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Giuseppe Verdi

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

June 27

La Scala orch to make Bolshoi debut (instead of BBC Proms)

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discRiccardo Chailly is taking the Filarmonica della Scala on a 10-stop Europe tour, including a first visit to Moscow. A date will have been offered to the BBC Proms, which evidently declined. Who needs La Scala at the Proms? press release: Riccardo Chailly and Filarmonica della Scala will return to Europe for a 10-concert, August 21- October 2, to include stops in major musical cities in Austria, Germany, France and Luxembourg. The FDS’s 2016 European tour will feature the orchestra in performances at Gstaad (Festivalzelt, 21/8), Salzburg(Großes Festspielhaus 22/8), Moscow (Bol’šoj 15/9) Essen (Philharmonie 24/9), Vienna (Musikverein 1/10). Chailly leads the Orchestra in Cherubini’s Symphony in D major, Verdi’s Four Season from Vespri Siciliani and Rossini’s Ouverture from Guillaume Tell. Pianist Daniil Trifonov will join Filarmonica della Scala and Riccardo Chailly for concert in Dortmund(Konzerthaus 25/9), Luxembourg (Philharmonie, 26/9), Hamburg (Konzertsaal 28/9), Baden Baden(Festpielhaus 30/9) while Martha Argerich for the FDS’s debut at Philarmonie Paris (2/10), both performing Schumann’s Piano Concerto. These concert will also feature Mr. Chailly leading FDS in Schumann’s Manfred-Ouverture and Symphony n. 2. Filarmonica della Scala’s Activity is supported by the Main Partner UniCredit.

Royal Opera House

June 22

Anvils as instruments? Why every orchestra could do with some heavy metal

A blacksmith shaping metal using an anvil As any cellist, harpist, or (perish the thought) double bassist will tell you, there are few things more annoying than lugging your over-sized pride and joy to and from rehearsals, jamming it into the back of a car, crushing through the barriers on the tube, or inelegantly dragging it up and down flights of stairs. These are the large instrument-playing unfortunates who are routinely pestered with that most infamous of muso cat-calls: 'Bet you wish you'd taken up the flute?'. Spare a thought, then, for the ill-fated player of an altogether more cumbersome orchestral instrument: the anvil. The epitome of a heavy and clumsy object - perfect for dropping onto a cartoon villain should the need arise - this hardened steel surface is designed to be struck with an enormous hammer; the larger the better. A fact which makes its popularity on the opera stage, most notably, in Verdi 's smash hit, Il trovatore , all the more surprising. How on earth are performers expected to get it to and from the rehearsals (and, of course, the pub afterwards)? While this line of argument is, of course, to be taken with a hefty pinch of salt, the fact is that this unlikely hunk of metal has made quite an impact on the world of classical music. Despite its size and its hugely limited range, this forged steel block is a key player in Verdi's middle-period masterpiece, in the unimaginatively nicknamed 'Anvil Chorus' (otherwise, known with much more zip as the 'Coro di zingari'). Verdi's musical direction in the score is that the singers, not the percussionist, should be the ones to hit the anvils in time to the music, with basses playing on the beat, and tenors on the offbeat. As the large Italian chorus sing the praises of hard work, good wine, and gypsy women, the effect is striking in every sense of the word: the dull chime of the anvil adds a unique tone to the now famous tune, and there's something quite hypnotic about the view of a stage full of people hitting hammers on every other beat as they sing. But it's not just Verdi who saw the anvil's potential on the opera stage. Wagner , true to form, pushed the boat out in Das Rheingold , using not one, but 18 anvils - nine small, six medium, and three large - tuned to F three octaves apart. Siegfried , too, made use of the instrument's trademark timbre, unsurprisingly in the 'forging song', 'Hoho! Hoho! Hohei!', as Siegfried carefully crafts his sword. Wagner's considerable influence on heavy metal has never been more literal. When attempting to bring suitably metallic pieces to life, other big-hitting composers turned to the anvil: Britten and Walton both used the instrument to conjure a ‘Babylonian’ sound in their works. In The Burning Fiery Furnace, Britten uses the anvil, alongside a lyra glockenspiel and small cymbals to take his audiences back in time, musically. Walton, too, in Belshazzar's Feast, puts the metallic sound to good use in ‘Praise’: as the chorus sing praises to the gods of various materials, the composer brings appropriate instruments to the fore – trumpets for the god of gold, flutes for the god of silver, and anvils for the god of iron. More recently, anvils have made their mark in the worlds of film music, minimalism, and pop, as composers used the instrument’s metallic properties to add depth to their pieces. Howard Shore , John Williams , and James Horner have each used it in film scores, and Louis Andriessen wrote an extended passage for solo anvils in his work De Materie (Matter), with text on the subject of shipbuilding. Even former Beatle Ringo Starr dabbled in anvil playing in arguably its most mainstream outing: the darkly eccentric hit Maxwell's Silver Hammer. While a ‘concerto for anvil’ may not top the classical charts any time soon, there’s no doubt that this obscure instrument has forged something of a niche for itself. And in a time-poor age where we're constantly being told to work fitness into our daily regime , which other instruments allow their player to get a full-on workout and save on a gym membership while performing? One thing's for sure - you can't say that for the dainty flute. Il trovatore runs 2–17 July 2016. Tickets are still available . The production will be broadcast live for free to outdoor screens around the UK on 14 July 2016. Find your nearest screen .




Royal Opera House

June 22

Watch: ‘Verdi felt the people of his own nation needed a voice’ – Why Nabucco remains politically potent

‘If you know opera, even on a tertiary level you’ve heard this piece’ says American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton of the great choral tune ‘Va, pensiero’, also known as the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves. The American mezzo-soprano is currently performing the role of Fenena in Daniele Abbado ’s production of Verdi 's Nabucco . 'Giuseppe Verdi wrote the music in a time of great oppression', she explains. ‘He felt the people of his own nation needed a voice’. A tune about the oppression of Hebrew slaves in Babylon quickly became synonymous with the campaign for the reunification of Italy in the mid 1800s. In the years since it has been dubbed the nation's unofficial national anthem and become much-mythologized . Its influence has crossed borders too — it was sung fervently by East Germans during the partition of Germany during the Cold War. ‘The chorus was a way of putting that voice and the message of the story of the Israelites in Babylon into something the audience could connect with and feel politically more empowered', says Canadian bass John Relyea . American tenor Leonardo Capalbo , who sings the role of Ismaele, agrees: ‘The chorus represents lost souls. Those unnamed faces that the story is really about'. After each performance of the opera, Barton sees the audience leave the theatre with a ‘feeling of strength from that unity – it very much plays today how it was first written and performed for the first time.’ Watch more films like this on the Royal Opera House YouTube channel: Nabucco runs 6–30 June 2016. Tickets are sold out, although returns may become available . The production is a co-production with La Scala, Milan , Lyric Opera of Chicago and Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona , and is generously supported by Rolex and The Friends of Covent Garden.

Royal Opera House

June 21

Crossed wires and ‘too many deaths’: The troubled genesis of Verdi’s Il trovatore

Caricature of Giuseppe Verdi, 1860, by Melchiorre De Filippis Delfico (1825–1895) Giuseppe Verdi ’s middle-period smash hit Il trovatore has often served as public enemy number one in the case against opera’s supposedly absurd plots. From Gilbert and Sullivan to the Marx Brothers , Il trovatore is the butt of jokes at opera’s expense – a status rivalled only by its popularity. Wildly acclaimed by mid-19th-century audiences, Il trovatore clung on with rare tenacity through the Wagner-obsessed decades of the early 20th century and is today one of the most regularly staged pieces in the repertory. But if Il trovatore’s action is famous for its dramatic swerves, the story of its genesis inevitably has its own twists and turns. Combining tragedy with a dash of PG-rated farce, the opera’s emergence was driven by the ever-impatient Verdi, whose chidings, enthusiasms, demands for assistance and occasional words of encouragement can be traced through his lengthy correspondence. Verdi’s primary and most influential interlocutor was his librettist Salvadore Cammarano – who excelled at librettos produced in a relatively conservative vein, crafting conventional operatic forms from the most aberrant literary sources. The Spanish play El trovador by Antonio García Gutiérrez – unwieldy by any measure – first seems to have attracted Verdi’s interest as he neared completion of Rigoletto , late in 1850. Verdi suggested the subject to Cammarano at the start of January 1851, but two months later still hadn’t had a response. After another, blunter prompt, Cammarano finally replied with a list of concerns about the play. Although the correspondence gathers momentum from this point, it also becomes tangled: letters inevitably took some time to arrive and several crossed paths as they sped between composer and librettist – a common occurrence in those days but one exacerbated by Verdi’s chronic impatience. His constant reminders to Cammarano of the extreme urgency of receiving the libretto are unusual even for Verdi. They point to a composer under considerable strain – the rising clamour of requests for new operas from theatres across Europe a permanent accompaniment to new domestic problems – as well as one particularly inspired. Verdi’s desire for rapid progress would nevertheless soon meet a serious obstacle: Cammarno seems to have become seriously ill during the winter of 1851. Still hopeful, Verdi confirmed to Cammarano at the start of the following July that their new opera would have its premiere in Rome. A week later, Cammarano sent Verdi a letter containing ‘il resto del Trovatore’, which Verdi acknowledged with evident delight. But Cammarano would never read Verdi’s grateful letter: he died on 17 July 1852, two days before the composer wrote to him. A fortnight later, the news reached Verdi, who wrote to his friend Cesare de Sanctis: I simply can’t tell you how upset I am! And I read of his death not in a friend’s letter, but in a stupid theatrical journal. You loved him as I did and will understand what I can’t put into words. Poor Cammarano! What a loss." In Cammarano’s absence a young poet, Leone Emmanuele Bardare, was recruited to assist Verdi with necessary tweaks to the opera’s libretto. Il trovatore had its premiere at Rome’s Teatro Apollo almost exactly six months after Cammarano’s death, on 19 January 1853. The audience response was hugely enthusiastic. The composer took a cautious view of the work’s early reception, reporting to his friend Clara Maffei ten days later, ‘They say this opera is too sad, and that there are too many deaths in it. But after all, everything in life is death! What else is there?’ It is hard not to read between such lines to see Verdi’s ongoing grief over Cammarano’s death. But while Il trovatore emerged in unusual proximity to death and those deaths it stages occur at an almost brutal pace, what remains for many – and what has driven its popularity since its premiere – is rather the opera’s extraordinary momentum: less its rapid, fatal dénouement than its constant musical vitality. This is an edited extract from Flora Willson’s article ‘Crossed Wires and “Too Many Deaths”', available to read in full in The Royal Opera’s programme book for Il trovatore, on sale during performances. Il trovatore runs 2–17 July 2016. Tickets are still available . The production will be broadcast live for free to outdoor screens around the UK on 14 July 2016. Find your nearest screen . The production is a co-production with Frankfurt Opera and is given with generous philanthropic support from the Royal Opera House Endowment Fund .



Royal Opera House

June 20

Il trovatore musical highlight: ‘Tace la notte’

Verdi conducting in Paris, 1880 A classic love triangle lies at the heart of Verdi ’s Il trovatore , but there are four characters that shape the opera’s plot. Over the course of the unusual four-part structure (similar to that of Nabucco ), Verdi shows us multiple perspectives on each of them, playing with our sympathies and emotions. In an opera filled with dark secrets, nobody is quite who they seem. Verdi and his librettist Salvadore Cammarano title each of the acts, suggesting each has a particular focus: Part I is ‘The Duel’; Part II ‘The Gypsy’; Part III ‘The Gypsy’s Son’ and Part IV ‘The Execution’. And in each of them, the plot is driven forward by the characters’ gradual development. Take for instance Part I, which presents not only the duelling opposition between Manrico and the Count di Luna, but also the Count’s dual personalities – implacable in his desire for revenge yet desperately and sincerely in love with Leonora. From the opening scene of the opera, in which the Count’s men keep watch and discuss their ruler, we are led to imagine a fierce man haunted by the tragic tale of his brother’s death. But the first time he appears, in the following scene (‘Tace la notte!’), he appears like any other lovestruck hero, eagerly awaiting a glimpse of his beloved in the moonlight. It is only when Manrico’s ethereal serenade drifts in from offstage (‘Deserto sulla terra’) that the angry, jealous side to the Count’s character begins to reveal itself. ‘Oh gelosia!’, he declares – ‘what jealousy’ – shocked by the extremity of his own reaction as much as by the audacity of his rival. No sooner do the three characters meet than the music becomes taut and frenetic. The strings stir ominously and Leonora’s line is broken up into agitated fragments as the two rivals for her love come to blows. By the time of the Count’s next outburst (‘Di geloso amor sprezzato’), vengeful jealousy has overtaken all else; no hint of the earnest lover remains in this aggressive passage, sung with regular, almost military precision. Even though he has relatively little solo singing in this scene, the two sides of the volatile Count di Luna shape its whole dramatic trajectory. By the time we next meet the Count, Verdi has introduced the fourth character at the heart of Il trovatore, and the focus of Part II: the gypsy Azucena, the woman believed to be Manrico’s mother. She is a very different character from the Count, but one likewise driven by an overwhelming desire for vengeance. In Part III it is Manrico who drives the action forward, moving from the ecstasy of his impending marriage to Leonora to fierce resolve, as he learns of the capture of Azucena by the Count’s forces. In Part IV, the focus shifts to Leonora, who begins with the desolate ‘Miserere’ before striking her desperate deal with the Count. One way of thinking about Il trovatore, then, is as a series of intense character studies, each of which is perfectly calibrated to advance the plot. Small wonder that it remains one of Verdi’s most popular operas – and one of his most dramatically potent. Read more about Verdi’s use of character in the other three parts of the opera in The Royal Opera’s digital programme for Il trovatore, coming soon. Il trovatore runs 2–17 July 2016. Tickets are still available . The production will be broadcast live for free to outdoor screens around the UK on 14 July 2016. Find your nearest screen . The production is a co-production with Frankfurt Opera and is given with generous philanthropic support from the Royal Opera House Endowment Fund .

Giuseppe Verdi
(1813 – 1901)

Giuseppe Verdi (10 October 1813 - 27 January 1901) was an Italian Romantic composer, mainly of opera. He was one of the most influential composers of the 19th century. His works are frequently performed in opera houses throughout the world and, transcending the boundaries of the genre, some of his themes have long since taken root in popular culture - such as "La donna è mobile" from Rigoletto, "Va, pensiero" (The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) from Nabucco, "Libiamo ne' lieti calici" (The Drinking Song) from La traviata and the "Grand March" from Aida. Although his work was sometimes criticized for using a generally diatonic rather than a chromatic musical idiom and having a tendency toward melodrama, Verdi’s masterworks dominate the standard repertoire a century and a half after their composition.



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