Significant Songs (47/48/49)

Some popular Opera and Classical music

I am taking a few liberties here, as these are not songs, in the accepted sense, rather pieces of music. During my late teens, and into my early 20s, I discovered some of the joys of Opera. This involved sitting through some very boring works, until I found some pieces best described as ‘accessible’ for most people. These selections are not for the Opera aficionados out there, but they may spark some interest in those of you have have never even considered listening to Opera at all. It may come as a surprise to you, that you actually know these works a lot better than you might have thought. Used in advertising, TV and film themes, they are familiar backdrops to parts of our lives.

Lakme  This is an Opera in three acts, by the French composer Delibes. It was first performed in 1883, and was intended to suggest the captivating strangeness of the Far East. The most famous piece from this Opera is undoubtedly the Flower Duet. Here is one short version, there are many available.

Carmina Burana This is not an Opera. In fact, it is described a ‘scenic cantata’, based on medieval poems, and written by Carl Orff during the late 1930s, in Germany. It is classical music, undoubtedly, albeit modern, so I include it here for consideration. Heard on many film soundtracks, and things as trite as the X-Factor TV show, you will recognise this introduction, ‘O Fortuna’ immediately. I hope that you are inspired to listen to the rest of it.

Carmen. This is a four act Opera by the French composer Bizet, first performed in 1875. I have seen this Opera on a few occasions, including an ‘in the round’ performance, in London’s Earl’s Court. There is a Flamenco film inspired by this work, directed by Carlos Saura. I own it on DVD, and it is one of my favourite films. Here is a clip from that film, showing the director attempting to interpret Bizet’s music into a Flamenco theme, with the wonderful guitar of Paco de Lucia. Stick with it, past three minutes.

And for those of you really interested, here is the full Opera, running over two and a half hours.

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5 thoughts on “Significant Songs (47/48/49)

  1. I am a big fan of Bizet’s “Carmen,” and have a certain fondness for a number of other operas (primarily those composed by Puccini and Rossini) and operettas (e.g., Johann Strauss II’s “Die Fledermaus”). Handel’s “Messiah” is an oratorio, but it’s not too far afield from opera. I suspect ballet may be more popular than opera. As for me, I particularly enjoy “Swan Lake,” “The Sleeping Beauty,” and “The Nutcracker” by Tchaikovsky, but also others like Offenbach’s “Gaîté Parisienne” as orchestrated by Manuel Rosenthal.

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    1. You know a lot more about it than me David, that’s for sure. During trips to Russia, I saw ‘Coppelia’ performed (twice) as well as the Barber of Seville. I did see ‘Die Fledermaus’ on a school trip, but I was only 14 at the time, and thought it was crazy!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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