The Opera - Without words

Carmen Fantasy  carmen suite
The opera is the most widely known, misunderstood, satirized, art form that has the most beautiful music on the planet today.  I have heard many an opera soprano that was horrible and yet some people say it was a fantastic performance.  I think that what has happened is that what is considered good operatic technique has changed.  Years ago the vibrato of the singer was so heavy and wide that it sounded like a parody.  As near as I can tell that style of singing was popular between the years of 1920-1970.  Starting in the 70's a move toward a more natural vibrato was started.  There are still those artists that perform with heavy vibrato and it drives me nuts.  One of these is a singer by the name of Kiri Te Kantanwana.  Foolishly I bought a couple of her CD's without listening to a sample first.  They sit played once and I will likely donate them to someone that may like her style.  Learning to like opera is like learning to like beer or wine.  One takes a sip now and then before one consumes a glass or two.  The easiest way to appreciate opera is to first to appreciate the music without any singing.  There are two impressive works that one needs to listen to.  One is the ever popular Carmen by Georges Bizet.  Everyone has heard the "Toreador Song" but there is much more that is great.  To hear the remainder of the music one has to turn to the "Carmen Fantasy" by Pablo de Sarasate.   There are a few different versions of this work.  A mainstream version is performed by Anne Sofie Mutter on the DG label 437 544-2.  This CD will also introduce you to some other wonderful works by Ravel, Massenet, Faure, and others.  A much longer version of this was written by Rodion Shchedrin and was written for strings, timpani, and four groups of percussion.  This 43+ minute work is quite interesting and fun to listen to.  You will hear all of the music in Carmen and will enhance your appreciation for the opera when you finally do hear it performed with a complete cast.