Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Desert Island opera: baroque, classical, or romantic?

If you had to choose, which of these three great composer's operas would you take to a desert isle—Handel, Mozart, or Verdi? And why? To help in your deliberations, here are samples of works by all three, which are available on our website.
Handel's dramatic, fast-moving oratorio Saul is an opera in everything but name only. This meditative soprano/chorus passage displays a beautifully subtle use of trills.
At present, Die Zauberflöte is the most frequently performed opera in the world. Mozart's last opera, The Magic Flute has something for the highbrows, the lowbrows, and everyone in between, from charming arias and duets for the lovers Tamino and Tamina to rafter-shaking outpourings from the Queen of the Night. Yes, Diana Damrau's attire, makeup, and gestures are a drag queen's dream, but that's what you gotta do to put the role across to the back rows of the opera house! (Above: Librettist Emanuel Schikaneder in the role of the "bird man" Papageno and an 1816 costume design for the character.) Here's a sweet little interlude with the three boys from Ingmar Bergman's 1976 film version.
Finally, I present legendary diva Leontyne Price, in a scene from Verdi's Il Trovatore, sung live at the Met with Franco Corelli, and in "Tacea la notte placide" from the same opera. If that doesn't tug at your heartstrings, I don't know what will!

 So what's your verdict?


  1. Who was the soprano in the Handel? I liked that selection the best, perhaps because it is new to me. But to answer the question, after the Price/Corelli duet popped up a selection of Corelli singing Tosca, and as much as I respect Verdi, Puccini can move me to tears. Of course, on a desert isle, dehydration would be a threat, so crying at E lucevan la stelle is not recommended.
    Despite the limitations of my PC's speaker, I enjoyed this post very much. Thanks.

  2. Puccini will get you every time. Too bad he died before finishing Turandot and writing any more operas. I know what you mean about the pc speakers ... seems like wherever I take my laptop, I forget to take me earplugs.
    I don't know about the Handel—lovely eh? There were fewer youtube things to pick from for Saul. I forgot to mention that we have a boatload of opera CDs coming up ... I have to get busy now and blurb them all so we can get them up on the website!

  3. Much as I love all the composers listed, my desert island companion would be Mozart. For me he combines heart-rending humanity (as in the Countess forgiving the Count at the end of Le Nozze di Figaro) with heavenly transports (ditto Figaro and also the sublime Act I trio from Cosi fan Tutte). Plus he had fabulous source material by Beaumarchais and a terrific collaborator in Lorenzo Da Ponte. Thank you for posting these links!

    1. Mozart wins ... hands down apparently. Heavenly transports await. Thanks for your thoughts, so well expressed.

  4. Though it's a toss-up, I'd also have to go with Mozart. Such a range of emotions, all of which would be necessary if I were literally stranded on an island:)

  5. Definitely Mozart!! Why? Because Mozart = Legend!

  6. That Handel excerpt is fine, but Mozart wins, no matter whether it's operas or any other kind of classical music. And yes, how interesting to think that I first heard The Magic Flute in Swedish, while reviewing the Bergman movie way back when. (Act II gets a bit overly Masonic, but Act I is sublime.)

  7. Shh! You know what's really good for a desert isle? Not these ladies in wigs and guys in funny tights, but BRAZILIAN music! Ah, o mar! as praias! The lovely cariocas with their swaying walk! This is the rhythm for a desert isle! Nothing against opera, of course.
    Shh! Just between us.