Opera for Beginners:How to understand opera?
Get to like opera by knowing about this six essential operas for beginners.
Music + Theater = Opera.
An opera is an integral experience. From the costume design, the stage direction, the live orchestra performance, the lighting coordination and the amazing singers. It is all the result of a dedicated work of hundreds of people involved in creating this piece of art that you are enjoying. Any more complete experience than this?
Get to like Opera by knowing about this six essential operas for beginners:
Verdi (Venice 1851)
It is a drama of passion, deception, filial love and revenge of the protagonist Rigoletto, the humpback jester of the court of the Duke of Mantua.
The Dashing Duke of Mantua is possibly one of the nastiest men in Opera signs strings of sublime arias, among them “La Donna `e Mobile”́. Meanwhile, Gilda, the innocent daughter of the vengeful, hump-backed court jester, is battered to death in a sack in a terrible case of mistaken identity.
The premiere took place on March 1851 at the Theatre La Fenice in Venice obtaining great popular success. It was a complete triumph, especially the dramatic scene, and the famous aryan “La Donna è Mobile” was sung through the streets the next day.
Bizet (Paris, 1875)
The story is a sultry love triangle set in Seville, Spain in 1820. Carmen is a very Spanish / Frenchwoman. The opening scene in a cigarette factory is impossible to stage authentically these days following the ban on smoking in public spaces.
This Opera is possibly one of the most represented French operas in the history of the genre but the premiere was not with drums and cymbals, this masterpiece went down as a “premiere failure”.
The story of a chinless mummy’s boy falling in love with a gypsy temptress, but she runs off with a butch Torerador; was conceived as a commission for Bizet by the Paris Opera-Comique, located in the second Favart Hall – consumed in a fire in 1887 .
Which was characterized by its representations reflected in kind satires, soft melodramas or rather gentrified comedies. Carmen arrived to break the good customs of the opéra-comique.
Puccini (Turin, 1896)
La Boheme libretto is based on the novel by Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henry Murger, published in the Parisian literary magazine Le Corsaire over five years (1845 – 1849).
It is the story of four bohemians living in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 1840s, who suffer and enjoy love.
The poet Rodolfo, the painter Marcello, the musician Schaunard and the philosopher Colline confront the velocities of the modest seamstress Mimi and the scandalous singer Musetta.
One of the most performed Operas. La Boheme is good for getting back in touch with your inner rebel; the famous aria “Che gelida manina” is a reminder of why paying the heating bills on time is a good idea.
THE BARBER OF SEVILLE
Released in 1775, this Opera was represented by the French comedy. The barber of Seville is starring the young Sevillian Rosina; the Count of Almaviva; Figaro; Dr. Bartolo, who serves as protector and tutor of Rosina.
In essence, the story tells the life of Figaro, the most famous barber in the Spanish city, who always prepares to solve other people’s problems. One morning appears the Count of Almaviva, an old friend of his, who visits him to ask for help, since Rosina, who he is in love must marry Bartolo, an old decrepit man that is Rosina ́s tutor.
It is a simple and fun story that takes place over three hours, in an agile, dizzying, fun way, always following the sparkling music of perhaps the greatest genius of Italian opera, Rossini.
THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO
Mozart (Vienna 1786)
The marriage of Figaro has a piece of sublime music revolutionary undertones. It is based on the second part of a trilogy written by Beaumarchais which includes Le Barbier de Séville (The Barber of Seville), Mariage de Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) and La Mére Coupable (The guilty mother).
The first part, The Barber of Seville, was musicalized by Rossini.
The story revolves around the Count of Almaviva who married Rosina but cheats on her with other women. For now, and inside the house, the Count of Almaviva only court Barberina, daughter of the gardener. And Susana, a pupil of the Countess and girlfriend of Figaro.
The story goes on somehow like this: Dr Bartolo, to take revenge on the trick that Figaro had done to him, launches a claim from Marcelina, his old maid, to whom the barber had given a word of marriage.
Marcelina wants to marry Figaro. Figaro wants to marry Susana and he is jealous of the count. Susana cannot swallow Marcelina, and the countess wants to reduce the count to infidelity.
The situation begins to be clarified because it is discovered that Marcelina, who received the word of marriage and aspires to marry Figaro, is actually his mother.
Here we will see how the characters of the Countess of Almaviva and Rosina are the same person but look like two completely different people.
The cheerful young Rosina has become a hurt woman. She is the only character in the opera Le nozze di Figaro by Mozart who shows pain and sadness.
Handel ( London 1724)
Giulio Cesare is one of Handel’s best operas. Having clear from the beginning the importance of this musical challenge, Handel took more time than normal to the composition of the opera: almost six months, unusual for any composer of the time, and even more for a genius with the melodic ease of Handel; the result was sensational.
History, like that of any opera of the time, gives us the violent relationship between Julius Caesar and Ptolemy during the Roman civil war (45-42 BC).
The story revolves around Cleopatra the queen of Egypt and her relationship with Julio Caesar. At the beginning of the opera she, skilful and shameless politician, sees Giulio Cesare as the ideal ally to seize power against Ptolemy and begins to seduce him.
Scene after scene, his false and manipulative love is transformed into true love for the Roman general. “Pietá di me non-senti” (if you don’t feel mercy on me).
Cleopatra, to make Giulio Cesare fall in love, uses all her weapons. Piety, compassion, sentimental ability, tenderness and blackmail: Handel’s music says it all from the funeral orchestral introduction.
Tips to enjoy Opera for Beginners
Feel like from a different time: Normally there is no dress code, but sitting in architecture theatres built centuries ago should give you the feeling that you are living in the past. However, double-check out the type of Opera you are assisting some times (very special) requires a very formal dress code.
Style Guide Applause: At the opera, it is usual to applaud after the overture (before the curtain-up), after an impressive aria (But NEVER while someone is singing) at the end of a scene or act and of course at the end of the production.