Trying to get your 16 year old acid rocker son to go to an Opera is like trying to get President Bill Clinton to admit that he had sex with that Lewinsky gal. You’ve got one big fight ahead of you. The truth is, if we didn’t have the opera, we wouldn’t have some of the other great music of our time as ultimately every form of music, especially Broadway musicals, comes from the classics. And there is no more classic than grand opera.
There’s a reason that most operas are sung in Italian. Most of the great writers of opera were Italian. The few English language operas we have, like “The Barber Of Seville” don’t compare to the old grand Italian operas. And it is those operas that have given us some of the greatest singers in the history of music.
Great singers go back many years. Keeping this discussion to the 20th century, one needs to go no farther than the incomparable Jussi Bjoerling, as he was called. Bjoerling lived from 1911 to 1960. He actually wasn’t even Italian but Swedish born. But he was one of the greatest of our time. He was the leading tenor at the New York Metropolitan Opera for more than 20 years. Some of this most memorable performances however were not done at the Met but at the Rome Opera House under the direction of Jonel Perlea where he appeared in some of the greatest operas ever written, including “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “Tosca” and “Carmen”, just to name a few.
In the opera world, many people were constantly comparing Bjoerling to another great tenor by the name of Enrico Caruso. Caruso actually came long before Bjoerling, having been born in 1873. At the time he was considered the greatest tenor of all time. After the arrival of Bjoerling, the debate began. Most opera lovers are torn between the two as to who is the greatest. Caruso actually had technical problems early in his career that he did not overcome until the turn of the century when he was finally able to move away from resorting to falsetto or transposition. Caruso gave many memorable performances during his all too brief career which included probably his most popular role in “I Pagliacci” where he sings what has become his most famous aria, “Vesti La Giubba”.
The opera world did not just belong to the men. There have been many great women who have come to the opera stage over the years. One of the most famous of these is Leontyne Price who was born in 1927 and still lives today, though she has long stopped her operatic career. Price had many victories in her career. Her biggest was probably on January 27, 1961, when she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera House while playing Leonora in the Verdi classic “Il Trovatore”. Her performance was so incredible that it resulted in her getting a 42 minute standing ovation. This was one of the longest in the history of the Met. The critics reviews of her performance labeled it as “flawless”.
These few greats only scratch the surface of what opera has given us. If you’ve never been to the grand opera, by all means go. Even if you have to leave your 16 year old acid rocker home.
Source by Michael Russell