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Subject:

Re: 100 Best

From:

Brian Newhouse <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Brian Newhouse <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 18 Aug 1998 01:06:35 -0400

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A party game emboldened Ray in SF to ask us:

>Just to get into the centenary mood, does anyone have a list of the 100 "Best"
>20th century operas?
>
[snip with apologies]

I thought this would be easy. But once I sat down and began making out a
list, I realized to my horror that I had heard just sixty-one--and at least
two I count as operas only because the composer called them operas--that I
would in all good artistic conscience put on such a list.

Caveats:

--To avoid the usual argument, I left off anything that could be called a
musical. Even, with regrets, *Sweeney Todd*. (That would have been good
for at least thirty more.)
--Dates given are dates of composition, when known. Alas, *Pelleas et
Melisande* was actually composed between 1893 and 1895, so it really
doesn't count.
--There are a number of recent works that look intriguing but which I
haven't yet had a chance to hear--The rising of the moon (Maw, 1970) ;
Transformations (Susa, ca. 1971) ; The voyage of Edgar Allen Poe
(Argento, 1976) ; Neither (Feldman, ca. 1980) ; St. Francois d'Assise
(Messiaen, ca. 1981) ; Yan tan tethera (Birtwistle, ca. 1985) ; A night at
the Chinese opera (Weir, ca. 1986) ; The vanishing bridegroom (Weir, ca.
1988) ; The second Mrs. Kong (Birtwistle, ca. 1993) ; Powder her face
(Ades, 1996 ; though I will get a chance this winter at BAM) ; Orphee
(Glass, ?) ; The intelligence park ; The triumph of beauty and deceit
(both Gerald Barry, ?) ; Vincent (Rautavaara, ?) ; Siddhartha (Norgard,
?). And I'm still waiting for recordings of Le jongleur de Notre Dame
(Massenet, 1902), Die Burgschaeft (Weill, 1932), Volo di notte
(Dallapiccola, 1937?), an unabridged Julietta (Martinu, 1937), and an
unabridged The golden apple (Moross, 1950?). A few years back, I've had
said the same about the Wolf-Ferrari/Goldoni comedies (e.g. *I quattro
rusteghi*, *Il campiello*) and Hindemith's *Neues vom Tage*, but now that
recordings have finally appeared, I've just gotta catch up with them.

1900 Tosca (Puccini)
1904 Jenufa (Janacek) ; Madama Butterfly (Puccini)
1905 Salome (Strauss)
1907 Ariane et Barbe-Bleue (Dukas) ; The legend of the invisible city of
Kitezh and the maiden Fevronia (Rimsky-Korsakov)
1909 Elektra (Strauss) ; Erwartung (Schoenberg)
1910 La fanciulla del West (Puccini)
1911 Bluebeard's castle (Bartok) ; L'heure espagnole (Ravel) ; Der
Rosenkavalier (Strauss)
1912 Ariadne auf Naxos (Strauss)
1917 La rondine (Puccini)
1918 Il trittico [Il tabarro ; Suor Angelica ; Gianni Schicchi] (Puccini)
1921 Katya Kabanova (Janacek) ; The love for three oranges (Prokofiev)
1922 Wozzeck (Berg)
1923 El retablo de Maese Pedro (Falla)
1924 The adventures of Vixen Sharpears [aka The cunning little vixen]
(Janacek) ; Dr. Faust (Busoni)
1925 L'enfant et les sortileges (Ravel)
1926 The Makropoulos case (Janacek)
1927 Oedipus rex (Stravinsky) ; Der Zar laesst sich photographieren (Weill)
1928 From the house of the dead (Janacek)
1930 Aufsteig und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Weill)
1932 Moses und Aron (Schoenberg)
1934 Four saints in three acts (Thomsom) ; Lady Macbeth of Mtensk
(Shostakovich) ; Mathis der Maler (Hindemith)
1935 Lulu (Berg) ; Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
1945 Peter Grimes (Britten)
1947 Albert Herring (Britten) ; Les mamelles de Tiresias (Poulenc) ; The
mother of us all (Thomson) ; Street scene (Weill)
1949 Regina (Blitzstein)
1950 Il prigioniero (Dallapiccola)
1951 Billy Budd (Britten) ; The rake's progress (Stravinsky) ; Trouble
in Tahiti (Bernstein)
1954 The turn of the screw (Britten)
1955 The midsummer marriage (Tippett) ; Susannah (Floyd)
1956 The ballad of Baby Doe (Moore)
1957 Dialogues des Carmelites (Poulenc)
1960 A midsummer night's dream (Britten) ; Die Soldaten (Zimmermann)
1964 Curlew River (Britten)
1968 Elephant steps (Silverman)
1969 The knot garden (Tippett)
1973 Death in Venice (Britten)
1975 Einstein on the beach (Glass)
1977 Le grand macabre (Ligeti)
1987 Nixon in China (Adams) ; Valis (Machover) (date uncertain)
1993 The cave (Reich)


Brian Newhouse
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