Hello and welcome to the Wednesday edition of Opera Daily, the best opera community on the internet. If you’re reading this but haven’t subscribed yet, join over 4,200 smart, curious folks by subscribing here. You can also log in to the website to read the full archives.
If you missed the post on Thaïs and our interview with soprano, Nicole Chevalier (who is premiering the title role in Vienna this month), you could find it here.
When I started this newsletter my goal was to help you find your greatest hits.
No matter who I meet, when they hear that I am a trained opera singer, I inevitably get asked to send them the pieces of music I most love for them to listen to—my greatest hits. When I started this newsletter my goal was to help you find your greatest hits.
It was simple—I wanted to introduce you to new pieces that you loved so you could build your collection.
Over the last several months though, I had a major aha moment. After a conversation with a close friend, I realized that what I was really trying to share with all of you was how music, specifically opera, taught me how to listen. This next level of awareness caught me a bit off guard, to be honest. I said to myself, “What? I thought I was giving them some beautiful pieces to listen to!” After I thought about it though, I was inspired. And then two thoughts immediately came to mind why this was so relevant today.
In a world with so much going on—where we’re creating and accessing more content than ever before, our lives are filled with infinite scrolling, there is an opportunity just stop and listen.
If you spend time with a piece of art and give it some effort, it’s going to provide you with things that you could take into your own life without even realizing it.
For many (sometimes including me!) just listening, and not thinking is what is needed. This aha moment led me to something that American composer Aaron Copland wrote about in his book What to Listen for in Music:
There are three levels of listening to music: sensuous, expressive, and sheerly musical. The sensuous level is the most basic but pleasurable level of enjoyment. This level of listening requires the least amount of brain power; therefore we usually engage this level when we use music as background music—to fill the silence in the room.
The expressive level requires some concentration, for we can feel some emotion from the music. Copland stresses that we may not be able to specify what we feel, but we know it is there.
Then there is the third level, the sheerly musical level. Most people do not reach this level, which consists of “the notes themselves and their manipulation”.
Professional musicians are aware of this level, but so much so that they lose the ability to enjoy it on the sensuous level.
These levels are not used separately; instead all three levels of listening to music contribute to the musical experience.
He writes that we should be “not someone who is just listening, but someone who is listening for something”.
After I read Copland’s words, my aha moment suddenly made more sense.
As Opera Daily moves to the next level of listening, with Listening Club launching on Friday, I want to take the opportunity today to stay on the sensuous level. 🥰
Today we’re listening to the most loved pieces we’ve covered throughout our short journey together. As a reminder, you can find all 68 selections that we’ve shared since July in one easy-to-access playlist on YouTube.
I hope you will continue to share the pieces that move you, so others have the chance to feel the same.
Here’s to our greatest hits and so much more. 🥂
Shirley Verrett, Nicolai Gedda, “Nuit d'ivresse et d'extase infinie”, Les Troyens by Hector Berlioz
Cecilia Bartoli, “Agitata da due venti”, Griselda by Antonio Vivaldi
Maria Callas, “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana”, La Wally by Alfredo Catalani
Lawrence Brownlee, “Ah! mes mis, quel jour de fête!”, La Fille du Régiment by Gaetano Donizetti
Patrizia Ciofi, Véronique Gens, “The Letter Duet”, Le Nozze di Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Renée Fleming, “Glück, das mir verblieb”, Die tote Stadt by Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Juan Diego Flórez, “Cucurrucucú Paloma” by Tomás Méndez
Luciano Pavarotti, “Che gelida manina”, La bohème by Giacomo Puccini
Joan Sutherland, “Bel raggio lusingier,” Semiramide by Gioachino Rossini
Jussi Björling & Robert Merrill, “O fond du temple saint”, Les pêcheurs de perles by Georges Bizet
Thank you again for reading and listening,
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Beautiful feast of song and music