Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Opera

Summary of my first impression of Il Trovatori: enjoyable, but a little strange.

Naturally, they're trying to tell an entire story in music, which I can appreciate. To an extent, though, that focus on the music kind of makes other aspects of the story suffer.

What occasionally irked me was just how static a major "action" scene could be. I realize it's not practical to do a major stage-combat scene in an opera, but it was sometimes kind of jarring to have everyone on stage standing absolutely still while one or two people sang about the violence they intended upon one another. I know that the "action" is stylized, but it was sometimes rather bizarre. Further, it didn't really seem like it needed to be that static; there were a couple of "chorus" scenes where the "armies" of the hero or villain would sing in the background while one or two members would engage in some kind of activity in the foreground -- "drilling" in swordwork a couple of times, and a fight between a prisoner and a trainee on one occasion. It seems to me that if you could have a bit of motion, albeit slow and stylized, in these "camp" scenes, you should be able to do something similar in the "battles" without losing operatic feel. After all, the leads frequently take turns singing, and taking a step or two and posing while the other sings shouldn't take the breath out of the leads. It wouldn't be as practical when you have two or three leads singing counterpoint, but obviously you wouldn't do it then. I guess I should note that the leads actually do move around a bit during "drama" scenes, which makes their immobility during "action" scenes all the more glaring.

In any case, I think I'll want to see a few more operas just to see if they all give me that feeling. It was certainly an enjoyable enough experience to repeat. I may want to try for one sung in English next, though, as I think the music might be more powerful if I actually understood it instead of having to read supertitles.

Speaking of which, those responsible for the supertitles have been sacked. They will be redone at great expense at the last minute by Ralph the Wonder Llama. (Not really, but I had a few English-major cringes at some stand-out errors in the supertitles.)

2 comments:

Eeyore said...

How an opera is performed on stage is up to the director. Often what you see is NOTHING like how it would have been done by the composer. You could see the same opera done by two different directors, and think you had seen two different stories.

Definitely go see other operas, especially those done by different directors. You might find that the style you like is not based on the opera at all.

As far as hearing one in English, unless that is the original language, the story and beauty of the music (because it really is all about the music) loses something. English, with its imprecise translations, odd word endings, and dipthongs, just doesn't sound the same.

Of course, this is coming from the person who has a degree in operatic performance and a minor in English. I'll admit, I'm a music snob. ;-)

Lord Runolfr said...

With regard to hearing one sung in English, I was thinking of one originally written in English, rather than a translation.