Fantasy opera season

I’m back on the lists. Call it a compulsion. There will be more before the month is out…

This comes from Iron Tongue of Midnight via Boulezian and Entartete Musik, and the idea is simple: disregarding expense and all of the other inconveniences that the director of any opera house presumably encounters, put together a fantasy opera season. Let’s say a (very) generous fifteen operas, only one allowed per composer.

My own list, as you will see, makes gestures towards music theatre, without, I think, straying too far into musical territory, which is probably off limits. And I have included some operas I know only a little, if at all. That’s a necessity, given my lack of knowledge. For greater aficionados than I, this is a chance to stage the obscure operas they long to see. By and large, my list occupies the mainstream. I would be interested to see yours.

  • Purcell The Fairy-Queen
  • Rameau Castor et Pollux
  • Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro
  • Weber Der Freischütz
  • Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
  • Borodin Knyaz’ Igor’ (Prince Igor)
  • Stravinsky Oedipus Rex and Le Rossignol (double bill)
  • Janáček Z Mrtvého Domu (From the House of the Dead)
  • Weill Lady in the Dark
  • Strauss Capriccio
  • Britten Billy Budd
  • Barber Vanessa
  • Henze Elegie für junge Liebende
  • Sondheim Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • Messiaen Saint François d’Assise
  • Some major omissions, I know. No Italian opera at all, apart from Figaro. And I feel a little bit ashamed to have no Handel or Berg. But of course I have to leave a few things in store for next season. A revival of Robin Holloway’s Clarissa will be near the top of the list. And HK Gruber’s Gomorra, which I have not quite given up hope of hearing in full one day.

    Given that this is a fantasy, why not include unwritten operas? Britten’s plans for an opera of King Lear never came to fruition. Which opera would you commission, and from whom? I’d like to see an opera of Rattigan’s Browning Version, but I haven’t yet pinpointed a composer who might be able to do it justice.

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    4 Responses to “Fantasy opera season”

    1. crosseyedpianist Says:

      These lists should be banned! But interesting nonetheless as they do highlight others’ tastes….. Glad you included the Britten – I’ve long been a fan of his music, partly because of a connection with Suffolk (my father’s homeland) and Aldeburgh (freezing cold holidays by the sea!).

      Just caught some of Top Gear (groan!!! – my son is addicted to it) and it struck me this could be material ripe for a comic opera. It must of course include rampant xenophobia, ridiculous male-posturing, and OTT cars….. Who would play Clarkson??? And who might write it????

    2. Gareth Says:

      At least this isn’t a list of the best anything, just a way of giving an outlet to my hitherto latent desire to run an opera house.

      It’s tempting to see Top Gear as an Aida-style grand opera, and one longs to see what Verdi would have made of it, but I think Tom Adès is the obvious living candidate to write such a thing (the fellatio scene in Powder Her Face demonstrates his admirable lack of inhibition – ideal for this project). If you want a book full of obscenity and innuendo, Stephen Fry’s done a bit of libretto-writing recently. John Tomlinson as Clarkson, Thomas Allen as May, and I think Hammond must be a countertenor, perhaps corrupted by the others (Iestyn Davies is very good). The Stig has to be a mute role, much in the manner of Tadzio in Britten’s Death in Venice. Lots of balletic thrusting etc. Wayne Sleep’s been quiet recently.

    3. argumentativeoldgit Says:

      I think I’d include Strauss’ Salome, if only for the nudity.

    4. Gareth Says:

      There will be gratuitous nudity in all these productions anyway.

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