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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

text/plain (88 lines)

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.


--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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