Welcome to the Wednesday edition of Opera Daily, the best opera community on the internet. If you missed the interview with mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson from Sunday, please find it here. Her Werther recommendations were incredible and her controversial opinions about opera were thought-provoking.
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We will extend the holiday season a bit longer and cover the operetta, Die Fledermaus (“The Bat”), which premiered in Vienna in 1874. Between 1896 and 1921, it was performed nearly 12,000 times—more than any other operetta at the time. If you are familiar with the cartoon Tom and Jerry, this short features Die Fledermaus's overture. Even if you haven’t heard it before, you’ll probably want to dance the waltz after listening to it. Listen to the full overture here.
What is the opera all about?
On New Year’s Eve, Eisenstein is being forced to go to jail for punching a police officer, however he decides to dodge jail for one night so that he can go to Prince Orlofsky’s (mezzo-soprano) lavish party. Eisenstein wants to go with his friend Falke, so he tells his wife, Rosalinde, that he is heading off to jail. Meanwhile, Rosalinde (soprano) knows that Eisenstein is lying and follows him, in disguise as a Hungarian countess to the ball. Adele, their maid, also makes an excuse to be released from work that night so that she can also go to the ball, disguised as a Russian actress named, Olga. After many mistaken identities, Eisenstein attempts to seduce his wife without knowing. This one has a happy ending for all!
Today we’re listening to soprano Renée Fleming sing “Klänge der Heimat” (also know as “Csárdás”), one of Rosalinda’s arias from Act II of the German operetta Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II.
What is going on for Rosalinda during this aria?
She has come into the party disguised as a Hungarian countess. To convince everyone, she sings a Hungarian Czárdás (a traditional Hungarian dancing-song).
You awaken my longing, call forth tears to my eyes!
When I hear you, songs of home, you draw me back,
My Hungary, to you! O homeland, so wonderful,
Oh land, where I was so happy!
🎧 Listen here (5 minute listen):
Johann Strauss II wrote more than 400 waltzes, polkas, and other dance tunes, as well as several operettas and a ballet. In his lifetime, he was known as “The Waltz King”. Some of Johann Strauss II's most famous works include The Blue Danube, Kaiser-Walzer, Tales from the Vienna Woods, and the Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka. Among his operettas, Die Fledermaus and The Gypsy Baron are the best known.
What is the difference between an opera and an operetta? Operetta is described as a genre of light opera in terms of both music and subject matter. Most operettas lean toward romance, comedy, and satire. By contrast, most operas – except for comic ones – are usually more dramatic. Another rule of thumb is that in almost all operas, everything is sung through – if you want to say something, you’ll have to do it in song. In operetta there is both speaking and singing, like in musical theatre.
“The dividing line between opera and operetta isn’t hard and fast, but keeping that in mind it is still possible to make some distinction. It’s easier to say what operetta is than what opera isn’t. Operettas contain spoken dialogue and often dancing; however, they differ from musical theatre in that the singing remains prominent, whereas in musicals, the dialogue comes to the forefront. Operettas tend to be shorter and less complex than traditional operas and are often (but not always) sung in English.”
If you’d rather make music than listen to it — check out Google’s Blob Opera. No music skills required! It’s a machine learning experiment by David Li in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture where four really cute blobs (a soprano, a mezzo, a tenor and a bass) can be stretched and pulled in various directions to make music together.
Thank you again for listening,