Saturday, November 20, 2004

Jacques Offenbach

Jacques Offenbach

Born the seventh child of Isaac Erbst, a Jewish cantor, Jakob Weiner entered this world on June 20, 1819. His family lived in Cologne, Germany. He was a child prodigy, learning the violin and composing small pieces at age 6. He was secretly studying the cello as well, and when this was discovered, his father was immensely pleased. The family formed a trio, including Jakob, his older brother and sister Julius and Isabella. The three played at a variety of restaurants around Cologne. Jakob learned so quickly on the cello that he had soon learned everything there was to learn around Cologne and his family realized they would have to send him elsewhere. In 1833 when he was just fourteen years old, his father, brother Julius and he traveled four days to the Paris Conservatoire. Their father remained three months with them in Paris and then returned home. The two soon changed their names, being in France to Jacques and Jules.

Offenbach left the Conservatoire after only a year of studies. He joined the Opera- Comique in 1834. He played there for three years in the orchestra and he wrote that the whole time, he was “discontent and unhappy.” He also wrote a few pieces while working for the Opera Comique. As his career started to pick up, there was also a large increase in the demand for dance music. He wrote a lot of dance music around this time, especially for the cancan.

In 1837, he quit the Opera and spent time developing his career as a cello soloist. He was hired as the conductor of the Theater Francais in 1850. During this period, he also began to write operettas. In 1855, he rented his own theater called Bouffes Parisiens and performed his own works there. Even though Offenbach’s plays were successful in theaters, his own theater didn’t make any money. He went so far into debt, that he had to hide, moving between friend’s houses and writing as he went. The only hope he had, was in the operetta he was in the process of writing: Orpheé aux Enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld). If this was a hit, he could return to his normal life style.

Orpheus in the Underworld was written as a satire on the gods of Olympus. In the months it took to put the work together, many, many things went wrong. Among others, the piccolo player was sick opening night, Eurydice (played by Mlle. Tautin) wouldn’t play her part unless she received a real tiger- skin, and the gas pipe in the street in front of the theater broke. The first performance of Orpheé aux Enfers, on October 21, 1858, wasn’t as successful as Offenbach had hoped. The audience was amused, but completely missed the overall point and it wasn’t the favorite of the critics. This went on for a few performances.

Over a month after opening night, a journalist named Jules Janin paid a visit to Bouffes. He hurled insults left and right about the theater and especially about Orpheus in the Underworld which he thought was a “holy and glorious antiquity.” Offenbach immediately responded to his column and got the last word. This was exactly what the operetta needed. By the eighteenth performance, crowds were streaming in to see it. This is what saved Offenbach. It was performed two hundred and twenty eight times after which Offenbach was forced to remove it because of the exhaustion of the performers. It was re-staged in 1860 and the whole house was sold out within hours after the announcement.

After his success with Orpheus in the Underworld, he proceeded to write more operettas, his more famous including La Belle Hélène (1864), La Vie Parisienne (1866), La Grande- duchesse de Gerolstein (1867), and La Oerichole (1868). Offenbach grew tired of being famous merely for his operettas and he wanted something more. It was at this time that he had the idea of producing The Tales of Hoffmann, which turned out to be his last work. The original play, Les Contes fantastiques d’Hoffmann, was produced in 1851 and Offenbach had spoken with the author before about turning it into an opera. This first theater version was written by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. The opera was in it’s final stages. The date for opening night was picked- it would be the first week of the winter season. Offenbach was getting older and his name hadn’t been heard for a decade or so. The only comment he would make of his new work was, “I would give everything only to be present at the first night.” This was the only thing keeping him alive. He lived as if in a dream and was so frail that he would lie motionless at all times. In the middle of July, he kept the shades drawn in fear of the drafts. He was failing fast. He traveled to Paris one last time to check on the progress. The musical arrangements were complete and as he looked over them, he had a “suffocation attack.” After this attack he said to his family, “I believe tonight it will be over.” He didn’t wake up. The date was October 5, 1880. Opening night occurred February 10, 1881. When the opera opened in Vienna in December 1881, a fire broke out in the second performance and for years after this, there was much superstition about the play.
Over one hundred years later, Offenbach’s works are still performed, and he is known as the father of our common operetta form.

Sources:
www.classicalarchives.com/bios/codm/offenbach.html
www.quadrant.net/LaVie/noframes/lup/offenbach.html.

Mendelssohn...

Felix Mendelssohn
-As a child prodigy

Childhood
Felix Mendelssohn’s actual full name is Jacob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, but is always known as Felix Mendelssohn. Felix was born in the city of Hamburg, on February 3rd, 1809. Unlike many other famous composers, he grew up in a privileged environment and a wealthy family. As a child he studied piano with his mother, but soon took lessons from Carl Zelter in Berlin. Mendelssohn was soon composing trios, quartets and operettas, and was making his mark as a pianist. At the age of nine, he made his public debut, playing the piano in a trio for two horns and a piano by Joseph Wolfl. When Felix was just 10 years old, he was getting up at 5am every day to a very fulfilling day. Every moment of each day was purposeful. In a letter he once wrote he says, “ I have six hours of Latin a week: two for Caesoar, two for Ovid, one for grammar, and one for exercises. In mathematics I am reading the 5th book of Euclid, which seems to be much more difficult than everything else I have described. In addition, I have two hours of history, two of arithmetic, one of geography, and one of German speaking. I have two violin lessons a week and am playing etudes by Kreutzer. My schedule is so organized, that I prepare tasks in the evening that I have received in the morning.”
Early in Mendelssohn’s development as a composer, he and other musicians, such as his sister, would perform his own compositions at a series of Sunday musical gatherings. Not only would friends and invited guests come to these performances, but also musicians from the royal chapter and singers from the opera. Felix performed many times at the piano, but he also conducted and took turns at the violin. Some his first works that were all completed by 1821, (Piano sonata in G-minor, first six string sinfonie, the Singspeil, Die Beiden Padagogen) were known as works of astonishing polish. At the age of just 13, Mendelssohn wrote his first piano quartet, and at 15 he wrote his first symphony. By the time that Mendelssohn was 17, his fame as a musical prodigy was spreading. Also when he was seventeen, one of his first great compositions, the overture to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was produced.
Like all child prodigies Mendelssohn showed many signs of a true genius from childhood. Mendelssohn is known as one of the most gifted composers the world has ever known. People that don’t know his specific works, or that can’t name them, have still heard it, as his “wedding march” from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, which has accompanied a bride down the aisle. It is difficult to decide which quality Mendelssohn excelled at the most – whether composer, pianist, organist, or conductor of an orchestra. He was very accomplished at each of these at such a young age.

Major Works:

-Solo Piano works including a few sonatas, some Preludes and Fugues, and 49 Songs Without Words:
Song Without Words: Venetian Boat Song No. 1 Op. 16 No. 6
Song Without Words: Folk Song Op. 53 No. 5
Song Without Words: Spinning Song or Bee's Wedding Op. 67 No. 4
Song Without Words: The Adieu Op. 85 No. 2 Song Without Words: Faith Op. 102 No. 6
-Songs and Hymns, either stand-alone or from larger works, including: Christmas Carol: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and "On Wings of Song"
-Overtures: Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage (after 2 poems by Goethe), Athalia (the incidental music for this includes the well-known "War March of the Priests"), Son and Stranger, Ruy Blas, Fingal's Cave or Hebrides overture, A Midsummer Night's Dream (This was composed in his teans, and then augmented in later years with full incidental music for Shakespeare's play, including the famous Wedding March).
-Oratorio: Elijah, including the song "Oh for the Wings of a Dove" later remixed by Madness!
-A Total of 5 mature Symphonies (3rd The Scottish, 4th The Italian, and 5th The Reformation) and a number of String Symphonies composed in his youth.
-Violin Concertos, particularly the popular mature one in Em (Mendelssohn was a violinist as well as a pianist)
-2 Piano Concertos
-Chamber music including String Quartets, String Qunitets and Piano Trio
-String Octet (highly regarded and composed at age 16)

Sources:
Nichols, Roger. Mendelssohn Remembered. 1997.
Mercer-Taylor, Peter. The Life of Mendelssohn. Combridge University Press, 2000.
http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/cmp/mendelssohn.html
http://www.geocities.com/Paris/3486/mend.html
http://www.mfiles.co.uk/Composers/Felix-Mendelssohn.htm

The Sound of Silence

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Darling Lili, and The Princess Diaries; these are just a few of the shows/movies Julie Andrews has performed in. Throughout her career as a movie star, broadway star, recording artist, mother, and wife, Miss Andrews has always enjoyed singing and acting on stage. Who knew that in 1997 she wouldn’t be able to sing again. Because of all of her years singing day in and day out, Julie,68, developed non cancerous polyps on her vocal chords. She decided to have them removed through a routine procedure so she could continue with her career in the spotlight. The surgery went horribly wrong when the doctor left a huge hole in her vocal chords after removing one of the polyps. For five days after the surgery, Julie couldn’t even speak. She was devastated.

“Somehow, the operation went wrong," she says. "It shouldn't have. It was a matter of time, I was told. So I waited patiently. And waited. Its' affected the middle register singing voice. My speaking voice has come back, but I still can't sing a song."

"If you heard her voice, you'd weep," her husband Blake, 77, told a magazine. "I don't think she'll sing again. It's an absolute tragedy."

"That just about sums it up," admits Andrews, frankly. "Thank God I wasn't younger. I mean, at least I've had a wonderful career ………"I'm still hoping it will reverse itself," she continues. "But it's been a long time now. My doctors don't hold out much hope, but say that I should continue practicing."

And so she vocalises at home for about half an hour morning and night, apparently without much improvement. "Not to sing with an orchestra or not to be able to communicate through my voice - which I've done all my life - and not to be able to phrase lyrics and give people that kind of joy is totally devastating," she says.

After the tragedy, Julie decided to sue the doctors. It means that Andrews' lawyers are busy with a massive suit over what she claims was a “botched operation to remove non-cancerous polyps from her vocal cords.” She is seeking, says the lawsuit, "substantial damages to compensate for loss of past and future earnings." "I'm still very optimistic," says Andrews with that familiar, sweet smile. "I have to be. I can't think of the alternative. But it's very definitely a major setback."

Dame Julie remains positive. "I don't know what I'm meant to learn from this but I've never been busier and I must say life is very good right now."

Aside from acting in such recent movies as The Princess Diaries, and The Princess Diaries II, Julie has written many best-selling children’s books such as: Dragon (Hound of Honor), Dumpy’s Apple Shop, Dumpy to the rescue, Dumpy and the Firefighters, Simeon’s Gift, Dumpy and the Big Storm, Little Bo in France, etc. Along with writing children’s books herself and with her daughter Emma, Julie is very active in community service, and loves to keep busy.

“I remember those earlier years, very very well and I think they're probably more interesting. In any event, it will be a challenge. It's easier for me to take risks as I grow older. I'm getting braver, maybe because I have less to lose. But I don't feel ready to retire or anything. Like that. I don't see why it should be considered. I seem to be as busy as ever."

Sources: http://www.julieandrews.co.uk/
http://www.worldmoviemag.com/


Friday, November 19, 2004

RICHARD RODGERS (1902-1979)

Richard Rodgers is considered one of the greatest writers in American musical theatre. Born in New York City in 1902, Rodgers was the youngest of two children. Rodgers’ father was an amateur singer and physician, and his mother was a pianist. As a child, Rodgers preferred to play piano by ear and refused to take piano lessons. In 1916, at age 14, Rodgers’ copyrighted his first song, “Auto Show Girl”. The next year, Rodgers completed the music and lyrics for his first musical, One Minute Please, the first of 14 amateur shows throughout the next eight years.

From 1919 to 1921, Rodgers attended Columbia University where he was introduced to lyricist Lorenz Hart, who for the next 24 years became Rodgers’ exclusive partner. Together they produced over 26 Broadway Shows and 9 films. During the early 1930’s Rodgers and Hart spent most of their time in Hollywood producing three film musicals, songs for popular film stars, and an unused song which became a huge success, “Blue Moon”. The duo returned to Broadway with Jumbo and over the next eight years produced nine musicals, mostly winners. In 1942, By Jupiter became Rodgers and Hart’s last show due to Hart’s personal and alcohol problems.



Rodgers and Hart

Rodgers married Dorothy Feiner on March 5, 1930. Rodgers loved how she was attentive to the smallest details. An old friend of Dorothy once told this story about her: “I remember taking her to a musical. From the first row balcony she was able to detect that the third chorus girl on the left was wearing shoes slightly different from those worn by the other chorus girls.” Rodgers and Dorothy had two children, Mary and Linda.

After Hart's death, Rodgers joined Oscar Hammerstein II, a former fraternity brother whom Rodgers had known for a while. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first project, Oklahoma!, produced a record-breaking run of 2,212 performances. In the first eight years of Rodgers collaboration with Hammerstein, they created four out of their five major successes: Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and the film musical State Fair. Rodgers songs written with Hammerstein lacked the jazz essence and varied the forms, instead of using the 32-bar patterns he used with Hart. After Flower Drum Song, in 1958, and The Sound of Music, in 1959, Hammerstein died of cancer.



Rodgers and Hammerstein





However, this was still not the end of Rodgers. In 1962, he became his own composer and lyricist of one last successful show, No Strings, which won him two Tony awards for music and lyrics. Rodgers also collaborated with Stephen Sondheim, in 1965, for Do I Hear a Waltz?, Martin Charnin, in 1970 and 1979, for Two By Two and I Remember Mama, and Sheldon Harnick, in 1976, for Rex. These shows were not as successful for there were conflicts with the actors and other workers.


Rodgers death in 1979, due to cancer of the jaw and other health problems, did not bring an end to his masterpieces. Revivals of many of his musicals are still present today.

Update: When Rodgers was young, he was given some piano lessons from his aunt Tily Rodgers, but did not enjoy theses lessons because he would rather play "by ear". Later in Rodgers' life, after he acheived Broadway sucess, he took piano lessons and improved his playing significantly. In 1919, Rodgers attended Columbia University to write Varsity shows, but in 1921, enrolled in the Institute of Musical Art, now known as Julliard School of Music.


Works Cited

Somewhere For Me- Meryle Secrest

The Richard Rodgers Reader- Geoffrey Block

Richard Rodgers- William G. Hyland






Thursday, November 18, 2004

The immortal genius of Luciano Pavarotti

Luciano Pavarotti has redefined what it means to be a tenor. Gifted with a fabulously large yet wonderfully beautiful voice, Pavarotti sang for 40 years. Critics have hailed him as one of the greatest tenors of all time. He certainly has earned a place among the legends such as Caruso. Pavarotti has not only attained immortality in the opera world, but he also has brought opera to the masses. By collaborating with artists such as Whitney Houston and Sting, Pavarotti has helped reach listeners normally devoted to pop music. This has greatly contributed to the success of such cross-over artists as Josh Groban, Charlotte Church, and Andrea Bocelli. Before Pavarotti, opera singers felt that pop music was beneath them.
Luciano Pavarotti was born in Modena, Italy in 1935. At a very young age, Pavarotti began singing in choruses with his father Fernando, who was also an operatic tenor. These choral experiences fired his desire to become a singer, and he began to train as a tenor under the tutelage of Arrigo Pola and later Ettore Campogalliani. Originally he trained to be a teacher, but that changed when he won the Concorso Internazionale competition in 1961. From there, Pavarotti went on to his operatic debut at the Theater of Reggio Emilia that same year in the role of Rodolfo in La Boheme. Following this performance, he sang at most of the houses throughout Italy, and within a few short years, he had went on to achieve immortal fame. In fact, he even holds the world record for the longest curtain call ever, and he has released recordings representing almost every phase of his career.
In this biography, I will focus on Pavarotti’s contributions to the world of singing and his own personal insights into the fine art of singing opera. Like all singers Pavarotti had many difficult barriers to scale while attempting to break into the professional opera world. He lost numerous competitions and was turned down at every audition. Italy is a country that has a high concentration of talented singers, so Pavarotti essentially was in the most competitive area of the world when it came to singing opera.
Secondly, Pavarotti himself stated that he studied voice for six years seriously, and that during that time he struggled with many of the same pit-falls that affect all voice students. He especially noted his difficulty with learning to negotiate the passagio or the breaks in the voice. He said that the breaks must become like “the automatic transmission of a Cadillac.” Secondly, he also talked of the discouraging losses he experienced at vocal competitions. He actually considered giving up his dream at one point and simply becoming a real-estate salesman. However, luckily for us, he went on to win that one key vocal competition and from there his career was launched within an incredibly short period of time.
Pavarotti gave wonderful advice to would be singers in his book. He discussed never giving up and truly working hard. Also, he pointed out that opera is not for those who are not willing to suffer for their art initially. Secondly, he encouraged young singers to stay in shape so they could increase their chances of being cast, since especially today, opera directors more and more prefer to cast the thin or athletic singer. Qualities he said were important for a singer to have were a willingness to work with others, humility, belief in one’s own talents, genuine emotional engagement, and connection to audience members.
Pavarotti was able to sing a vast range of operas during his long career including everything from some Mozart and Rossini all the way to the very dramatic Puccini and Verdi roles. Perhaps his ability to negotiate these vastly contrasting styles was what made him so famous. Pavarotti began his career with lyric favorites such as Rodolfo (La Boheme) and Nemorino (L’Elisir D’amore). However, he quickly moved into some Spinto repertoire such as Mario (Tosca) and even Prince Calaf (Turandot). In fact, Calaf’s famous aria “Nessun Dorma” became one of his calling cards. Throughout his career, Pavarotti strived to maintain the light, brilliant lyric quality of his voice. He never pushed his voice for more dramatic power than it was able to give, and although he possesses a large instrument Pavarotti’s voice is still essentially lyric. He maintained that even the role of Calaf was too heavy for his voice.
His voice itself follows the traditional Bel Canto teachings of producing effortless high notes and legato lines. Unusual is the brilliance and piercing nature of his voice that perhaps help it to have its enormous size. Pavarotti definitely has a bright instrument, but not to the point of being strident. His technique is highly polished, and many will claim close to perfect. He became famous for his effortless high Cs and Ds. In fact, he performed La Fille du Regiment including Tonio’s aria with nine high Cs without any cuts and without any bugs in the final performance. At the same time Pavarotti was able to hold his own in Spinto to almost Dramatic roles. He lent power to the Verdi and Puccini heroes.
In his career Pavarotti performed all over the world and at almost every big house among them the Metropolitan Opera, the Glynebourne opera, the Bastille, La Scala, Covent Garden, and The Vienna staatsoper. Somehow, he managed to always maintain freedom no matter what climate he sang in, or how difficult the role. Pavarotti always approached each role the same way, and often shipped in his old voice teacher to help him perfect a new role. In my opinion because he never stopped learning, Pavarotti was able to solidify every role and achieve consistency in every role he sang. His voice did not even begin to show wear until he was in his 60s which is also a testament to his technique.
Pavarotti has also taken opera to new audiences like no singer has ever done. Through his collaboration with Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo to form the Three Tenors, he was able to reach stadiums full of eager listeners, not to mention those who watched from their home televisions. Pavarotti also possesses an amazing ability to talk to people and win listeners over with his confident yet charming personality. Some attribute his huge popularity as much to his charismatic personality as to golden voice. In an age where classical music has been said to be dying, this legacy left to the opera world was priceless. He brought countless new people, uncultured in the ways of opera, into the classical fold. Also, he helped bridge the traditional gap between Pop performers and classical singers. Another contribution worthy of note, are the vocal competitions that he has sponsored to find the future opera talent in the upcoming generations.
In conclusion no singer in this century has done more than Pavarotti in giving back to the art form of Opera. He took opera to millions of new listeners and he helped to nurture upcoming stars. Pavarotti will go down in history as probably not only the most famous tenor, but also as the most widely known singer. Even non-opera people have heard the name Pavarotti. Although many singers criticize him for singing such a dangerously wide range of repertoire and for his lack of acting ability at times, I feel that Pavarotti still deserves the respect of all singers.

Sources:
http://www.grovemusic.com/shared/views/article.html?from=search§ion=music.21122
http://www.lucianopavarotti.com
L. Pavarotti: My Own Story (London, 1981)

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Bel Canto Tenor

Before I discuss the nature of the Bel Canto tenor, I must first give a little background on the term itself. Bel Canto is used to denote a style of singing in which breath control is used to produce an even tone. High notes sound easy as well as florid lines under the Bel Canto school. The technical Bel Canto period was from the 17th century through the 19th, but the term has come to have multiple meanings. Basically, today, Bel Canto especially denotes the lyric, fluid repertoire of composers such as Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini. These three composers are the “Bel Canto” composers, and they are the ones I wish to focus on in my discussion of the Bel Canto tenor.
The tenor voice part encompasses an incredible range of possible voice types. There are several types of lyric tenors, the spinto, and the dramatic/heldentenor, not to mention character and buffo tenor roles. The Bel Canto tenor falls under the lyric tenor category. Lyric tenors are expected to be able to easily handle high tessituras and sustained high Cs and Ds. Lyric tenors generally have a light, bright color along with a fluidity of voice that allows them to negotiate high moving passages. The heavier types of tenors, helden for one, generally focus on power and weight rather than float and lightness in the upper register.
The Bel Canto tenor, more specifically, is expected to be able to handle coloratura and ungodly tessituras. Rossini, for one, demands an absolutely florid instrument since all of his tenor roles are riddled with high coloratura, unlike the Baroque and Classical composers. The Bel Canto tenor generally has a brighter color also to bring energy to the florid lines. A close relative to the Bel Canto tenor, the French lyric, is more interested in a slightly more mellow color, and often a lyric tenor may sing them both. However, ideally, the Bel Canto roles should be sung by an instrument with a little more resonance.
Another important characteristic of the Bel Canto tenor is the ability to easily produce high notes and make it sound easy too. Hence, Bel Canto tenor’s strive for more lyricism in the high rather than sheer power, however, it is important to add that the Bel Canto composers included dramatic moments in their arias where some power is required. Again, I come back to the comparison between the French lyric tenor: the French style is lighter than the Bel Canto style with more sustained highs rather than the florid passages of the Bel Canto style.
It is also important to add a little about the physical appearance of a Bel Canto tenor. Since the roles being portrayed are always romantic leads and often younger men, it is important that the Bel Canto tenor is believable physically as a romantic lead. This means that a Bel Canto tenor should ideally be somewhat athletic and usually sadly dramatic, even in the more comedic roles such as Ernesto from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale.
As I have previously stated, Bel Canto tenors must have an extensive upper range. Specifically, Bel Canto Tenors should be able to sustain Bs and As with relative ease, and be able to hold high Cs for quite a while. Bel Canto arias often have multiple Cs and even Ds, whereas almost every other type of opera has at max 3 high Cs for an entire role. One aria from La Fille du Regiment has nine high Cs alone.
Now that we have covered the technical aspects of what makes a Bel Canto tenor, it is important that we cover the repertoire of a Bel Canto Tenor. As I have previously stated, Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini are the most important Bel Canto composers. Donizetti’s L’elisir D’amore is a must for the Bel Canto tenor. The role of Nemorino from this opera is done by almost all Lyric tenors and even some Spintos, such as the great Pavarotti. Nemorino’s famous aria, Una Furtiva Lagrima, is a must have in every Bel Canto tenor’s repertoire. Another important role is Edguardo from Lucia Di Lammermoor, also by Donizetti. This role, although not as famous as Nemorino, is also an important one since the opposite Soprano role is a timeless favorite of opera audiences.
The second Bel Canto composer, Rossini, was thought to be dying, but recently, his operas have been performed again. Among the host of Rossini roles, the most important are Count Almaviva from Il barbiere di Siviglia. Almaviva’s aria Ecco Ridente in Cielo is a favorite among lyric tenors, although the second aria from this opera is often omitted because of its technical difficulty. Also, the role of Lindoro from Il Italiana in Algieri is a must in every Bel Canto tenor’s repertoire. The last Bel Canto composer is Bellini, and his most famous operas are Norma and I Puritani. The tenor roles from these operas are Arturo (I Puritani) and Flavio (Norma) . Also of note is the opera La Sonnambula, which includes the tenor role of Elvino.
In conclusion, the Bel Canto tenor is one endowed with a florid upper register and effortless high notes. The Bel Canto repertoire tends to focus on brilliance of tone, rather than power or a mellow quality.

Bibliography: Don Randel. The New Harvard Dictionary: “Bel Canto”
http://mama.essortment.com/belcantotechni_rgwg.htm
http://italian.about.com/library/weekly/aa042501a.htm

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Horn Excerpts--Tutti Horns

Horn Students Preparing for Orchestral and College Auditions

Solo Horn
Horn Duets
Horn Trios
Horn Quartets
Tutti Horns
Soli Horn

This section of the book deals with the Horn tutti's found in many orchestral pieces. There are many different selections, Some are fortissimo, others are piano. What they all have in common is that the entire horn section is playing as a whole. Tuning is very important when the horns are playing in unison or in octaves. The following excerpts are good to know if you plan on playing in an orchestra in the future. Each of the following excerpt will have an audio and visual attachment, as well as a small explanation of how each excerpt should be approached.

Brahms Symphony No. 4, op. 98
Horn 3+4 have very exposed parts. Unison horns in the first 4 measures. Woodwinds enter in the second measure. Tuning is of the utmost importance. Play the excerpt with a full sound. Articulations have a legato tongue. Pay special attention to the diminuendo at the end of measure 3.

Mahler Symphony No. 1--excerpt 1
Horns 1,3,6 and 2,4,7 in octaves. 2,4,7 horns in very low octave. Make sure you begin on the correct note. To get a clearer sound on the 2,4,7 horn part try playing it on the Bb side of the horn(may be a little sharp) Legato tongue for this area to but do not lose control of the tone quality.

Mahler Symphony No. 1--excerpt 2
Have an extremely pointed attack for each note. Played fortissimo, but 1,3,5,6 horns pace yourselves you have the higher octaves, no need to play extremely loud. Though this section is loud, tuning in the octaves are still extremely important. Any note that is dotted release it early for space. This is the Finale of the symphony, play extremely heroically.

Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, op. 47--excerpt 1
Low horn unison in all horn parts. Very eerie, mysterious and imposing. Tuning here is very important due to the unison. Do not play too quietly. The notes are not slurred together. Hold each note for its fullest length.

Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, op. 47--excerpt 2
This excerpt is extremely difficult. The entire orchestra is playing in unison at this point. Rhythmic integrity is especially important in this passage. The proper articulations are a must. Tuning is a must here because if you one players' inntonation is off then the unison effect will not occur.

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 excerpt--1
Horns are in unison octaves in the beginning. Fortissimo because only part going on in the beginning. 1,3 + 2,4 are respectively in unison at the start. As with all horn tutti tuning is a must.

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4
Horn tutti exposed, strings and woodwinds in background. Very simple to rush the rhythms. As always remember your tuning. Articulations should be very light. Use a "ta" tongue not "da". Seperation between each note keeps it moving foward while at the same time prevents rushing.

Remember these rules for playing tutti horn:
1)Watch the your intonation
2)Keep the same articulation
3)Keep rhythmic integrity

NEXT CHAPTER: SOLI HORNS

Reference: www.hornexcerpts.org

MUSIC OF THE 1920’S

“Music of the 1920’s” was written not only for a music history course, but anyone interested in the influential Jazz age.

Chapters
I. Introduction of the Jazz Age
II. American music in the 1920’s
III. How music affected culture in the 1920’s
IV. World music in the 1920’s
V. Impact of music from the 1920’s on generations to follow


How Music Affected Culture in the 1920’s

The “Jazz Age” of the 1920’s is the only decade to be nicknamed after the style of music of its era. This is due to the huge relationship between the culture of the 1920’s and jazz music. Also, due to the impact of the “Jazz Age” on American culture, phrases such as the word jazzy have become a common adjective when describing the flair or manner of a person or event. “All that jazz” is also a popular term used to describe miscellaneous events in life, maybe having the same characteristics as jazz music.

In the 1920’s, jazz was entertainment, but it also represented rebellious behavior and biracial culture. Saxophonist Sonny Rollins stated that “jazz has always been a music of integration.” A small number of white listeners enjoyed the styles of Armstrong or Ellington. Likewise, Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman rarely visited black nightclubs. Most musicians in Harlem and on Chicago’s South Side worked for little money while white bands in downtown Manhattan and Chicago made comfortable livings playing black jazz standards. As for the rebellious behavior, the 1920’s was the time of Prohibition. The Prohibition amendment of the 1920s was ineffective because it was unenforceable, it caused the explosive growth of crime, and it increased the amount of alcohol consumption. The crime rate increased because prohibition destroyed legal jobs, created black-market violence, diverted resources from enforcement of other laws, and increased prices people had to pay for prohibited goods.

Jazz was not just music; it was a form of communal expression. In the 1920’s jazz music provided a freedom of expression, musical individuality, and cultural freedom. Jazz music lead to new dances in the 1920’s such as The Charleston, One Step, and Black Bottom. "Moral disaster is coming to hundreds of young American girls," reported the New York American, "through the pathological, nerve-irritating, sex-exciting music of jazz orchestras."

Not only was listening to music in the 1920’s and going to nightclubs popular many people owned pianos, played sheet music, and listened to records. From the drinking, racial issues, dancing, to the freedom of expression, the music of the 1920's impacted peoples lives greatly and influenced their behaviors.


Random Fact: The peanut butter and jelly sandwich became famous in 1922.

Works Cited
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0231104499/002-6288710-7255258

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1566631432/002-6288710-7255258


Little Shop of Horrors...

Musical Theatre
Chapter: Little Shop of Horrors

-Back Round Information-

Little Shop of Horrors was the most internationally successful Broadway musical. It began its career at the little WPA Theater in New York. It is a musical in 2 acts based on the film by Charles Griffith. The first performance of Little Shop of Horrors took place on May 6th 1982, in New York. It was transferred to Orpheum Theater, on July 27th 1982 with 2209 performances and in London (Comedy Theatre) on October 12th 1983 with 813 performances.

-Important People (Cast, Music, Etc.)-

Lyrics – Howard Ashman
Music – Alan Menken
Book – Howard Ashman, based on the script of the film by Charles Griffith

PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS
Seymour – A poor and nerdy guy
Audrey – His beloved
Orin – An evil dentist
Mr. Mushnik – A florist and owner of the store
Audrey II – A carnivorous plant

ORIGINAL NEW YORK CAST
Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Franc Luz, Hy Anzell, Ron Taylor/Martin P. Robinson
ORIGINAL LONDON CAST
Barry James, Ellen Greene, Terrence Hillyer, Harry Towb, Anthong B. Asbury/Michael Leslie

-Plot or Summary-

On September 21st, creatures from outer space invaded our galaxy with the plan of taking over our world. Some of them took the form of plants which happened to land in Mr. Mushnik’s flower shop on skid row. Seymour finds this plant very interesting and takes care of it. He names it Audrey II after his assistant Audrey, who he is secretly in love with. Seymour seems to never please the owner of the store, Mr. Mushnik, until this plant of his draws a major crowd. Everyone that walks by the shop seems to be interested in this strange yet amazing looking plant, which gives Mr. Mushnik the business he’s always wanted. The problem that Seymour finds is that Audrey II doesn’t drink water. He has to feed this plant blood in order for it to grow. In the beginning it is only a drop or two, but soon the plant needs more and more.
Audrey has a sadistic boyfriend, Orin, who is a dentist. He is very mean, rude, and even physically abusive to Audrey. Seymour hates to see this, but doesn’t feel that he deserves anything as beautiful as her. Soon Audrey II is getting bigger and bigger and even talking to Seymour, screaming “Feed ME”. Seymour does not want to kill anyone but is soon temped by Orin as he treats Audrey VERY bad in front of him. Audrey II gets his way soon, as Seymour chops up Orin and feeds him to the hungry plant.
About this time, Mr. Mushnik, knowing the success of this plant and Seymour, asks Seymour to be his son and partner of the shop. Seymour soon says yes and is starting to live a dream lifestyle, as Audrey is starting to fall for Seymour too. The plant is getting very big and needs more blood (killings). Unfortunately Mr. Mushnik starts to suspect what’s going on and becomes the next victim of Audrey II. Although Seymour is starting to become more and more famous, he is starting to have doubts about this plant.
One late night, Audrey goes to the shop to find Seymour, but instead encounters Audrey II. In attempt to eat Audrey the plant asks her for a glass of water. She questions it, but decides to just give the plant a drink of water. As she reaches her arm out to the plant, Audrey II grabs her in its mouth and is trying to eat her! Seymour arrives soon and pulls her out of its mouth, however he is too late. As she is dieing, he tells her his secrets of the killings he has done. Audrey tells him that she wants him to feed her to the plant so she will always be apart of Seymour. She tells him, “If I’m in the plant…then I’m part of the plant! And that means I’ll always be a part of you!”. Seymour does indeed feed her to the plant but then decides that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with this anymore. He realizes that this was all part of the plant’s plan to have world conquest. He tries to kill the plant, but is pulled into its heart.

-The Critics-

“Wow! Totally entrancing…totally hilarious” – New York Post
“Zany, fun-filled and thoroughly delightful…a winner” – Variety
“A musical comedy that is both musical and comic…and that hits just the right tone of mockery without ever slipping into camp…with a witty book and witty lyrics” – The New Yorker
“Madly entertaining, full of side-splitting laughs…the show’s a hoot” – Gannett Wetchester Newspapers

Sources:

Kennedy P., Michael & John Muir. Musicals. HarperCollins Publishers, 1997.

Ganzl, Kurt. The Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre: 2nd Edition. Schirmer Books, 2001.




Bel Canto Singing for the Developing Soprano

BEL CANTO SINGING FOR THE DEVELOPING SOPRANO

Vibrato
One important characteristic of great Bel Canto singing is a smooth sound. This quality of voice is directly related to the component of vibrato. Many Bel Canto pieces have a sostenuto section followed by section of movement. Vibrato is not only important for agility and movement but also for sustained singing. According to Richard Miller, author of Training Soprano Voices, "No matter how sizable or dramatic a soprano instrument, it needs to flexibly perform rapid movement. If a singer is unable to freely move the voice in swift melismas, there will be a corresponding lack of freedom in slow, sustained passages." A natural, free style of singing almost always results in the production of vibrato.

DEFINED
Vocal vibrato is hard to define, just as many other aspects of the vocal instrument. Bel Canto; Principles and Practices goes so far as to say that vibrato is a mystery, "The physiological and neurological origins of the vocal vibrato are not yet fully understood."
The New Harvard Dictionary of Music defines vibrato as "A slight fluctuation of pitch used by performers to enrich or intensify the sound...Vocal vibrato is more difficult to define [than instrumental.] What is often termed vibrato and widely cultivated is at least as much a fluctuation in intensity as in pitch; some authorities maintain that it is entirely a fluctuation in intensity."
Vibrato is most likely a result of the "larger phenomenon of neuromuscular tremor which affects all the musculatures of the body," according to Bel Canto; Principles and Practices. This is the natural work-rest cycle in which muscles alternately contract and relax as a means of protecting against fatigue."
Therefore, vibrato is a natural phenomenon. This is extremely important for young singers to understand.

GOOD VIBRATO
Vibrato develops naturally with proper voice training. It is not something to work for, but rather something to expect as a product of working towards other good vocal habits. Cornelius L. Reid says that "vibrato must never be trained or cultivated." Rather a singer should be aware of vibrato and yearn for natural healthy singing.
Although singers will never have full control over their vibrato, eventually they may gain indirect control. This indirect control comes with the ability to regulate intensity or other similar emotional effects.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart offers up his view of vibrato in a letter to his father dated June 12, 1778, "The human voice quivers of itself-but in such a way and to such a degree that it is beautiful-that is the nature of the voice... As soon as you over do it, it is not beautiful anymore-because it is against nature."
Trying to alter the vibrato is against nature and when singers try to regulate their vibrato, wobbles or tremolo is created. These are unpleasant sounds in which the actual pitch is hard to determine.

BEAUTY
When comparing a tone that has vibrato with one that doesn't, it is easy to hear the difference between the two. The straight tone sounds cold and rigid, while the tone with vibrato sounds warm and natural.
Vibrato helps to maintain a continuous legato as well as helping to ease singers into the passagio. It gives life, vibrancy, and buoyancy to singing.
Professor of Psychologist, Carl Seashore says "We shall find that musical beauty in the vibrato consists primarily of three elements; enrichment of the tone, flexibility of tone and the expression of tender feeling through instability."
Ultimately vibrato provides regularity, smoothness and ease to singing.

SOURCES

Moens-Haenen, Greta. “Vibrato.” Grove Music Online (Accessed 14 November 2004)
http://www.grovemusic.com

Reed, Cornelius L. Reid. Bel Canto: Principles and Practices. The Joseph Patelson Music House 1950.

Miller, Richard. Training Soprano Voices. Oxford University Press 2000.

Stark, James. Bel Canto; A History of Vocal Pedagogy. University of Toronto Press 1999.

The Harvard Dictionary of Music; Fourth Edition. Ed. Don Michael Randal. “Vibrato.” The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 2003. pp. 946-947.

Der Ring des Nibelungen: Wagner’s The Ring Cycle

Target Audience: Background Information for the opera goer interested in Wagner written at the pre-college level

Wagner’s Operas: Table of Contents

Chapter I: Die Feen
Chapter II: Das Liebesverbot
Chapter III: Rienzi
Chapter IV: Der fliegende Holländer
Chapter V: Tannhäuser
Chapter VI: Lohengrin
Chapter VII: Der Ring des Nibelungen
Chapter VIII: Tristan und Isolde
Chapter IX: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Chapter X: Parsifal

“Der Ring des Nibelungen:”
About the Opera

Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelungen) is a compilation of four consecutive full length operas written by Richard Wagner. He completed the operas in 1876 after fleeing to Switzerland due to his political activism in Germany. Wagner based his opera on a 12th century epic poem entitled "Nibelungenlied". "Des Nibelungen" are defined as “subterranean dwarfs” according to dictionary.com.

The four operas within the larger work are entitled Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung. After writing the last opera Götterdämmerung, Wagner realized that a prologue was needed and wrote the other three operas, each as a preface to previous. The entire work Der Ring des Nibelungen takes from 15 to 24 hours to perform. Usually not shown in one sitting, the audience was required to come back four nights – one night for each of the operas -- to see the entire work.


Richard Wagner: The Mastermind

Richard Wagner (1813-1883) is considered one of the most influential composers German opera. When Wagner was just six months old, his father died of typhus. The next year, his mother married a close family friend, Ludwig Geyer, who moved the family to Dresden. After Geyer died, the family moved back to Leizpig.

As respected as his works are today, he had very little formal training in music. He was quite involved in theater from an early age, however was compelled to write music as well. He had very little formal training in music outside of the six months that he spent studying in Leizpig. He had a fair number of opportunities within theatrical directing, however not any in opera. Despite his lack of formal training, his ability to mimic the sounds of other composers such as Beethoven or Rossini to create his own masterpieces was nothing short of astounding.

After participating in radical politics for a period of time in Germany, he fled to Switzerland. It was during this period of time away from Germany that his approach to opera changed dramatically. The Ring Cycle was his first work after this time and it was by far his most large-scale work. Upon his return, he divorced his wife and married Cosima von Bülow, the daughter of his close friend, Franz Liszt.

In 1882, Wagner started to develop some health problems. He moved to Venice, but he suddenly died there within a year.


The Ring’s Continuing Influence in the 20th Century

The Ring Cycle’s plot and characters sound very familiar to today’s audience since the creation of “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings”. In fact, both of the makers of the movies drew parts and symbols almost directly from Wagner’s masterpiece. Below are some striking similarities between Wagner’s work written in 1876 and the works of these 20th century film writers.


Wagner’s The Ring Cycle
1. Became a tetralogy only after realizing that needed a prologue
2. Took 28 years for the whole work to reach audiences
3. The heroine, Brunhilde, sacrificed herself to save the humans and gods
4. In the beginning, the leader of the gods, Wotan, is a relatively average god. The lust that Wotan, the leader of the gods, has for power drives him to obsess over the ring
5. The two long lost twins of Wotan find each other as adults and fall in love
6. Wotan’s son, Siegfried, shatters his father’s sword
7. Siegmund had his all-powerful sword, however it failed him and he was killed

George Lucas’ "Star Wars"
1. Became a trilogy after adding a prologue and become a tetralogy after Episode I: The Phantom Menace
2. Took 28 years for the whole work to reach audiences
3. Both Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi sacrificed themselves to save the galaxy
4. Anakin Skywalker’s lust for power encourages him to join the dark side as Darth Vader.
5. The two long lost twins of Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) as adults and sort of fall in love
6. Darth Vader, Luke’s father, chops off Luke’s arm, however Luke returns for revenge and does the same to him
7. Luke had his all-powerful light saber, however it failed him when he got his arm cut off


The story was different for “The Lord of the Rings”. It has been said that Tolkien believed that Wagner had done a disservice to Norse and Germanic mythology by not accurately portraying it. He said of the difference between himself and Wagner, “Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases!”

Wagner’s The Ring Cycle
1. Midgard (Middle Earth in English)
2. Nibelungen finds first finds ring in river
3. The Rhinegold ring enslaves the owner and is desired by others
4. Tarnhelm turns person who possesses invisible
5. Mysterious person reveals himself (Odin)
6. The characters are from Norse mythology

Tolkien’s "The Lord of the Rings"
1. Middle Earth
2. Ugly little creature first finds the ring in a river
3. The ring enslaves the owner and is desired by others
4. Ring turns the person who possess it invisible
5. Mysterious person reveals himself (Gandalf)
6. The characters are from Norse mythology


Bibliography

http://www.island-of-freedom.com/WAGNER.HTM
http://www.jitterbug.com/origins/lotr.html
http://www.lcc.gatech.edu/classes/winter9
http://users.utu.fi/hansalmi/ring.html8/lcc3412l/ring.html
http://www.npr.org/programs/attheopera/archives/000325.ato.html
http://www.trell.org/wagner/starwars.html
http://classicalmusic.about.com/od/opera/a/aatheringcycle.htm
http://www.geocities.com/viennaonline/feature/starwars.html

Richard Wagner Der Ring des Nibelungen: A Companion
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/results.asp?WRD=Richard+Wagner+Der+Ring+des+Nibelungen%3A+A+Companion&userid=y65093x9Kt&cds2Pid=946

Ring of Power
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0892540435/qid=1100473092/sr=2-1/ref=pd_ka_b_2_1/103-0980899-1083811