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Subject: Re: Strauss Operas
From: Scott Flatto <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Scott Flatto <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 1 Dec 2008 15:43:11 -0500

text/plain (70 lines)

>  On Mon, Dec 1, 2008 at 2:13 PM, David Wagner <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> In case this helps:
>> 1. Strauss had two opera styles: grand (earlier), and chamber (later).
>> People usually like one but not both.
> I don't know if this is the scholarly interpretation or conventional wisdom
> or a generalization, but I disagree with this. The two (if there are two...)
> are not so easily separable. The difference may be in sheer numbers in the
> orchestra.....but that hardly means much. The entire last 1/3 of Act I of
> Rosenkavalier is a conversation between the Marschallin and Octavian, and
> the Marschallin's own musings about things. More chamber-like than some of
> the scenes from later operas.
> In addition, I think the scholars have just about laid to rest the notion
> that Strauss started off one way, and then did a 180 and started composing
> something completely different. They all build on each other.
> The amazing thing about Strauss is that he could take an orchestra the size
> of that used for Elektra and make it hum and purr and sing as if it were
> only filled with a Mozartean number of players. Or, even in the same opera:
> compare the end of her first monologue with the recognition scene.
> It's quite a revelation to have someone listen to Elektra's monologue and
> then listen to the Trio, or to an aria from Arabella. The same composer,
> they say? Amazing....well, that was my reaction too.
> Like I always tell people who may be new to opera (or I guess to anything
> really): It takes time. I fell asleep the first time I watched Elektra. Now
> it is my favorite Strauss, not to mention favorite opera period. I don't
> know when this grand period ends.....but I feel similarly about
> Rosenkavalier and Arabella and Frau. It takes more than one listening. More
> importantly, it takes "NOT" sitting down each time and believing you need to
> get through the whole thing. Listen to Elektra's monologue (about 10 mins.),
> then go away. Listen to the presentation of the rose, and then go away.
> Listen to salome confront John, then go away. Eventually it all comes
> together. No different from what people do to conquer Wagner's "Ring" cycle.
> In my mind, Frau is the most difficult of any of his operas. It can also
> be, some have said, the most rewarding. I'm still working on it. Not just
> because it's long, but because the story is fantastic-al and, well,
> difficult to understand to be honest.
> SF in Boston
> PS---I think it insulting to Strauss when we call Arabella a bad imitation
> of Rosenkavalier. Like any work (save Elektra), each has its ups and downs.
> There is surely more than enough in Arabella to help it stay afloat. Give
> her some credit, along with Octavian.

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