a libretto by Werner Egk; Mannheim, Nationaltheater, 17 October 1953 (previously broadcast on Hessischer Rundfunk, 28 June 1953).

This 35-minute opera scored for soprano, tenor and baritone, mixed choir and instrumental ensemble is divided into seven self-contained scenes entitled Angst (Fear), Liebe I (Love 1), Schmerz (Pain), Verhandlung (Negotiation), Panik (Panic), Liebe II (Love 2) and Angst (Fear). There is no conventional plot as such; rather the opera, constructed in arch-form, offers an exploration of various states of mind. The vocal writing dispenses with comprehensible speech and relies on syllables and stage gestures to make its effect. In the opening scene the dialogue between the three soloists consists entirely of primeval wails based on the sound patterns of ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’. Following this is the first love scene which ends in hilarity when a dressmaker’s dummy is shot by the soprano. At the centre of the work lies the fourth scene, ‘Verhandlung’, in which an infantile and barely comprehensible discussion between a Russian (baritone) and American diplomat (tenor) breaks down through lack of communication. With the return to the ‘Angst’ scene at the end of the opera comes an overriding feeling of the futility of modern life....

Article

Clive Brown

Singspiel in one act, j106, by Carl Maria von Weber to a libretto by Franz Carl Hiemer after Antoine Galland’s story Le dormeur éveillé; Munich, Residenztheater, 4 June 1811.

Hiemer based his libretto on the second part of Galland’s version of the well-known tale of ‘Abu Hassan, or The Sleeper Awakened’ from the Arabian ...

Article

Graham Sadler

Pastorale-héroïque in three acts by Jean-Philippe Rameau to a libretto by Jean François Marmontel ; Paris, Opéra, 19 November 1751.

To protect Acante (haute-contre) and Céphise (soprano) from the menacing genie Oroès (bass), the fairy Zirphile (soprano) gives the lovers a talisman. This provides them with the telepathic power (‘la sympathie’ of the subtitle) to sense each other’s feelings even when separated. The work, which celebrated the Duke of Burgundy’s birth, includes more inventive music than such a puerile plot deserves, and incorporates the earliest surviving clarinet parts in French opera. The overture, a representation of the nation’s joy at the royal birth, uses cannon fire in its portrayal of fireworks....

Article

Achille  

Scott L. Balthazar

Melo-dramma eroico in two acts by Ferdinando Paer to a libretto by Giovanni De Gamerra after Homer ’s Iliad; Vienna, Kärntnertor-theater, 6 June 1801.

One of Paer’s best early operas, Achille was particularly admired by Napoleon. In De Gamerra’s version of the story, the armies of Achilles (tenor), King of Thessaly, and Agamemnon (bass), leader of the Greek armies, are preparing to attack the city of Lyrnessus, which is allied with the Trojans. Achilles wishes to be reunited with Briseis (soprano), daughter of Briseus (bass), King of Lyrnessus. Upon defeating Briseus’s army, both Achilles and Agamemnon demand Briseis in exchange for clemency. She chooses Achilles, but Agamemnon later has her kidnapped. Suspecting foul play by his purported ally, Achilles refuses to lead his army against the Trojans, although he does eventually send them into battle under the command of his companion Patroclus (bass), cloaked in Achilles’ armour. After Patroclus is killed, Achilles relents and finally agrees to fight when Agamemnon surrenders Briseis. The opera ends with Achilles’ defeat of Hector and the Trojans....

Article

Don Neville

Libretto by Pietro Metastasio, first set by Antonio Caldara (1736, Vienna). The title Il trionfo della gloria was used for later versions of this libretto.

In order to circumvent the destiny that awaits Achilles in the Trojan War, his mother, Thetis, has asked Chiron, his old tutor, to conceal him on the island of Scyros; Chiron has placed his charge among the women at the court of King Licomede [Lycomedes]....

Article

Stanley Sadie

Masque or serenata in one (later two) acts by George Frideric Handel to words by John Gay and others; Cannons, summer 1718 (revised version in three acts, incorporating Italian words by Nicola Giuvo, London, King’s Theatre, 10 June 1732).

During the period 1717–20 Handel spent much of his time at Cannons, the seat of James Brydges, Earl of Carnarvon (later Duke of Chandos), at Edgware, a short distance north-west of London. As resident composer, he supplied his patron with church music, principally anthems, and two dramatic works, ...

Article

Lois Rosow

Pastorale-héroïque in a prologue and three acts by Jean-Baptiste Lully ( see Lully family, §1 ) to a libretto by Campistron, Jean Galbert de after Ovid ’s Metamorphoses; Anet, château (without machines), 6 September 1686, and Paris, Opéra, 17 September 1686.

This work was privately commissioned by the Duke of Vendôme for a celebration to honour the dauphin, it subsequently enjoyed public success. Lully turned to Galbert de Campistron because Quinault, his usual collaborator, had withdrawn from theatrical work. In keeping with the conventions of the ...

Article

Louise K. Stein

Zarzuela in two acts with music by Antonio de Literes to a libretto by José de Cañizares; Madrid, Alcázar palace or Coliseo del Buen Retiro, 19 December 1708.

A partly sung zarzuela on the story of Acis, Galatea and Polifemo [Polyphemus], it was composed for King Philip V’s birthday and performed by the combined companies of Joseph Garcés and Juan Bautista Chavarría. The characters also include Doris, Glauco [Glaucus], Tisbe [Thisbe], Telemo [Telemus], Momo [Momus] and Tíndaro [Tyndareus], as well as choruses. In the original cast only Polyphemus, Telemus and Tyndareus were played by men. After its first performance at court, the work entered the repertory of the public theatres in Madrid when the company of Garcés performed it in the Teatro del Príncipe for an extended run in ...