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Feb 28

Modernizing opera and breaking it down

Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Michigan State University‘s Opera Theatre presented a modernized twist to an known by many, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in November 2013. This modernized spin, sang in English would feature characters clad in costumes reminiscent to video games characters and asian-style pagodas on the set, allowing for a vivid, engaging setting that would draw forth audiences of many ages. An issue first-comers to opera have with this genre is that the music can bore them and not have that “catchy” effect today’s pop culture is able to achieve so effortlessly.

The Magic Flute tells the unique tale of Prince Tamino and his journey to find his perfect Princess, meeting a wide variety of characters along the way such as bird catchers, priests, and fierce queens. While this opera does have some extraordinarily “catchy” tunes within, there are many deep subplots and messages being portrayed: facing/conquering challenges, and being able to identify times when one needs guidance and assistance. Tamino journeys and on the way falls in love with Pamina, daughter of the infamous ‘Queen of the Night’ who is prisoner to Sarastro, leader of an order of priests. However, as the plot unfolds we discover that Sarastro was waiting for Tamino to find him, which would be the first in a series of many trials and tribulations necessary to achieve enlightenment and be rewarded in marriage with Pamina.

Above is Sarastro’s aria, “O Isis und Osiris” as Tamino enters the remaining trials to achieve enlightenment.

Now I have said before that opera is quite the acquired taste, but is this story not heavily relatable to many plot lines we have seen in other movies? Or perhaps, almost every “chick flick” available where some there are a series of trials and tribulations for two people truly in love, all for the end result of living happily ever after. So, not just the “chick flicks” but also fairy tales! Of course, this opera was not the original idea of the “happily ever after” idea, but it is something that ties right in with countless other genres, old and new.

 

We are seeing a lot of modern spins and interpretations on operas today, not just the expanded age range and easy musical accessibility that The Magic Flute allows for. University of Idaho in Moscow and Illinois State University also have taken the modern route with yet another Mozart opera, this time The Marriage of Figaro with a “Mad Men” theme in both the set and the costumes. Such a modernized theme allows for varying audiences to be drawn in, and possibly form some opera fans out of somebody who had simply started out as a fan of the critically acclaimed TV show.

 

Feb 28

Opera in the Super Bowl?

Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

After month gone by, many are still discussing the excellence displayed on their television sets upon watching the Super Bowl this year. However, the music ended up being an aspect of the game that was to many, most memorable and exciting in the best possible ways.

To kick off the Super Bowl (before the actual kick off) American soprano and opera star Renée Fleming sang the national anthem, making her the first opera singer to sing in a Super Bowl.  Zachary Woolfe from the New York Times described her performance as “eminently operatic: confident, sensible and performed with ease, and without strain…” allowing for her to represent the world of classical/operatic singers with impeccable skill, and yet again, ease navigating through a wide range of singing, from high to low. Many, according to Seattle Opera, fall for some common misconceptions and myths about the genre of opera. These misconceptions and myths span from categorizing opera for only the rich or the “snobbish”, to being an art that has already died. The fact is that opera is still very much alive, and is still being actively pursued by many of today’s youth in universities, opera programs in cities around the globe. As days were leading up to the Super Bowl many would discuss the news that Fleming would be singing the national anthem, including words correlating with opera singing such as being snobs, or boring. However, as Woolfe’s article for the New York Times lays out, there was a positive reaction to the soprano’s performance.

 

If you missed Fleming’s performance, take a look below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7etXoNrwP8c

Of course the style of operatic singing is an acquired taste at times, or just not for certain people. However, this style is merely another genre in music to add to the myriad of genres that have risen in the past century. I think that Fleming’s performance of the national anthem spoke for itself that opera singing is anything but snobbish or boring, but instead charismatic and vigorous. Instead of being on national television to fulfill what many celebrities strive for on reality TV (Kardashians, anybody?) Fleming was on television for the pure enjoyment of using her voice and singing, and sharing her passion with all of us watching. It just so happens that her voice has had many years of classical training that have made her a true master of the art. Such a pure, humble approach to being a celebrity is anothing but boring or snobbish, but inspirational and mature.