28 September 2015

La Bohème: BLO’s Version




Boston Lyric Opera’s version of La Bohèmerelocates the famous opera from mid-19th-century Paris to the Paris of May 1968. The geographical location remains the same: the Latin Quarter neighborhood, which preserves much of the original bohemian spirit with students, artists, and vagabonds of all sorts hanging out at cafés, making art, and debating matters of […]

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12 May 2015

Opera Blog: The Ethics of “Don Giovanni”




Don Giovanni premiered in 1787, eleven years after the start of the American Revolution and two years before the French Revolution. This was the twilight of the Enlightenment, an era that officially ended in the 1780s. Although many versions of Don Giovanni’s story were performed across Europe (in dramatic, operatic, and ballet forms), Mozart’s retelling […]

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7 May 2015

Opera Blog: “Don Giovanni” – The Law of the Father




One of the most compelling characters of Mozart’s Don Giovanni is the figure of the Commendatore, Donna Anna’s murdered father, who returns from the dead to avenge himself and his daughter. In the 18th century, Mozart’s portrayal of the Commendatore carried two important semiotic frameworks. First, as the father figure, the Commendatore symbolized patriarchal power […]

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4 May 2015

Opera Blog: BLO’s Version of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”




During preparations for the Prague premiere of Don Giovanni in October of 1787, Mozart was, as ever, heavily involved with all aspects of the production, from the music and the staging to writing the libretto. In fact, he continued writing and rewriting until the opening and even after. The second production, in Vienna, which opened […]

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29 April 2015

Opera Blog: “Don Giovanni” in Prague and Vienna




Although we don’t know the exact date of Mozart’s arrival in Prague for the production of Don Giovanni, we do know that he was actively involved in shaping the libretto and the staging. His first letter from Prague, dated August 24, 1787, suggests that he had already spent some time in the city, though scholars […]

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27 April 2015

Opera Blog: The Legend of Don Giovanni (or, Don Giovanni before “Don Giovanni”)




Abert, Hermann. Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” London: Eulenburg Books, 1976.The origins of the Don Giovanni legend reach back to the Middle Ages, but the character didn’t become fully fleshed out until the Renaissance, when it first appeared in the 1630 comedy, El Burlador de Sevilla y convidado de pietra, by the monk Tirso de Molina (although […]

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24 April 2015

Opera Blog: The Women of Don Giovanni




By the 18th century, educated women were beginning to question male freedoms and dominance of society, and starting to demand similar freedoms for themselves. Many men were also increasingly uneasy about their own social and economic privileges, especially the moral latitude shown toward male sexuality (as opposed to the constraints placed on female sexuality). The […]

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17 March 2015

Opera Blog: Conversation with Michael Beckerman about “Kátya Kabanová”




Magda Romanska, BLO Dramaturg and Associate Professor of Dramaturgy at Emerson College, talks to Prof. Michael Beckerman, a world-renowned musicologist, specializing in Czech and Eastern European music and the works of Janáček, Dvořák, and Martinu. Prof. Beckerman is a recipient of the Janáček Medal from the Czech Republic and a Laureate of the Czech Music […]

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3 March 2015

Opera Blog: “Kátya Kabanová” – The Drowned Woman and The Cult of L’Inconnue




A note before we begin… What is a death mask? A death mask is a wax or plaster cast made of a deceased person’s face. While certainly unusual today, death masks were a common and important method of commemorating the deaths of important figures throughout history. For instance, you can see the death mask of […]

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26 February 2015

Opera Blog: “Kátya Kabanová” and Aleksandr Ostrovsky’s “Groza”




Leoš Janáček’s Kátya Kabanová is based on an 1859 Russian play by Aleksandr Nikolayevich Ostrovsky, titled Groza (The Storm, also known as The Thunderstorm). Often considered a precursor of Anton Chekhov, Ostrovsky wrote 48 original plays and “almost single-handedly created a Russian national repertoire.”Considered Ostrovsky’s masterpiece and a classic of Russian theatre, The Storm depicts […]

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25 February 2015

Mieczysław Weinberg’s Opera “The Passenger”: On Memory and Forgetting




“The Passenger” at New York’s Lincoln Center © Stephanie Berger Polish classical musicians and opera singers have always enjoyed global renown, with singers such as Mariusz Kwiecień, Ewa Podleś, Piotr Beczała, Aleksandra Kurzak, and Andrzej Dobber regularly performing at the world’s top opera houses. Likewise, Polish opera directors have been successful abroad—most recently Mariusz Treliński […]

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20 February 2015

Opera Blog: “Kátya Kabanová” – Political and Cultural Context




The scholar of Central Europe, Larry Wolff (2006) classifies Kátya Kabanová as a modernist opera, arguing that its history “illuminates the development of operatic modernism on the terrain of the late Hapsburg Empire, which was reconceived as the transnational domain of Central Europe after the demise of the Empire at the end of World War […]

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18 February 2015

Opera Blog: “Kátya Kabanová” – Love, Death and Marriage




So often I imagine I’m a bird And can spread my wings and fly. I used to be so free and happy, But since I came here to live that’s all changed. —Kátya Kabanová Marital Woes Leoš Janáček’s 1921 opera, Kátya Kabanová, is foremost a study of marriage as a social institution and its effects […]

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13 February 2015

Opera Blog: Kátya Kabanová – The Woman Behind the Story




The character of Kátya Kabanová was modeled on Kamila Stösslová (1892–1935), whom Janáček met in 1917 at a spa. Married to an antique dealer, Kamila was very beautiful, a mother, and 38 years younger than Janáček. Most of Janáček’s major works were inspired and often dedicated to her. They include Zápisník zmizelého [The diary of […]

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25 November 2014

Opera Blog: A Conversation with Byron Adams about “The Love Potion”




Magda Romanska, BLO Dramaturg and Associate Professor of Dramaturgy at Emerson College, talks to Prof. Byron Adams about Frank Martin’s The Love Potion. Prof. Adams is a world-renowned musicologist, composer, and a leading expert on Frank Martin. Prof. Adams specializes in British music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His essays have appeared in journals […]

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20 November 2014

Opera Blog: “The Love Potion” – Love Death, or Liebestod




“Liebestod” is the title of the final dramatic musical piece from Richard Wagner’s 1859 opera, Tristan und Isolde, but the word itself also means the theme of “love death” prevalent in art, drama, and literature. Liebestod (from the German Liebe, meaning “love,” and Tod, meaning “death”) defines the lovers’ consummation of their love in death […]

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17 November 2014

Opera Blog: “The Love Potion” – Background Story




Written by Switzerland’s greatest composer, Frank Martin (1890–1974), in the late 1930s, Le Vin Herbé was initially conceived as a 30-minute piece in response to Robert Blum’s commission for his Züricher Madrigalchor. Wanting to distance himself from Wagner and his operatic version of the myth (and, thus, also from the Nazis, who glorified Wagner’s music), […]

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13 November 2014

Opera Blog: “The Love Potion” – BLO’s Version




One of the most prominent characteristics of The Love Potion is the opera’s structure: twelve singers tell the story, which is constantly flowing, while supported by haunting and almost hypnotic music. That type of dramatic structure closely follows the tradition of the Greek Chorus, in which the plot is driven by chorus members who assume […]

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10 November 2014

Opera Blog: “The Love Potion” – The Myth of Tristan and Iseult




The legend of Tristan and Iseult’s love is one of the founding and most enduring myths of Western culture. The exact origins of the legend are difficult to pinpoint, as the story appears in Celtic, Persian, Irish, French, German, British, and Welsh traditions. Over time, its appeal spread to Italy, the Iberian Peninsula, Scandinavia, and […]

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18 October 2014

Opera Blog: A Conversation with David Rosen about “La Traviata”




Magda Romanska, BLO Dramaturg and Associate Professor at Emerson College, talks to Prof. David Rosen about Verdi’s La Traviata. Prof. Rosen is a world-renowned musicologist, a leading expert on Verdi, and Professor Emeritus of Music at Cornell University. Prof. Rosen was responsible for the critical edition of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem (published in The Works […]

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10 October 2014

Opera Blog: “La Traviata” – Background Story




La Traviata, a melodrama in three acts, was set to a libretto by Verdi’s longtime collaborator Francesco Maria Piave and is based on Alexandre Dumas fils’ play, La Dame aux Camélias (The Lady of the Camellias). The play itself was adapted from Dumas’ novel of the same title, which was published in the summer of […]

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10 October 2014

Opera Blog: “La Traviata” – Beautiful Death




“The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.” —Edgar Allan Poe, “Philosophy of Composition,”  originally appeared in Graham’s Magazine, published in Philadelphia, in April 1846   The 19th-century affair with death is no great news to anyone even remotely familiar with its art or literature. It was a […]

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27 September 2014

Opera Blog: “La Traviata” – Love for Sale




In the first volume of his sprawling 19th-century novel, In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust chronicles the tale of Charles Swann, an upper-class member of French society, and his obsessive love for Odette de Crécy, a popular and attractive Parisian courtesan. Although Swann is able to buy Odette’s time and body, he is unable […]

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23 July 2014

Building the Future for Opera in a Digital World




During the last week of June, I chaired the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) conference, which took place in Boston and was hosted by Emerson College, my home institution. The annual gathering is a chance for dramaturgs across the U.S. and Canada to come together and exchange ideas about their craft and the […]

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12 May 2014

Opera Blog: “I Puritani”: Why we killed Arturo




In BLO’s version of I Puritani, a vengeful Riccardo kills Arturo during the last scene as the two happy lovers, Elvira and Arturo, finally reconnect after many trials and tribulations. Arturo dies in Elvira’s arms, and we can only anticipate that the final blow of his death will ultimately unravel her fragile and already strained […]

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2 May 2014

Opera Blog: A Conversation with Mary Ann Smart about “I puritani”




BLO Dramaturg, Magda Romanska talks to Mary Ann Smart, Professor of Music at the University of California, Berkeley about I Puritani. Professor Smart is the author of the book, Mimomania: Music and Gesture in Nineteenth-Century Opera, the editor of the critical edition of Donizetti’s last opera, Dom Sébastien, and of the articles on Bellini and […]

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30 April 2014

Opera Blog: The Romantic Trope of a Madwoman in “I puritani”




The portrayal of Elvira in I puritani follows the trope of the madwoman, which dominated the nineteenth-century European discourse on gender. Trapped in a man’s world, Victorian women often escaped into madness, which was viewed as the only permissible way for them to speak the truth and to solve the tensions and pressures of their […]

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25 April 2014

Opera Blog: “I puritani” Production History




Vincenzo Bellini (1801–1835) is known for three major operas: La Sonnambula (1831), Norma (1831), and I Puritani (The Puritans, 1835). I Puritani was Bellini’s last, and it was composed between 1834 and 1835 specifi cally for the Théâtre-Italien in Paris. During the time he was writing the opera, Bellini was close to Rossini, whose presence […]

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24 March 2014

Opera Blog: The History of the Court Jester and Verdi’s “Rigoletto”




The court jester is a universal character. He can be found in ancient Rome and in China, in Renaissance Europe and in czarist Russia, at the courts of the Middle East and in classical Sanskrit plays of ancient India. Although there were a few known female jesters, historical studies show that the majority of jesters […]

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17 March 2014

Opera Blog: A Conversation with David Rosen about “Rigoletto”




Magda Romanska, BLO Dramaturg and visiting associate professor at Harvard University, talks to Professor David Rosen about Verdi’s Rigoletto. Professor Rosen is a world-renowned musicologist, a leading expert on Verdi, and professor emeritus of Music at Cornell University. Professor Rosen was responsible for the critical edition of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem (published in The Works […]

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