Gershwin

A Beginner’s Guide to Opera

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge into the beauty, power, and virtuosity of opera. But where do you start? With so many stunning operas from all of the powerhouse composers, finding an entry point may seem overwhelming. But have no fear – Bruce Scott, the producer of World of Opera, is here to be your guide. He has a few suggestions to help you begin your operatic journey.

La Boheme

The tragic ending of La Boheme may be a bit intense. Yet along the way, Puccini gives us some of opera’s most graceful and appealing music — and the tender yet passionate romance that drives the story might just make this the greatest “date opera” ever composed.

Watch: “They call me Mimi”
In Act One, Mimi responds to Rodolfo’s curiosity by introducing herself, in the aria “Mi chiamano Mimi” (“They call me Mimi”). Here, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sings in a Victoria State Opera production conducted by John Hopkins.

Porgy and Bess

Some still think of Porgy and Bess as a musical, and it does boast enough great songs for several Broadway hits. But Gershwin’s masterpiece is pure opera, through and through, with a vivid cast of fully-fleshed characters, and a powerful story of human strength, persistence and unflagging devotion.

The Magic Flute

The story of Mozart’s glittering Magic Flute can get a touch confusing, with good and evil tightly intertwined. Still, with music that’s often — and justly — called sublime, and an exotic yet endearing array of characters and settings, this is truly an opera fit for kids of all ages.

Listen: ‘Hell’s Revenge’
Swedish Radio Symhony Orchestra and Chorus – Daniel Harding, conductor
Mozart gave the Queen of the Night one of the most treacherous arias in all of opera: “Der Hölle Rache.” It’s heard in Act Two, as the Queen asks her daughter Pamina to murder Sarastro, and includes four, famously stratsopheric, high F-naturals. Here, Natalie Dessay performs in a 2001 Paris production.

La Traviata

In La Traviata, Giuseppe Verdi loosed the full range of his formidable genius. The opera’s taught drama and complex passions are graced by moving portrayals of profound love and painful sacrifice. As for the music, if you don’t leave this opera whistling an unforgettable tune, it’s only because there are too many to choose from.

Watch: “Sempre libera”
Violetta winds up the first act with “Sempre libera” (“Always Free”), a stunning aria reveling in the freedom of her carefree lifestyle — and she sticks with that sentiment even as Alfredo is serenading her. Here, Anna Netrebko performs at the Salzburg Festival.

WDAV Says Goodbye to Beloved Colleague and Friend Ruskin Cooper.

On Wednesday, July 18, Davidson lost a kindhearted and talented member of its community. Ruskin Cooper, Artist Associate for piano at Davidson College, passed away peacefully among his family after losing consciousness due to cardiac arrest.

To honor our friend, WDAV will be playing two of Ruskin’s own recordings in tribute:

Graceful Ghost Rag, by William Bolcom on Friday 7/20/12  at 4:53pm                      Rhapsody in Blue, by George Gershwin on Saturday 7/21/12 at 11am

Please join us in honoring this wonderful man. Ruskin will be greatly missed, and our condolences go out to his family.

To learn more about Ruskin’s many accomplishments and how to pay tribute to him yourself, check out this article from the Winston Salem Journal.

Where does the Music Take You?

by James HoganJames Hogan
Tonight’s performances of Gershwin, Mozart, and Adams by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra were thrilling. As soon as Gershwin’s Cuban Overture floated out into the house, I was basked in warmth and quickly forgot about the sub-zero cold blowing outside.
Isn’t it wonderful how music can so quickly whisk you away somewhere else? Just this week, I was reading a manuscript a friend sent me, and I needed something to put me in the mood to read and comment. Beethoven’s fourth symphony was just the answer, and soon I was losing myself in the narrative. My friend’s story was quite good, but the music brought me into its setting with an even fuller immersion.
So I’m curious. Where does music take you? And how does it take you there? These sound like elementary questions, but with some thought, they can be quite complex. Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section.