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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Older is not necessarily better

Chez Robinson, exchanging presents at this time of year has again been ditched in favour of an eye-watering sum shared and spent on DVD operas. But it's clear this practice will not stretch much further. The "wanteds" were acquired long ago, now we're into slightly more speculative choices and one fell rather heavily at the first fence last night.

The 2012 starters were: Orfeo (Monteverdi), Peter Grimes (Britten), Lulu (Berg), The Rake's Progress (Stravinsky), The Flying Dutchmen (Wagner), The Dream of Gerontius (Not an opera, of course; Elgar). Plus, left over from 2011: Salomé (Strauss, R).

We'd have saved money buying online but we like to support Outback our local CD/DVD store and this led to a little foolishness on my part. In phoning in my list I provided the names of the works only. "I'm not going to patronise you by adding the names of the composers," I said. Which is why we ended up with Monteverdi's Orfeo (1607) rather than the more famous Gluck's (1762).

Wow, what a difference 155 years makes. Monteverdi's Orfeo dates back almost to the dawn of operatic time, has hardly no action, is based on limited-dynamics accompaniment, and demands lengthy prodigies from the tenor who sings Orfeo. Old Claudio does his best to make memorable arias but the melodic limitations inevitably result in some samey-ness.

Which is a shame, as VR pointed out. Because in a later opera, The Coronation Of Poppea, Monteverdi ends it with one of the simplest and most memorable love duets of all time. Which I'm ashamed to say I did not know. It's called Pur ti miro and I've just played it a thousand times. If you don't know it please click, I beg of you


  1. I did not know it but enjoyed it to the last note. Actually, I thought I was listening to a countertenor - sorry. Her voice reminded me of one I know who sings like an angel and with his long curly hair looks like one also.

  2. Very soft and romantic! Thank you for the link. This year, I was lucky to snag a CD set of a 1964 performance of Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel (I listen to this opera every Christmas Eve). I'm eager to hear Seefried and Rothenberger sing the duets.
    Happy Christmas to you and VR!!

  3. Ellena: You were listening to a counter-tenor (and a soprano) - one of the best, David Daniels. I trust it brought a scintilla of comfort to you in your snow-girt fastness.

    RW (sZ): A Happy Winterfest (a word specially devised so as not to get up the noses of non-Christians at this time of the years)

  4. Happy Winterfest to you too! We're traveling but when I'm back on Czech land I'll dig up my favorite bits of Monteverdi's Orfeo. I remember really enjoying it years ago.

  5. WB: A new commenteer? I asked myself. Or was it a question which simply lacked a question mark? This is what comes of approaching the blog via the LiveMail inbox, a two-stage process which adds to the sense of anticipation. I've probably been a bit hard on old Claudio; the singing is OK. But everything else was so static. In recent years directors have managed to animate elderly operas (I'm thinking in particular of Theodora and Julius Caesar) so that there is something to watch. Less so, here. Lulu will be different. Veselé Vánoce to all of you (it's less intrusive in Czecho).

  6. Oh, that is indeed very beautiful, thank you! I did not know it.

  7. Thanks RR. I enjoyed its purity, but whilst there at Youtube I also listened to this version:


    which I actually preferred, enjoying the plucked strings backing. (But then, I am also a fan of guitar music)

  8. Oops! Just realized I commented while logged in as Will. That was me back there with the Monteverdi comment.