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Abaris  

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Elizabeth Forbes

(b Genoa, 1821; d Milan, 1896). Italian mezzo-soprano . She studied with her father, the composer and teacher Natale Abbadia, making her début in 1836 at Sassari. In Vienna she sang Corilla in Donizetti’s Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali (1840). At La Scala she created Giulietta in Verdi’s ...

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J.B. Steane

(b Lemberg [now L’viv], July 14, 1872; d Weidling, nr Vienna, Sept 1, 1932). Polish soprano of Austrian parentage . She first appeared as a child prodigy, singing operatic arias in her native town. At 13 she entered the Vienna Conservatory; she later studied in Milan, becoming highly proficient in florid singing while developing a voice of considerable power. She made her début (1889) in La sonnambula at the Vienna Opera. In the Munich première of Falstaff she sang Mrs Ford, and at Dresden in 1902 sang Tosca in the opera’s German première. She retired in 1908, having sung some 70 operatic roles, ranging from coloratura parts such as the Queen of Night and Lucia to dramatic roles including Sieglinde and Venus. A few rare gramophone records made in 1902 display some dubious stylistic qualities along with an extraordinary fluency in decorative work and a warm, limpid tone characteristic of the Lamperti school....

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Anna Amalie Abert

(b Kochowitz, nr Leitmeritz, Bohemia, Sept 20, 1832; d Stuttgart, April 1, 1915). Bohemian composer. After studying at the Prague Conservatory, he was engaged in 1853 as a double-bass player at the Stuttgart Hofkapelle where he then served as Kapellmeister from 1867 to 1888. Between 1852 and 1894 he composed orchestral and chamber music in addition to sacred and secular vocal works. He was most important in the field of operatic composition, his six operas winning him acclaim as one of the masters between Meyerbeer and Wagner. His first opera, Anna von Landscron (1858), was firmly rooted in the German Romantic opera tradition. However König Enzio, produced four years later, clearly showed the influence of French grand opera, which the composer had studied first-hand during a long visit to Paris. He was especially successful in 1866 with his third opera, Astorga, whose less dramatic text allowed scope for his primarily lyrical style to develop. In ...

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Stephen Johnson

(‘Absalom and Etery’)

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 (1900–03) and his experience as collector and editor of Georgian folk music had given him the resources he needed for the creation of a style that was both technically secure and national in character. In addition, Taneyev had shown him how oriental folk styles could be synthesized with elements from traditional western European music, rather than simply grafted on – the besetting sin, Taneyev felt, of the Russian Five. Paliashvili was by no means the first Georgian composer to attempt such a synthesis in opera, but no work before Absalom and Etery aroused the same degree of enthusiasm. It is now accepted as a milestone in the development of Georgian music and continues to play an important part in the repertory....

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Stanley Sadie

English town on the Thames, near Oxford. It was an important centre for Handel revivals in the 1960s and 70s. Performances, modest in scale but noted for their spirit and enthusiasm, were given in the Unicorn Theatre (built in the granary of the 14th-century abbey) and twice in a civic hall, were directed and translated by Alan Kitching and were conducted and costumed (until her death in 1968) by Frances Kitching. Given by amateurs and advanced students until 1970, when they became professional, they began with Orlando in 1959; then followed, from 1961 to 1964, Partenope, Floridante, Agrippina and Admeto, and from 1966 to 1974 Poro, Giustino, Flavio, Sosarme, Il pastor fido, Arminio, Tolomeo and Arianna in Creta (Lotario was also given by the company, at Henley, in 1975). Most were modern premières. Several performances were repeated elsewhere, notably three at the City of London Festival.

A. Kitching...

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(b Riverside, ny , 1878; d New York, Feb 9, 1919). American soprano . She appeared first with her sister Jessie in vaudeville, then, in London, in operetta; she was heard there in 1898 by Jean de Reszke, who helped her to study in Paris with Victor Capoul and Mathilde Marchesi. Her début at the Opéra as Juliet in ...

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Elizabeth Forbes

(‘The Departure’)

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.

D’Albert’s lighthearted score shows little or no trace of the verismo style that he cultivated in Tiefland and some of his later works. The influence of Cornelius and of the German romantics such as Lortzing is much stronger, though d’Albert, a musician of mixed cultural heritage, also owed, at least in this delightful piece, a certain allegiance to French style at the end of the 19th century as represented by Chabrier....

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Erik Levi

(‘Abstract Opera no.1’)

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....

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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 Thousand and One Nights. In the opera Abu Hassan (tenor), cup-bearer to the Caliph, and his devoted wife Fatime (soprano) are being pressed for payment of debts by the moneylender Omar (bass), who is also unsuccessfully making advances to Fatime. Abu Hassan hits on the idea of pretending that his wife has died and claiming money from the Caliph (speaking role) for her funeral, while Fatime does the same with the Caliph’s wife, Zobeide (speaking role). They succeed in their plot, but when the Caliph and Zobeide try to discover which of them is really dead they both feign death. Abu Hassan, however, leaps up and reveals the subterfuge when he hears the Caliph offer 10 000 gold dinars to anyone who can clear up the mystery. For about half the opera Omar is imprisoned in a cupboard, where he has been forced to hide because of the unexpected return of Abu Hassan while Omar was trying to make love to the reluctant Fatime. Fatime explains to her husband, in an undertone, what has happened, and they decide to punish Omar by leaving him there in fear of discovery. When the Caliph is informed of Omar’s activities by Abu Hassan, at the end of the opera, he orders the cupboard to be taken to the city prison....

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Name for a group of American travelling companies drawn from resident troupes of the New York Academy of Music, 1854–86, variously under the management (1854–77) of Maurice Strakosch, Bernard Ullman, Max Maretzek and others. Under this umbrella were a variety of individual companies, including the Strakosch Opera Company, Ullman-Strakosch Opera Company and Academy of Music Company, all of which made extensive tours of the USA. From ...

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Graham Sadler

[Acante et Céphise, ou La sympathie (‘Acante and Céphise, or Empathy’)]

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....

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Samuel Claro-Valdés

(b Santiago, 1863; d Santiago, May 29, 1911). Chilean composer. He studied theory and singing at the National Conservatory, and the organ and composition privately. He was organist at Santiago Cathedral, and occasionally conducted zarzuelas. In 1902 he composed the first act of his opera-ballet Caupolicán; based on the 16th-century poem La araucana by Alonso de Ercilla, the libretto is by Pedro Antonio Pérez and Adolfo Urzúa Rozas. The première of Act 1 took place at the Teatro Municipal, Santiago, in June 1902. Acevedo then received an award that enabled him to study in Milan, where he composed the last two acts of Caupolicán. The complete work, comprising three acts and 11 scenes, was given its first performance at the Teatro Municipal, Santiago, on 8 December 1942, more than 30 years after the composer’s death. Acevedo also composed masses and other religious works, but the public, devoted to Italian opera at that time, never accepted his music....

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Achille  

Scott L. Balthazar

(‘Achilles’)

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....

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Don Neville

(‘Achilles on Scyros’)

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].

Act 1 In female attire, and with the assumed name of Pirra [Pyrrha], Achilles is able to remain the constant companion of the king’s daughter, Deidamia, whom he loves. The disguise, however, hangs ill upon the warrior, and the demands of Deidamia for his constant presence soon become a burden. His distress is intensified when Lycomedes promises his daughter to Teagene [Theagenes], Prince of Chalcis, and when Ulisse [Ulysses] arrives on the island on the pretext of mustering the armed strength of Scyros. In reality, Ulysses seeks Achilles who he knows is vital to Greek victory....

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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, Esther (the first English oratorio) and Acis and Galatea, which has variously been described as a serenata, a masque, a pastoral or pastoral opera, a ‘little opera’ (in a letter while it was being written), an entertainment and even (incorrectly) an oratorio. Whether or not it was originally fully staged, given in some kind of stylized semi-dramatic form or simply performed as a concert work is uncertain; local tradition holds that it was given in the open air on the terraces overlooking the garden (the recent discovery of piping to supply an old fountain, suitable for the closing scene, might fancifully be invoked as support). It was performed on an unknown date, probably during the summer, in ...

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Lois Rosow

(‘Acis and Galatea’)

Pastorale-héroïque in a prologue and three acts by Jean-Baptiste Lully ( see Lully family (opera) §(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 pastorale-héroïque genre, the plot involves a love triangle that mixes gods and mortals: the sea-nymph Galatea (soprano), the mortal Acis (haute-contre) and the monster Poliphème [Polyphemus] (baritone). Acis is violently murdered by Polyphemus (in full view of the audience) but restored to life and transformed into a river by Neptune (baritone). The musical conventions are those of Lully’s mature tragédies en musique...