Now via Internet Europe’s Great Opera Houses Offer Free Performances for All

Marking the 9th Annual European Opera Days weekend European opera houses have launched an Internet-based Opera Platform offering free access to performances transmitted from many of Europe’s magnificent opera houses.

This year the annual open days event takes place over the period 8 to 11 May coinciding with a live transmission from Madrid’s Teatro Real of La Traviata, released through the Opera Platform.

Further showcase operas in the launch month will include Król Roger from the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Kullervo from the Finnish National Opera Helsinki and Valentina from the Latvian National Opera Riga.

The Opera Platform – Free Live and On demand!
The Opera Platform is an online platform for the promotion and enjoyment of opera. It aims to appeal to committed opera lovers and to those who’ve never seen an opera before.

The Opera Platform offers a range of content from the most popular works in the repertoire to the most innovative. Among platform features are:

■ a complete opera showcased each month from one of 15 partner houses;
■ highlights from productions across Europe;
■ curated documentary material setting operas and opera houses within a wider cultural context;
■ a rich archive bringing history to life;

The Opera Platform is a partnership between Opera Europa, representing 155 opera companies and festivals; the cultural broadcasting channel ARTE; and 15 carefully selected houses across Europe. Launched May 2015 it is supported by the EC’s Creative Europe programme and by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

Backing comes from Opera Europa, the European Association of Opera Companies and Festivals, ARTE and 15 opera companies: Austria: Wiener Staatsoper; Belgium: La Monnaie/De Munt Bruxelles; Finland: Finnish National Opera Helsinki; France: Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Opéra National de Lyon; Germany: Komische Oper Berlin, Oper Stuttgart; Italy: Teatro Regio Torino; Latvia: Latvian National Opera Riga; Netherlands: Dutch National Opera Amsterdam; Norway: Den Norske Opera og Ballett Oslo; Poland: Teatr Wielki Opera Naradowa Warsaw; Spain: Teatro Real Madrid; United Kingdom: Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Welsh National Opera. The website is available in three languages – English, French and German – and offers free content such as: full opera performances and extracts; synopses and background material; artist interviews and behind-the scenes documentaries.

The European opera season of the platform will add at least one new opera per month, subtitled in six languages – English, French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish – and available on demand for six months. New additional content will regularly enrich the offer.

In France participating houses in the 9th Annual European Opera Days are shown below:



A short history of opera with thanks to the Opera Europa site.

Four centuries of opera
The 17th century: the baroque period and the beginnings of opera
Opera was born in Italy at the end of the 16th century. A group of Florentine musicians and intellectuals, la camerata fiorentina, were fascinated by Ancient Greece and opposed to the excesses of Renaissance polyphonic music. They wanted to revive what was thought to be the simplicity of ancient tragedy. The first opera still performed today was La favola d’Orfeo (The Legend of Orpheus), composed by Monteverdi in 1607, 400 years ago. In the first operas, the intention was to make music subservient to the words. They were made up of successive recitatives with a small instrumental accompaniment, punctuated by musical interludes. After Florence and Rome, Venice rapidly became the centre of opera, where the first commercial opera house opened in 1637, thus making the art form accessible to a wider public. Opera soon spread throughout Europe, and in 1700 Naples, Vienna, Paris and London were major operatic centres.

The 18th century: Bel Canto and classical reform
Two opera forms developed in the 18th century: opera seria and opera buffa. Opera seria, or serious opera, was akin to tragedy and often inspired from mythology. The important solo parts were often sung by the famous castrati. Ariodante by Händel (1735) is an example of opera seria. On the contrary, the comic opera buffa staged ordinary characters and dealt with lighter topics. Main roles were played by tenors or basses. An example of this type, which appeared at the beginning of the 18th century, was Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro (1786).
Whereas the first operas endeavoured to highlight the words, the end of the baroque period was that of great bel canto tunes. This ‘beautiful singing’ gave primacy to vocal virtuosity. In reaction, a more simple style in which text and music were more closely allied, thrived from the end of the 18th century. In classical operas, singing served the dramatic idea, not the reverse. They also used choruses and ensembles to stress the collective nature of human emotions. Christoph Willibald Gluck initiated this reform (Iphigenia in Tauris, 1779) which then influenced many composers.

The 19th century: Verdi and Wagner, the golden age of opera

With the rise of nationalism, different traditions developed in different countries. The romantic era began with the works of the German composer Carl Maria von Weber (Der Freischütz, 1821 ;Oberon, 1826). The genre intermixed serious and comic opera traits, absorbing aspects of symphonic music, with subjects drawn from contemporary life and recent history. Richard Wagner revolutionised opera in the second half of the century, from The Flying Dutchman (1843) to Parsifal (1882) and the four operas of the Ring of the Nibelung (1869-1876). Wagner gathered music, drama, poetry and staging in what he called ‘music drama’. In his operas, the orchestra became part of the story, and he frequently used the leitmotiv, a musical phrase associated with a character, an event or an idea.
In Italy, the voice remained predominant. The bel canto tradition went on, combined with opera buffa characters and themes. Examples are Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (1816), Bellini’s Norma (1831) or Donizetti’s The Love Potion, 1832). Giuseppe Verdi was the last great Italian composer of the 19th century. In a passionate and vigorous style, he wrote pieces which allied spectacular show and subtle emotions (La Traviata, 1853, Aïda, 1871).
A specific tradition developed in Russia and Eastern Europe, inspired by history (Boris Godunov, Mussorgsky, 1869-1874) or from national literature (Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky, 1879). In France, ‘Grand Opéra’ flourished, with great scenic effects, action and ballet. Opéra Comique, which included spoken dialogues, was also very popular (Bizet’s Carmen, 1875).

The 20th century: the rise of individuals

The beginning of the 20th century continued the trends of the late 19th. Puccini was the last great Italian composer, who wrote among others Tosca (1900), Madam Butterfly (1904) and Turandot (1926). Other famous operas of the time were Pelleas and Melisande by Debussy (1902), Salome by Strauss (1905), and The Cunning Little Vixen by Janacek (1924).
Later, individual works rather than general trends appeared. Alban Berg’s operas (Wozzeck, 1925, Lulu, 1937) contrasted with Kurt Weill’s works, inspired from jazz and other popular music (The Threepenny Opera, 1928). Benjamin Britten composed ‘traditional’ operas like Peter Grimes (1945), but also chamber operas.

The 21st century: a score still to be written…

Today, the operatic offer is more varied than ever. Staging and settings have become key elements of new productions. The great pieces of the repertoire are repeatedly reinterpreted and still very successful. They are presented next to new contemporary operas and earlier rediscovered works. In this way, opera is in permanent evolution, for the enjoyment of the widest public.

Story: Ken Pottinger


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