Category: Opera

  • The Valkyries

    The stirring “Ride of the Valykyries” opens Act III of Wagner’s opera Die Walküre. Eight of the nine Valkyries, the warrior daughters of Wotan, ride their horses onto the battlefield to gather up the dead heroes and take them to Valhalla, the home of the gods. They await their sister Brünnhilde, who arrives with Sieglinde […]

  • We Shall Overcome

    The Library of Congress describes the famous Civil Rights Movement song, “We Shall Overcome”: It was the most powerful song of the 20th century. It started out in church pews and picket lines, inspired one of the greatest freedom movements in U.S. history, and went on to topple governments and bring about reform all over […]

  • Butterfly Resources, part III: Critical Responses

    The Japanese Fan (Gustave de Jonghe, 1880s). Read “Madama Butterfly: A Study in Ambiguity” by Jordan Serchuk. Read “The Heartless GIs Who Inspired Madame Butterfly“ by Rupert Christiansen. Read “Washington National Opera’s Madama Butterfly, Reviewed,” by Mike Paarlberg. Read “Past vs. Present: Puccini’s Madame Butterfly vs. Weezer’s Pinkerton” by Maxime Scraire. Weezer’s “Across the Sea”: Read “What About Yellowface?” […]

  • Butterfly Resources, part II

    The opera in a nutshell. Maestro Antonio Pappano and the cast of the Royal Opera production discuss the rehearsal process. English National Opera presented Butterfly two years ago with a puppet as Trouble, Butterfly’s son. Do you think it works? A short animated film to Butterfly’s Act II aria “Un bel dì vedremo.” Glyndebourne Opera updated the […]

  • Butterfly Resources, part I

    Read the complete libretto in English translation here. Orientalism: “La Japonaise (Mme. Monet in Kimono” (Claude Monet, 1875). Photo from Operation Babylift, Saigon, 1975: a U.S. Naval officer about to take a Vietnamese orphan, one of thousands, onboard a plane to be adopted in America. For more on Operation Babylift, go here: A French […]

  • Ossian in Italy

    How did the poetry of Ossian (really, James MacPherson) influence Italian opera in the nineteenth century? Why was Ossian — later acknowledged to be a fraud — so important to the Romantic generation in Italy? Could it be because these supposedly ancient poems spoke to the longing for a unified culture and community, one based […]

  • Classically Black, part IV: Postmodernism

    When we talk about postmodernism in music, we’re generally referring to the period after World War II. Some of the hallmarks of postmodernism are an experimental approach to form, structure, and instrumental/vocal techniques, a distrust of historically-informed musical styles, and an aesthetic that borrows from and refers to popular music styles. Postmodernist music has taken […]

  • Black Opera

    Harry Lawrence Freeman (1869-1954). Harry Lawrence Freeman, known in his lifetime as “the black Wagner,” was the first African-American opera composer to have a staged work successfully produced. Born in Cleveland, Freeman eventually moved to Harlem, where he taught music and established the Negro Grand Opera Company. His opera 1914 Voodoo is about a love triangle […]

  • Sounding “White”

    Throughout 2018, the New York Times has been running a series of stories called “Overlooked,” which are the obituaries of notable women from the past who the paper declined to acknowledge at the time of their deaths. In August, the Times published an overdue obituary for Sissieretta Jones, the first black opera singer to appear at Carnegie […]

  • Can A White Girl Sing Selena?

    April 16 is a state holiday in Texas: Selena Day. Who was Selena? Selena was, is, and, were I to guess, will remain for eternity the most beloved female of all time in the Latino community. (Second place is the Virgin Mary, if you’re looking for context.) . . . She looked like (a more attractive […]