1,701-1,720 of 1,822 results  for:

  • Musical Concepts, Genres, and Terms x
  • Opera Synopsis x
Clear all


John C.G. Waterhouse

(‘The Cunning Widow’)

Comic opera in three acts by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari to a libretto by Mario Ghisalberti after Carlo Goldoni ’s play of the same name (1748); Rome, Teatro Reale dell’Opera, 5 March 1931.

This fourth of Wolf-Ferrari’s five Goldoni operas is based on one of the Venetian playwright’s earlier and slighter plays – a rather simplistic study in contrasted national temperaments, as represented by four rival suitors for the hand of the young widow Rosaura (soprano). Monsieur Le Bleau and the Conte di Bosco Nero (tenors), Milord Runebif and Don Alvaro di Castiglia (baritones) are all supposed to typify the nationalities evident from their names. Rosaura eventually manages to choose between them by disguising herself, in turn, as a lady compatriot of each suitor: catching them at moments when they are off their guard, she tempts all but one of them to prove himself less than wholly committed to her. The lucky exception is the impulsive but fundamentally sincere Italian....



Erkki Arni

(‘The Knife’)

Opera in two acts by Paavo Heininen to a libretto by Veijo Maeri after his dramatic poem Runoilijan kuolema (‘The Death of a Poet’); Savonlinna, Olavinlinna Castle, 3 July 1989.

Veitsi was commissioned as a part of the celebrations of the 350th anniversary of the city of Savonlinna. The central character, a young Poet (tenor), earns his living as a pianist in a sleazy Turkish café frequented by a gang of dubious characters. He is in love with Hildur (mezzo-soprano), a middle-aged saleswoman and former beauty queen who encourages his poetry, although he is spurned by the literary establishment. Thinking his love for Hildur hopeless, the Poet commits suicide by cutting his throat....


Laurel Fay

(‘The Great Friendship’)

Opera in four acts by Vano Il’ich Muradeli to a libretto by G. D. Mdivani; Stalino (now Donets’k), Opera and Ballet Theatre, 28 September 1947.

The Great Friendship, Muradeli’s first opera, was begun in 1940 under the title Chrezvïchaynïy komissar (‘The Extraordinary Commissar’) and completed in 1947, when it received its definitive title. It deals with historical events of the Civil War period in the region of the northern Caucasus and with the role of the Communist Party in unifying the feuding peoples into a single nation. The hero of the opera, the ‘extraordinary commissar’, was modelled on Sergo Ordzhonikidze, Stalin’s Georgian compatriot and close revolutionary comrade, who died in 1937.

The political credentials of the composer and the opera were solid enough to persuade many Soviet theatres to mount productions timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the revolution. Although it received its première in Stalino, the most illustrious of the productions was unveiled on the actual date of the anniversary, ...


John C.G. Waterhouse

(‘Venus the Prisoner’)

Commedia musicale in two acts and an intermezzo by Gian Francesco Malipiero to his own libretto after Emmanuel Gonzales’s novella Giangurgolo; Florence, Teatro della Pergola, 14 May 1957.

Gonzales’s 19th-century French novella is a tortuous tale about a disgraced 18th-century count who commits murder, then wins the secret love of the Queen of Spain by twice saving her life, before vengeance resulting from his previous crime catches up with him. Malipiero’s adaptation of this melodramatic story is characteristically capricious: whereas the first and last scenes have readily intelligible story lines – even quoting much of Gonzales’s dialogue word for word – the intervening portions of the opera have only intermittent points of contact with the original, using fragments of the tale as a loose framework into which settings of old Italian texts are arbitrarily slotted. The resultant sequence of events is often incomprehensible if one has not read the novella, the identity of which the composer never revealed in public; and the opera’s three middle scenes thus acquire something of the enigmatic, dream-like fascination of his extraordinary ‘symbolic’ operas of the later 1920s, notably ...


Jérôme de La Gorce

(‘The Venetian’)

Ballet in a prologue and three acts by Michel de La Barre to a libretto by Antoine Houdar de Lamotte ; Paris, Opéra, 26 May 1705.

The story is set in Venice, in a cellar and an apartment near St Mark’s Square. The inconstant Octave deserts Isabelle in order to court Léonore; but, after intervening in a magic ceremony, hiding in the darkness, then appearing in disguise at a ball, Isabelle finally succeeds in winning the heart of the one she loves. The third act proved the most popular: it was revived in 1711 as the last entrée of Les nouveaux fragments (a work composed of extracts of operas by Lully, Campra and Destouches) and in 1726 as the third divertissement of Le ballet sans titre (extracts of operas by Stuck, Mouret and Campra). The libretto, which shows the influence of that for Le Carnaval et la Folie by Lamotte for Destouches (...


Jesse Rosenberg

(‘The Fan’)

Commedia per musica by Pietro Raimondi to a libretto by Domenico Gilardoni after Carlo Goldoni’s play; Naples, Teatro Nuovo, 22 January 1831.

Although Gilardoni transferred the setting from Lombardy to Naples, the broad outlines of Goldoni’s plot are respected. Don Evaristo (tenor), in love with Donna Candida (mezzo-soprano), secretly purchases a new fan to replace the one she has accidentally broken. The busybody shopkeeper Susanna (mezzo-soprano) is curious to know for whom the fan is intended, but Evaristo evades her questions; later, observed from a distance by Susanna, he entrusts it to the peasant girl Palmetella (soprano), asking her to present it to Candida. Concluding that the fan was intended for Palmetella, Susanna rushes to report what she has witnessed to the innkeeper Coronato (bass) and the cobbler Crespino (tenor), whose bitter rivalry over Palmetella constitutes the principal subplot of the opera; they now direct their ire towards Evaristo. Susanna also spreads the rumour to Palmetella’s brother Moracchio (bass), who forbids her to leave their house, thus thwarting her mission, and to Candida, who is devastated by Evaristo’s apparent betrayal. Further complications arise when the Count (baritone) offers both to mediate in the Crespino-Coronato rivalry over Palmetella (only to decide that he wishes to marry her himself) and to intercede with Candida’s aunt Geltrude (contralto) on behalf of his friend the Baron (tenor), who wishes to marry Candida. The fan runs like a connecting thread through all the twists and turns of the complicated plot, arriving finally in the hands of Candida. Evaristo is united with Candida, Palmetella with Crispino, Coronato with Susanna and the Count with Geltrude; all join in a chorus of praise for the fan, which has been the source of such confusion and hilarity....


Curtis Price

Tragic opera in a prologue and three acts by John Blow; London or Windsor, court, c1683.

One of the early manuscript scores describes Venus and Adonis as ‘A Masque for the entertainment of the King’, that is, Charles II. It was presumably mounted privately at court, though there is no record of the venue and the identity of the librettist remains unknown; the suggestion that, because of its feminist overtones, the poem might have been written by Aphra Behn, with whom Blow later collaborated on a play, is intriguing but unproven. The same early manuscript also records that the actress-singer Mary (Moll) Davies, the king’s former mistress, took the part of Venus, while their illegitimate daughter, Lady Mary Tudor (about ten years old at the time), sang the part of Cupid. This unusual casting tends to confirm the private nature of the first production. The opera is to some extent a satire on the liberal sexual mores of King Charles’s court, and the fact that from ...


D.F. Cook

Masque in two interludes by Johann Christoph Pepusch to a libretto by Colley Cibber after Ovid ’s Metamorphoses, book x; London, Drury Lane, 12 March 1715.

Pepusch composed no original dramatic music before accepting the position of music director at Drury Lane in 1714. Though he remained there for only two seasons, he composed four musical afterpieces, the first and most substantial of which is the masque of Venus and Adonis. The piece has only three principal characters: Venus (soprano), Adonis (soprano, sung as a travesty role) and Mars (tenor, but reset for bass for a revival in 1718–19 at Lincoln’s Inn Fields). The scene is a rural setting near Mount Ida in Crete. The first interlude involves only Venus and Adonis in an amusing tale of amorous pursuit. The second interlude is in vivid contrast: Cibber introduces the truculent Mars, whose jealousy of Adonis, occasionally presented under a thin veil of humour, is useful for the purposes of dramatic and musical contrast, but obtrudes strangely into Ovid’s original story....


Roger Parker

[I vespri siciliani (‘The Sicilian Vespers’)]

Opéra in five acts by Giuseppe Verdi to a libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles Duveyrier after their libretto Le duc d’Albe; Paris, Opéra, 13 June 1855.

After the performances of Jérusalem at the Opéra in 1847 Verdi had intended to produce an entirely new opera for the first theatre of Paris, but the revolutions of 1848 caused the plan to be shelved. He renewed negotiations with the Opéra, however, in 1852, and a contract was drawn up for a full-scale French grand opera in five acts, with a libretto by Eugène Scribe, the acknowledged poetic master of the genre. After various subjects had been proposed, poet and composer eventually agreed to use a revised version of an existing libretto, Le duc d’Albe, written by Scribe and Charles Duveyrier for Halévy (who did not use it) and partly set to music by Donizetti in 1839. Verdi spent most of 1854...


Mary Hunter

(‘True Constancy’)

Dramma giocoso in three acts by Pasquale Anfossi to a libretto by Francesco Puttini; Rome, Teatro delle Dame, 2 January 1776.

The opera is a comédie larmoyante which connects the archetypes of the quasi-folktale of the patient Griselda and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. The fishergirl Rosina (soprano) has secretly married Count Errico (tenor) and has borne him a child. He has since rejected her. His aunt, Baroness Irene (soprano), wants to marry the Cavaliere Ernesto (tenor), but she believes that her nephew Errico’s suspected interest in Rosina will tarnish the family reputation. The buffoon Villotto (bass) is brought in to marry Rosina, but in the end Errico rediscovers his love, the Baroness relents and all ends happily. The text is akin to that set by Haydn in 1779; Anfossi’s music is perhaps too uniformly mellifluous and sweet. The opera received well over 20 productions in its first five years, travelled as far afield as London and Copenhagen by ...


Caryl Clark

(‘True Constancy’)

Dramma giocoso in three acts by Joseph Haydn to a libretto by Francesco Puttini; Eszterháza, 25 April 1779.

Contrary to claims made by Haydn’s early biographers, insufficent evidence supports the hypothesis that Haydn wrote this opera to fulfill an imperial commission for Vienna. The libretto represents a considerably shortened version of Puttini’s text for Anfossi (1776, Rome), already somewhat condensed, especially in Act 3, for performances later that year in Venice (as La pescatrice fedele) and in Vienna (1777). Andrea Totti, who sang Count Errico in Venice, also performed in Haydn’s opera at Eszterháza. Barbara Ripamonti, the talented soprano for whom Haydn tailored three difficult arias, played Rosina. Also in the cast were Vito Ungricht (Ernesto), Marianna Zannini (Lisetta), Benedetto Bianchi (Villotto), Catharina Poschva (Baroness), and Leopold Dichtler (Masino) – the last three had also appeared in Haydn’s Il mondo della luna. The sets were by Pietro Travaglia, the resident designer who had trained with Bernardino and Fabrizio Galliari in Milan....


David Osmond-Smith

(‘The True Story’)

Opera in two acts by Luciano Berio to a libretto by Italo Calvino; Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 9 March 1982.

The principle of establishing a ‘text’, whether musical or verbal, which is subsequently reworked so as to generate new levels of meaning, is widely established in Berio’s music. Here it receives its most monumental and grimly impressive application. The first act sets out multiple levels of material; the second resynthesizes them into a more urgent and immediate statement. A framework for the first act is provided by four choral sections that embody different aspects of the popular feast, or festa (in part inspired by the work of the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin). They reveal the ambiguities of the collective psyche: anarchic ebullience, contrasted with sadistic relish of a public execution, and rebellion against repressive authorities, followed by resignation and the resumption of ‘the long wait’ once that rebellion is crushed. A common reservoir of eight notes generates the basic harmonic materials for all four Festas....


Andrew Lamb

(‘The Festival of the Dove’)

Sainete lírico in one act by Tomás Bretón to a libretto by Ricardo de la Vega; Madrid, Teatro Apolo, 17 February 1894.

In a residential district of Madrid the inhabitants prepare for the evening’s celebrations of the annual Festival of the Dove. Julián (baritone) laments his unrequited love for the brunette Susana (soprano), while further down the street the old chemist Don Hilarión (comic tenor) looks forward to spending the evening with a pair of young ladies – a brunette and a blonde. When evening comes, Julián arrives outside Susana’s home and is surprised to see her emerge on one arm of Don Hilarión. The upshot is a brawl in a local dance hall, but when the police arrive to arrest the participants Susana finally repents of her treatment of Julián. A classic of the género chico, portraying Madrid low life, the work is appropriately lighthearted and tuneful, and full of local colour. Its highlight is the ...


(‘The Betrothal in San Domingo’)

Opera in two acts with a prologue and interlude by Werner Egk to his own libretto after Heinrich von Kleist ’s story; Munich, Nationaltheater, 27 November 1963.

The action takes place on the island of San Domingo during the slaves’ violent uprising of 1803. Christoph von Ried (tenor), an officer in the French army, seeks food and shelter for himself and his relatives at a settler’s lonely house. He is welcomed with feigned friendliness by the mulatto Babekan (contralto) and her light-skinned daughter Jeanne (soprano) who have been instructed to detain him there until the return of the Negro house-owner Hoango (baritone). Then Christoph is to be brutally murdered, a fate that has befallen other white people who have come to the house. However, Jeanne, enamoured of Christoph, plans to save him. Surprised by the premature return of Hoango, she is forced to bind the sleeping Christoph to his bed and then claim that she is trying to prevent him from escaping. In answer to a secret summons by Jeanne, Christoph’s relatives take over the house and free him. Believing that he has been treacherously deceived by Jeanne, Christoph shoots her as she rushes towards him....


John Wagstaff

Opéra comique in three acts by André Messager to a libretto by Georges Duval and Albert Vanloo ; Paris, Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens, 10 December 1898.

The plot is based around the relationship between Viscount Florestan de Valiancourt (baritone) and Hélène de Solanges (soprano) and takes place during the reign of Louis-Philippe. Florestan’s lifestyle has left him crippled with debt and, in a last attempt to reform him, the king has given him the options of marriage (to Hélène) or life in a debtors’ prison. Florestan is meanwhile having an affair with Mme Agathe Coquenard (soprano), wife of a captain in the National Guard: the Coquenards also keep a flower shop in Paris. Hélène unexpectedly arrives at the Coquenards’ shop on the day the marriage contract is to be signed, and overhears Florestan taking his leave of Mme Coquenard; he expresses regret that he must leave her for a simple girl from the provinces whom he has yet to meet. Hélène vows revenge and, taking the name of Véronique, she and her aunt Ermerance (mezzo-soprano) (who becomes ‘Estelle’) take employment as shop assistants in the Coquenards’ business. Shortly afterwards, Florestan invites the whole of the staff to join him at a party at Romainville, given to celebrate his last day as a bachelor. At Romainville he falls in love with ‘Véronique’, while M. Coquenard takes a liking to ‘Estelle’; but following a donkey ride (inspiration for the famous Donkey Duet in Act 2) and a ride on the swings (the ‘Duo de l’escarpolette’) Véronique and Estelle flee to the Tuileries, where the marriage is to take place. In Act 3, Florestan and Hélène come face to face, and the deception is revealed; but Florestan, feeling dishonoured by Hélène’s trickery (in spite of his own previous bad behaviour) wishes the marriage to be called off. Reconciliation follows, however, with a joyful marriage ceremony....


Andrew Clements

(‘Treacherous Oceans’)

Musikdrama in two parts by Hans Werner Henze, to a libretto by Hans-Ulrich Treichel, after Yukio Mishima’s Gogo no eiko; Berlin, Deutsche Oper, 5 May 1990.

Das verratene Meer was Henze’s ninth full-length opera and the third (after König Hirsch and Der junge Lord) commissioned by the Deutsche Oper. Working to a libretto that Treichel had prepared to his specifications, Henze composed the opera between 1986 and 1989. The première was conducted by Markus Stenz in a production by Götz Friedrich; Stephanie Sundine was scheduled as Fusako, but was ill and only walked through the role on the first night while it was sung offstage by Beverly Morgan. Clemens Bieber was Noboru and Andreas Schmidt Ryuji. A second production opened at the Hessisches Staatstheater, Wiesbaden, on 30 June 1990, conducted by Ulf Schirmer and directed by Alois Michael Heigl with Sigune von Osten, Roberto Saccà and Espan Fegran in the cast. Stenz conducted the Italian première at the Teatro Lirico, Milan, on ...


Peter Branscombe

(‘The Spendthrift’)

Zaubermärchen in three acts by Conradin Kreutzer to a libretto by Ferdinand Raimund ; Vienna, Theater in der Josefstadt, 20 February 1834.

The last of Raimund’s eight magic plays with music, Der Verschwender has the most distinguished score composed for the Vienna popular theatre since Die Zauberflöte. Julius Flottwell (spoken), the spendthrift of the title, forfeits the love of the fairy Cheristane (spoken), woos, marries and loses the heiress Amalie (spoken) and finally learns from his bitter experiences, and from the selfless devotion of his former servant Valentin (tenor), the true values of life. The piece is more remarkable for its depiction of life below stairs – Rosa (soprano) is anything but the conventional charming servant – than for that of the aristocratic and fairy milieux, though the Beggar (bass), sent by Cheristane to beseech alms from Flottwell against his own future penury, is a hauntingly effective figure, endowed by Kreutzer with a nobly elegiac cantilena (offset by the tipsy jollity of Flottwell’s false friends) not unworthy of Schubert. The extensive music includes three choruses, five ensembles and four songs as well as numerous melodramas and pieces of incidental music. The best-known numbers, widely familiar although their composer is usually unrecognized, are the songs of Valentin (Raimund’s own role): ‘Heissa lustig ohne Sorgen’, the hunting song ‘Wie sich doch die reichen Herrn’, and especially the carpenter’s song – ...


Elizabeth Norman McKay

[Der häusliche Krieg (‘Domestic Warfare’)] (‘The Conspirators’)

Singspiel in one act by Franz Schubert to a libretto by Ignaz Castelli after Aristophanes ’ plays Lysistrata and Ecclesiazusae; Frankfurt, 29 August 1861.

Die Verschworenen dates from 1822–3, the period between Schubert’s two grand romantic operas Alfonso und Estrella and Fierrabras. At the end of 1823 the rejection of each of his latest operas and the failure of the play Rosamunde, for which he had written incidental music, led Schubert to abandon composing for the theatre for several years; and in fact he completed no other opera. Ironically, after its first performance in a concert version in Vienna, in March 1861, it became immensely popular in the theatre and was widely performed throughout Europe. The humour of Castelli’s text, of a kind in vogue in Austria about 1820, is too naive for modern audiences, but the play is well-structured and the Singspiel is still occasionally performed.

The libretto, which has long stretches of spoken dialogue, was the work of an able poet and playwright who wrote the piece as a challenge to composers of German opera who were deploring the inferior quality of opera texts. It is based on the ...


Fritz Hennenberg

(‘The Trial of Lucullus’)

Opera in 12 scenes by Paul Dessau to a libretto by Bertolt Brecht from his radio play Das Verhör des Lukullus; Berlin, Deutsche Staatsoper, 12 October 1951.

Brecht suggested that Dessau might set his radio play (written shortly before the outbreak of World War II) as a libretto in the mid-1940s, during their exile in the USA, but the composer did not begin work on it until 1948, after his return to Berlin. Presenting a staged version of the radio play meant that changes were necessary, and there were also to be topical references to the collapse of the Nazi regime and, in the parable, to the Nuremberg war trials. Set in the kingdom of the dead, the opera concerns Lukullus [Lucullus] (tenor), a Roman general and epicure, whose destiny is being decided by a Schattengericht (‘shadow court’). Characters from his life testify to his military actions, which caused the death of thousands of soldiers, though set against this are his culinary achievements: bringing back a variety of cherry tree from Asia and introducing a new method of cooking. In the radio play judgment is left to the audience but in the opera Lucullus is damned (‘Ins Nichts mit ihm’)....


Thomas Bauman

[Die verwandelten Weiber, oder Der Teufel ist los, erster Theil (‘The Metamorphosed Wives, or The Devil to Pay, Part 1’)

Comische Oper in three acts by Johann Adam Hiller to a libretto by Christian Felix Weisse , based on Charles Coffey’s ballad opera The Devil to Pay, or The Wives Metamorphos’d (1728) and Michel-Jean Sedaine ’s opéra comique from the same source; Leipzig, Theatre in Quandt’s Court, 28 May 1766.

The gruff cobbler Jobsen Zeckel lords it over his long- suffering wife Lene, while in the manor Frau von Liebreich plagues her husband and servants. The itinerant magician Mikroskop, out of pity for Lene, transforms each wife into the other. After a violent collision of wills, Jobsen and ‘Lene’ (Frau von Liebreich) repent and Mikroskop undoes the spell.

Hiller’s first operatic triumph at Leipzig, composed as a favour to the theatre principal Heinrich Gottfried Koch, adapted the most popular German musical farce of the mid-century, Der Teufel ist los, set by Johann Standfuss; he retained some of Standfuss’s tunes, but his own music assured the popularity of the work for the rest of the century. Lene’s ‘Ohne Lieb und ohne Wein’ (by Hiller) became a virtual folksong throughout Germany....