A Year of Opera

Looking back on my 2019 New Year’s Resolution.

I did a post on December 30th, 2018 about how I planned on expanding my musical horizons to include opera. This was my New Year’s resolution for 2019. It’s been a year and I wanted to do a follow-up post on how I stuck to my resolution and what I learned.

Here is the list of operas I listened to by month.

  • January 2019 – La Boheme – Giacomo Puccini
  • February 2019 – Madame Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini
  • March 2019 – Don Giovanni – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • April 2019 – Aida – Giuseppe Verdi
  • May 2019 – The Marriage of Figaro – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • June 2019 – Acis and Galatea – George Frideric Handel
  • July 2019 – Bluebeard’s Castle – Bela Bartok
  • August 2019 – Orlando Paladino – Franz Joseph Haydn
  • September 2019 – The Bartered Bride – Bedřich Smetana
  • October 2019 – Orfeo ed Euridice – Christoph Willibald Gluck
  • November 2019 – Dido and Aeneas – Henry Purcell and Herodiade – Jules Massenet
  • December 2019 – Wozzeck – Alban Berg

In my post from last year, I mentioned how I wanted to do a resolution for the New Year that was adding something to my life instead of trying to give something up or take something away. This 2019 resolution was probably the best and most enjoyable resolution I have ever done.

Opera has now become part of my regular listening routine. I know I have barely scratched the surface of this genre. I could probably spend a year just listening to Verdi’s operas, and I plan on listening to more since I only got to one in 2019. I never attended a performance in 2019, so this is also something that is still on my to do list for the new year.

Highlights

Looking over the list posted above, there are two main highlights that stand out for me. The first is discovering the works of Massenet. This is a composer that I had heard of occasionally, but was really unfamiliar with any of his works. I was surprised at what a prolific composer he was in the genre of opera. He composed more than thirty operas in his lifetime. The second highlight for me was with the operas by Bartok and Berg. The language (Bartok) and lack of tonality (Berg) were the main challenges with these two operas. Thankfully, the linear notes provided the essential history, story, and translations that made this two operas very approachable and enjoyable.

What’s Next?

Spending a year listening to opera has also piqued my interest in a variety of other vocal genres. My plan for 2020 is exploring some of these genres such as requiems, masses, motets, oratorios and lieder by composers like Schubert and Schumann. I haven’t given much thought to my 2020 resolution, but continuing to explore a variety of vocal music will do for now.

La Boheme – January 23, 2020

As an addendum to this earlier post, I wanted to include my attendance at the opera, La Boheme. This was the first opera I listened to back in January of 2019 and coincidentally was the first one I have attended since I started this resolution.

When I first listened to this opera, it was through a streaming service and I did not have the libretto or the translation. I researched the story online and was only familiar with two of the arias in this work – Che gelida manina and Mimì’s Sì, mi chiamano Mimì. I enjoyed listening to the opera this way, but a live performance brought such a greater appreciation of this work. Having the running translations above the stage gave me a much better understanding of the characters ad the story. The props, the costumes and the scenery also added to the story. It was a wonderful evening and I hope to make this more of a routine in the future.

2020 Opera Listening List

  • January 2020 – La Boheme (Live Performance) – Puccini
  • February 2020
    • L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love) – Donizetti
    • La Vida Breve – Manuel de Falla
    • Macbeth – Verdi

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