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Back to term, part two

I too went back to the same learning centre as Alice for an opera course. Of all the musical arts I came to opera the latest. I was put off by its rich corporate image – an opera bore is the worst bore of all – and there seemed little ground between those that are passionate and those that cannot bear it.

Most of all it is extremely expensive.

Moving down to Sussex I became an associate member of Glyndebourne and go there four times a year.

I acquired Kobbe’s Opera Book to prep up on the opera I was attending.

To improve that knowledge better I enrolled on a course on 19th century opera the first of which was last Wednesday morning. It was soon apparent that there was group of regular attendees.

One man dressed dapperly in a two-tone shirt, regimental striped tie blazer and flannels seemed to be Head Boy. His face reminded me of someone, then I remembered who: the Reverend Ian Paisley with his thick silvery hair and florid face.

He acknowledged us with “I see we have newcomers …” – I resolved to keep my head down and follow teacher, a well-informed but slightly precious man such as you often find in that world.

We were studying Carl Maria Von Weber, an important figure in opera as he broke the linguistic mould of Italian being the language of opera and took German opera from the rough and ready Singspiel to the more conventional classic form.

There was still a lot of recitative in German, a harsh language and in one scene of confrontation in Freischutz it sounded like a Gestapo raid.

My conclusion on Weber was that, whilst he might be an important figure and very much the precursor of Richard Wagner, there is a reason his operas are not that often played: they are not that good.

The teacher said he suffered from poor librettists. During the musical interlude the Head Boy closed his eyes and held his eyes back as if transported to another world. The teacher followed with the musical score. He became quite technical in explain why the horns in the hunting scene were in the chord of C major but lost me.

I found the lesson valuable.

Over the next four weeks we are considering the works of that well-known but horrible man Richard Wagner.

About Michael Stuart

After university, Michael spent twelve years working for MELODY MAKER before going freelance. He claims to keep doing it because it is all he knows. More Posts