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Le Nozze Di Figaro


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#1 Stephen Speicher

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Posted 28 September 2006 - 04:47 PM

Music suggested for rating by Kitty Hawk.

#2 Arnold

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 10:36 AM

Music suggested for rating by Kitty Hawk.

One thing I cannot do, is rate a musical work from a technical perspective, so I won't even try. Mozart has had enough experts give him a passing grade. :)
If you want a rating in the sense of what impact this opera has on one, then I can make a comment. I saw this live on stage, and find it a pleasant work. The light hearted plot and excellent music make for an enjoyable evening.
My favourite opera composer is Puccini by a wide margin; he transports me. Bizet's Carmen is an absolute masterpiece of drama, and Rossini brings out the sun for me. Mozart by contrast, doesn't stir me up much, although I enjoy him. On that personal scale, I give a six.
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#3 Kitty Hawk

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 02:57 PM

Version: Naxos label. From a 1934-1935 recording of the Chorus and Orchestra of the Glyndebourne Festival, conducted by Fritz Busch.

I can only give my first impressions of this opera, since I just listened to it for the first time two days ago. I've had it in my collection for some time, but I have trouble making time for really long music compositions, such as opera. So, sometimes I put one on while I'm reading (I know that isn't fair to the composition, but . . . ), hoping something in it will arrest my attention.

That's just what happened with Le Nozze di Figaro. When the aria/duet "Sull'aria" came on, I stopped reading and listened attentively, playing it over and over again. What a beautiful melody, and how incredibly beautifully it was sung by two of the female leads, Audrey Mildmay and Aulikki Rautavaara. It was more than enough to make me listen to the whole opera over again, this time with full attention.

But hearing that little aria in this opera was an experience similar, I imagine, to the one experienced by Keats as described in his sonnet, On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer: "Then felt I like some watcher of the skies/ When a new planet swims into his ken/ Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes/ He star'd at the Pacific . . . " Because opera has not been a music form much listened to by me. The only other opera I've listened to more than once is Verdi's La Traviata. I had never listened to one of Mozart's operas before. But now this "new planet" has swum into my ken, and I expect much more of the wonderful beauty I'm finding in Le Nozze di Figaro, in Mozart's other operas.

There are a series of "Opera Explained" cd's put out by Naxos, including one on Le Nozze di Figaro, which I have, written by Thomson Smillie and narrated by David Timson. Smillie calls the Sull'aria "a duet to die for." He also mentions that it was the aria played by Tim Robbins over the loudspeakers in the exercise yard of the prison in The Shawshank Redemption. I only watched that movie once, quite a while ago, but I do have a vague memory of that scene. Little did I know I would rediscover that duet years later, in its full context.

I wonder if anyone has recommendations on what is the best available version on cd, and on DVD? My Naxos version is not the best sound quality, being from 1935, although the beauty of the music comes through undiminished. And I love the singing of Mildmay and Rautavaara.

I'll finish with remraks about Mozart by a couple of far more discerning music critics than myself:

"Every number in Figaro is a marvel. I simply can't understand how anyone could create anything so perfect. Such a thing has never been done before, not even by Beethoven." Johannes Brahms

"The Germans have always been at all times the greatest harmonists, and the Italians the greatest melodists. But the moment the North produced Mozart, we of the South were beaten on our own ground, because this man rises above all nations, uniting in himself the charm of Italian melody and all the profundity of German harmony. Mozart is the only musician who had as much knowledge as genius and as much genius as knowledge." Gioacchino Rossini.

#4 Stephen Speicher

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 03:06 PM

"Every number in Figaro is a marvel. I simply can't understand how anyone could create anything so perfect. Such a thing has never been done before, not even by Beethoven." Johannes Brahms

That is a fascinating and, to me, surprising quote. I would love to read the full context of Brahms' remark. Do you have a reference for the quote?
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#5 Kitty Hawk

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 03:13 PM

That is a fascinating and, to me, surprising quote. I would love to read the full context of Brahms' remark. Do you have a reference for the quote?


I got it from the lecture transcript of How to Listen to and Understand Opera, by Professor Robert Greenburg, one of the courses available from The Teaching Company.

Unfortunately, Greenburg does not give a reference for the Brahms quote, or the Rossini quote, so I cannot say where they were pulled from originally.

#6 GMartin

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Posted 29 September 2006 - 06:01 PM

That's just what happened with Le Nozze di Figaro. ........ It was more than enough to make me listen to the whole opera over again, this time with full attention.


My first experience with this opera was when I was in college and played the Overture with the school Wind Ensemble. I also rehearsed, conducted, and performed this piece when I was a high school band director. The overture is totally integrated work. The themes are presented and developed seamlessly. Everything fits and nothing could be added or taken away. It has a wonderful buildup and climax at the recap of the main theme that makes me want to sing and dance with glee! It also projects a wonderful, uplifting sense of life. The opera has this same kind of integration and sense of life.

I had the good fortune to hear Le Nozze di Figaro at the Munich Opera Festival many years ago and have heard it live several times since. I like listening to recordings of opera music, but much prefer live performances, especially a comic opera by Mozart or Rossini. The music, as great as it is, is only a part of the work of art.

An interesting biography on Mozart is: The Life of Mozart, Including His Correspondence, by Edward Holmes. It includes many letters by Mozart recounting how he composed, and his and the general public's reactions to his musical works.

A nice web site is The Mozart Forum.
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