Remaking the Song: Operatic Visions and Revisions from Handel to Berio

Remaking the Song: Operatic Visions and Revisions from Handel to Berio

Remaking the Song: Operatic Visions and Revisions from Handel to Berio

Remaking the Song: Operatic Visions and Revisions from Handel to Berio

Synopsis

Opera performances are often radically inventive. Composers' revisions, singers' improvisations, and stage directors' re-imaginings continually challenge our visions of canonical works. But do they go far enough? This elegantly written, beautifully concise book, spanning almost the entire history of opera, reexamines attitudes toward some of our best-loved musical works. It looks at opera's history of multiple visions and revisions and asks a simple question: what exactly is opera? Remaking the Song, rich in imaginative answers, considers works by Handel, Mozart, Donizetti, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, and Berio in order to challenge what many regard as sacroscant: the opera's musical text. Scholarly tradition favors the idea of great operatic texts permanently inscribed in the canon. Roger Parker, considering examples ranging from Cecilia Bartoli's much-criticized insistence on using Mozart's alternative arias in the Marriage of Figaro to Luciano Berio's new ending to Puccini's unfinished Turandot, argues that opera is an inherently mutable form, and that all of us--performers, listeners, scholars--should celebrate operatic revisions as a way of opening works to contemporary needs and new pleasures.

Excerpt

Those who wish to abolish death (whether by physical or meta
physical means)—at what stage of life do they want it to be
halted? At the age of twenty? At thirty-five, in our prime? To be
thirty-five for two years sounds attractive enough, certainly. But
for three years? A little dull, surely. For five years—ridiculous.
For ten—tragic.

The film is so absorbing that we want this bit to go on and
on …

You mean, you want the projector stopped, to watch a single
motionless frame? No, no, no, but … Perhaps you’d like the
whole sequence made up as an endless band, and projected
indefinitely? Not that, either.

The sea and the stars and the wastes of the desert go on for
ever, and will not die. But the sea and the stars and the wastes of
the desert are dead already.

—Michael Frayn, Constructions

I will start with a personal confession: one that readers will be pleased to know is among very few in this book. There have been times recently, in our new century, my life much more than half over, when I have found myself bored by La bohème; when I have merely sighed at the prospect of another Aida; when, shame of shames, I have been less than eager for the latest Figaro. These works, together with the hundred or so other stalwarts we call the operatic repertory, have sustained both saints and sinners through a century and more of operatic history, a century and more . . .

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