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Subject: The never ending strangulation of opera by modernism
From: James Camner <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:James Camner <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 28 Oct 2017 11:02:41 -0700
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I read in the New York Times that "If you see One Opera This Year, Make it
'The Exterminating Angel". This from Anthony Tommasini.  He goes on to rave
about it and in the course of the review describes the score as "Modernist".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernism

I wonder if Tommasini realizes just how retrograde that description is?
Wikipedia explains that modernism is a movement dating from the late 19th
and early 20th Centuries. Would anyone question the statement that the
towering opera masterpieces of modernism were written in the early years of
the 20th Century?

https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/content/modernism-and-opera

Imagine if a Broadway musical were to come along that was like the musicals
written in the same period aping the styles of Herbert, Friml, Romberg,
Cohan, and early Kern? How would that go over?  What if artists had kept
painting in the Cubist style over the last 100 years, year in and year out?

So why do the composers toiling in the classical field feel compelled to
write over and over and over in a style that is really so old  fashioned?
Why does opera stay caught in this "Groundhog Day" of waking up every day
to the same type of "new" composition?

 I don't understand it. Of course outside of the opera and classical world
its apparent that music has moved on in that same period to forms that have
given way to current popular music. Today we are not following Tommasini's
advice, we are instead going to see Hamilton in Los Angeles. It will be our
second encounter with the Rap musical that has conquered the world.

So now we have "Exterminating Angel" I wonder, Is there a special
"Modernist" landfill where these works end up? How high this mountain of
refuse of would be masterpieces must be! It seems like only yesterday that
"Written on Skin" was the work that was finally going to put classical
opera back on top if one believed the hype. Ironically it hit New York City
about the same time as Hamilton.

Good old Modernist scores, it's comforting that some things never change.


James Camner

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