Sunday, July 28, 2013

Opera in One Paragraph

The topic is Bluebeard's Castle by Bela Bartók.

The castle is a sanctuary of operatic secrets. Its bolted doors, pressed by Judith's curiosity, open onto a musical imagery which discloses the guilty mysteries of opera.

The first door reveals instruments of torture, the second an armory. There is gore on everything: opera is synonymous with bloodshed and erotic violence; its arena is Scarpia's hidden back room. Behind the third door is a stockpile of gold and gems: Fafner's hoard in Siegfried, supplemented by the jewels which tempt Marguerite in Faust, Giulett in Les Contes d'Hoffman, and the Dyer's Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten. The fourth door conceals a garden of trilling birdcalls, a paradise omnipesent in oper from Monteverdi's Arcadia to Walther's suburban Eden in Die Meistersinger or the summertime of Gershwin's Catfish Row The fifth door opens with a triple forte blast of C major and an orgn volley. Its vista is that of annexed territory, the ambit of Bluebeard's reign; opera indulges the conquistadorial man of power—Monteverdi's Nerone and Handel's Cesare Vasco, Enée and Siegfried. The sixth door unlocks a lake of coldly rippling tears. Opera's emotional reservoir is fed by Charlotte's lachrymose aria in Werther, by Desdemona's first tears, wept as Otello spurns her, or by the distraught Elsa, when Lohengrin leads her to the minister to shed her tears in joy. Beyond the seventh door...
 What is "beyond the seventh door" is left as an exercise to the student. Or consult Peter Conrad, A Song of Love and Death: The Meaning of Opera 225 (1987) from which this excerpt is taken.

1 comment:

mike shupp said...

Oh yeah! It's been some years and I should listen to that again. Thanks for the reminder.