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Remaking the Song

Remaking the Song: Operatic Visions and Revisions from Handel to Berio

Roger Parker
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 179
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  • Book Info
    Remaking the Song
    Book Description:

    Opera performances are often radically inventive. Composers' revisions, singers' improvisations, and stage directors' re-imaginings continually challenge our visions of canonical works. But do they go far enough? This elegantly written, beautifully concise book, spanning almost the entire history of opera, reexamines attitudes toward some of our best-loved musical works. It looks at opera's history of multiple visions and revisions and asks a simple question: what exactly is opera?Remaking the Song, rich in imaginative answers, considers works by Handel, Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, and Berio in order to challenge what many regard as sacroscant: the opera's musical text. Scholarly tradition favors the idea of great operatic texts permanently inscribed in the canon. Roger Parker, considering examples ranging from Cecilia Bartoli's much-criticized insistence on using Mozart's alternative arias in theMarriage of Figaroto Luciano Berio's new ending to Puccini's unfinishedTurandot,argues that opera is an inherently mutable form, and that all of us-performers, listeners, scholars-should celebrate operatic revisions as a way of opening works to contemporary needs and new pleasures.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93178-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ONE Remaking the Song
    (pp. 1-21)

    I will start with a personal confession: one that readers will be pleased to know is among very few in this book. There have been times recently, in our new century, my life much more than half over, when I have found myself bored byLa bohème;when I have merely sighed at the prospect of anotherAida;when, shame of shames, I have been less than eager for the latestFigaro. These works, together with the hundred or so other stalwarts we call the operatic repertory, have sustained both saints and sinners through a century and more of operatic...

  5. TWO Of Andalusian Maidens and Recognition Scenes: Crossed Wires in Il trovatore and La traviata
    (pp. 22-41)

    Rigoletto, Il trovatore, La traviata. I’m not sure who first crowned them the “popular trilogy,” but the name, with its suggestion of classical perfection for mass consumption, has ensconced itself in the hall of Verdian critical clichés.¹ Premiered within the space of two years in the early 1850s, these three operas signal an important moment, not only in Giuseppe Verdi’s career, but perhaps even in Italian operatic history. As Verdi’s popularity waned during the later nineteenth century, all his early operas eventually fell on hard times, then needing—with varying degrees of medical adroitness—to be resuscitated in the twentieth...

  6. THREE Ersatz Ditties: Adriana Ferrarese’s Susanna
    (pp. 42-66)

    In the June 2002 issue ofOpera News, the British opera producer Jonathan Miller gave an interview that, doubtless to the delight of many, raked through the coals of an old controversy.¹ In 1998 Miller had directed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’sLe nozze di Figaroat the Metropolitan, mostly to critical acclaim; but in theOpera Newsinterview he confided that he has not been invited back to supervise the past season’s revival of the production. He had, he said, been “fired” by the management because of a “set-to” during the original production. This referred to a backstage scandal much reported...

  7. FOUR In Search of Verdi
    (pp. 67-89)

    My main port of call in this chapter is Verdi’sFalstaff, and that choice, together with the title and several other matters, has brought with it an obligation: I find myself constrained to trail a hand in the shark-infested waters that surround themes such as modernity and late style, not least as these dark topics have been presented to a mostly bewildered world by Theodor W. Adorno.¹ Before embarkation a confession had better be made. I don’t much like Adorno; or, better, I dislike what Adorno has come to stand for in the musicological community; and my attitude, which has...

  8. FIVE Berio’s Turandot: Once More the Great Tradition
    (pp. 90-120)

    On 1 September 1924 Giacomo Puccini was cautiously gathering his forces.¹ The end ofTurandot, so long in sight but so frustratingly unattainable, now seemed possible. He wrote to his librettist and friend Giuseppe Adami:

    Today I’m starting to write again. I’ve passed through tremendous crises—with regard to my health as well as other things. The trouble in my throat, which has been worrying me since March, was beginning to look serious. I’m feeling better now, and have, moreover, the assurance that it’s rheumatic in origin and that with treatment I’ll be cured. But I’ve had some very black...

  9. SIX Sudden Charms: The Progress of an Aria
    (pp. 121-140)

    My final chapter addresses George Frideric Handel, and in particular an aria that occurs in the second scene of his operaRodelinda(written for London’s Royal Academy in 1725). The scene is laid, of all unlikely places, in a Milanese cypress grove, amid tombs of the Lombard kings. Enter Bertarido, one of those kings; but, disconcerting for him, also a name inscribed on one of those tombs. His throne has been usurped, he is believed dead, a monument has been raised to his memory; but he returns to his homeland in disguise, seeking his beloved wife, Rodelinda. After a lengthy,...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 141-160)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 161-165)