Der Rosenkavalier is a comic opera centering around an older woman and her dalliance with a younger man(cougarrr). The music of the opera, to me, reflects the freedom and “seize the day” attitude that Marschallin, one of the central characters, has in regards to her involvement with Octavian, the young man. The music in the opening scene, during which Marschallin and Octavian profess their love for each other, brought to mind the sweet, bubbly affection/attraction you feel at the beginning of a relationship. The airy accompaniment in the beginning reflects the not only the depth of the two characters’ affections, but also the dreamlike world of make-believe that they have created so that they may live and love each other freely. When the lovers are interrupted and must scramble to get Octavian out of the room, the orchestral accompaniment becomes more jumpy/irritated, illustrating the disturbed peace between M and O. Judging from the small clip that I watched, I think I would really enjoy this opera. The plot seems totally ripe for comedic situations, and despite the opera’s silly subject matter, its music has a brilliance and lightness that always leaves me wanting more.

Don Carlos, one of Verdi’s many beautiful and lush operas, is a Grand Opera in the truest sense (5 Acts? Dang.). It tells a story of war, conflict, and lost love. I think that the French libretto lends a classically Romantic element to the opera, French being my all-time favorite language because of its undulating, mellifluous patterns. The prelude to Act IV of Don Carlos is very foreboding, beginning almost aggressively with the repeated unison motif throughout the orchestra. The cello melody sounds a bit like crying, as if all hope has been lost and it can only get worse from that point onward. Act IV seems to me where all of the tangled webs of intimacy between the different characters begin to unravel. This part in the libretto makes total sense, the French have always been a romantic people, non? The opening scene features a beautiful yet bittersweet aria by the King, lamenting his won misfortune and wishing for the comfort of his tomb. I guess I should come to expect such subject matter from dramatic operas, but each tale of woe still manages to affect me and make me experience pity and sadness for the character(s) involved. That is what I have come to love about opera…when you’re not really listening, it can all sound the same, but once you immerse yourself in it, you can really connect to the composer/musicians/actors/singers.

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The first thought that popped into my head upon hearing La Cenerentola was, “Omg this is so Italian…” I felt it truly captured the spirit of Rossini’s classic Italian style of composition, especially in the little march-like section. Did it make me think of Cinderella, possibly my favorite Disney princess ever? Not really, but after listening more closely, the transformation of the simple opening melody into the majestic, beautiful fortissimo section does in a way reflect the story of Cinderella. I pictured her going about her daily chores, chattering with her animal friends and whatnot, namely in the little call and response between the strings and winds when the simple theme returns. I could hear her entrance into the court (making e’ry lady in there suuuuper jealous) as the sweet melody becomes the steady, regal march. The crescendo in the running sixteenths in the strings made me think of Cinderella’s swift escape from the totally handsome prince as the clock strikes midnight and she is brought to reality. Overall, I enjoyed the overture and how it told the fairytale in a way that made words unnecessary.

<– tooooo cute

The fisherman stood by the water, his rod wavering in the breeze…

Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet in A Major is admittedly not my favorite of Schubert’s compositions. I find it kind of cute, as most theme and variation movements are. The original theme is presented in a subdued, sophisticated style, and with each variation, the liveliness of the movement increases (which reminded me of a fish flapping in and out of the water as it is being caught). In the more energetic variations, however, I was distracted by the harshness of the first violinist’s playing in the recording I chose. This made me realize how much a performer’s style of playing can change a listener’s experience of a piece. Although I don’t particularly enjoy the piece, I appreciate Schubert’s inventiveness in composing for a piano quintet, which is not often done, and was especially rare in his time.

Beethoven had a knack for utilizing a chorus in new and interesting ways; his Ninth Symphony broke ground by including not only innovative orchestral concepts but also a full chorus in its last movement. In his Missa Solemnis, Beethoven took traditional sections of a Proper mass and enhanced them with Romantic elements, such as accompaniment by a full orchestra and extensive polyphony. The first hymn I listened to was the Gloria, and right away I was caught off guard by the glorious (pun) intro played by the orchestra. Right away I was reminded of the last movement  of the Ninth Symphony. I had been under the impression that simplicity was required of Liturgical music, and man did Beethoven prove me wrong! Instead of hearing traditional, restrained harmonic progressions in the choir, I heard bold, triumphant harmonies laced with counterpoint characteristic of polyphonic chant.

The Kyrie was a more subdued, solemn hymn, and reminded me of a second movement of a symphony. As I listened, I was still amazed how Beethoven elevated simple chants to such high levels of choral as well as orchestral grandeur.  The Missa began to sound more like an oratorio, because of the many operatic aspects of the work.

The Credo reminded me of a triumphant march of sorts, I think because of the steady, driving pulse provided by the accompanying strings. I felt like I was, again, listening to the last movement of the Ninth…perhaps I’m a little obsessed. This could also be due to the fact that I don’t consider myself very learned in choral music.

Overall, I enjoyed Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. While it’s definitely not my favorite of his works, I could sense the passion and fire characteristic of his music in the piece. It made me think of the last movement of his Fifth Symphony, when the gates of Heaven open up. Beethoven’s ability to take traditional hymns from the mass and turn them into such glorious, beautiful music still leaves me in awe. But then again, he is basically my favorite composer so maybe I’m being a little overly appreciative in my opinions…