Archives for posts with tag: ETO

There are so many issues to address when planning to present opera seria. The first of these is whether or not to cut. If you don’t cut, the performance is likely to last three hours plus however long you allow for intervals. If you don’t cut, there has to be an early evening start (no later than 7pm) or your audience will struggle to get home in areas not well served by public transport and/or those in which most local residents are tucked up in bed by 10.30pm. English Touring Opera performs on tour throughout England and has to be kind to its audience. The trouble is that if you cut so much recitative and focus instead on the “extraordinary psychological landscape” provided by the arias as James Conway chose to do, you do indeed (as he suggested) risk presenting a series of soliloquies, or a glorified song-cycle with all of the real drama knocked out of the opera.

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Poor Papa Haydn does get a bad press for his operas. Much like Beethoven, it seems that you’re allowed to be a master at symphonies, sonatas and quartets but God help you if you then decide that you’ll turn your hand to that most august of mediums, opera. The pedestrian platitudes that get passed about Haydn usually revolve around him not being Mozart or not delving too deeply into the human psyche. I can think of worse crimes, to be honest. If one criticism/defence does have weight behind it then it is that Haydn wasn’t working with top-notch librettists, but comparison of Haydn’s operas with his non-Mozartian contemporaries reveal him to be a perfectly enjoyable writer of often light but well written work which shows the expert touch of a symphonist in constructing long stretches of continuous music, especially in act finales. Admittedly, there might be a bit of forgettable padding involved along the way, however Haydn wasn’t writing for us but for the family he worked for and he had a job to get on with.

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