Sunday, October 23, 2016

Heroes in Opera: 6 Types of Heroes

Last Wednesday in my English class, we had a lecture on different types of heroes in literature. I'll elaborate on my traumatic experience of thinking that I was the first person ever to identify Don Giovanni as the best Anti-Hero in opera only to discover that that topic had been developed millions of times already later. 

Anyhoo, during my research I discovered an article on Huffpost.com written by Rebecca Tinkle called The 6 Hero Types: Which One Are You? I thought, I don't know which one I am, but I sure can bring up an opera character for each type. And so I did.

FYI, Tinkle's bio says that she is an author, film producer, yoga and energy master, and meditation enthusiast. You can find her original article here.  Let's jump right in!

The first hero Tinkle has on her list is The Warrior. I figure she chose to start with this type of hero because it is probably the most typical hero and the easiest to identify in any story. The Warrior is essentially your lovable rebel, the one who pushes back on society and fights standard conventions that keep them in a box. Respectable. I can list off many opera characters that fall under the classification of The Warrior: Cavaradossi, Chenier, Manrico, Figaro, Susanna, Rosina, Isabella, Calaf,  Turandot etc

The next hero on the list is The Protector. Tinkle describes The Protector as the hero who is "always looking for opportunities to comfort, protect, and champion".  She also wrote that The Protector wants to "lay [their] desire for a more harmonious world on display for everyone to witness". The first opera character that comes to my mind as I write this sentence is Violetta from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata. Violetta is " intuitive and devoted, a result of living in an internal world laden with hidden meaning and possibility", the exact words Tinkle uses to describe The Protector. Violetta's devotion to Alfredo overruns her devotion to herself. Violetta finds herself unable to let Alfredo go and ends up giving up everything she has for him, possibly even her life. According to Tinkle's article, the super flaw of The Protector is stubbornness, the one characteristic of Violetta that is prominently displayed by her actions throughout the story. Violetta refuses to give up Alfredo after Germont, Alfredo's dad, shows up at her door and tells her how his daughter can't get married because her brother is living with a woman lacking modesty, and even after Violetta is forced to succumb to poverty because she needs to somehow support herself and Alfredo. In addition, her stubbornness is manifested at her death bed as she springs up from it a few seconds before death and claims to be reborn and full of strength.

The Healer is definitely Mimí from Giocomo Puccini's La Boheme. The Healer is "[o]ptimistic, authentic and lighthearted" writes Tinkle, making "the world a better place through emanating real love, true love, everywhere [they] go". That sounds like Mimí to me. She brings out the best in Musetta and all the others, and her super flaw is vulnerability. Unlike Violetta, who spends most of her death scene fighting and denying her impeding death, Mimí faces reality from the very beginning and dies peacefully without any battle with fate.

The Master, one who sacrifices their "own comfort in order to help others", is probably a sub-characteristic of The Warrior. Mario Cavaradossi, from Giocomo Puccini's Tosca, is an excellent example. Is Cavaradossi a rebel? Yes. Yes, he is. Sure, he's not the most effective of rebels, but he is "a staunch defender of the law on behalf of humankind".

The next type of hero on the list is The Leader. Tinkle describes this type of hero as "both linear and logical" and possessing "a strong sense of duty". Turandot from Giocomo Puccini's Turandot is definitely The Leader. It is "difficult for [Turandot] to show [her] softer side" and she is "[a] natural leader and politician". Turandot's super flaw is definitely judgement since she spends most of her time making assumptions about the men who want to marry her. She is even somewhat of a feminist, if I dare say so. She wants to avenge the rape of her relative and ends up being unresponsive to people living around her. She is intelligent and follows her principles no matter what.

The last type of hero on the list is The Teacher. I will present Despina as an example of this type of hero even though she does not correspond to the criteria completely. Despina is "[b]rilliant, curious and creative" and she values "experience and [embodies] the very essence of love and its progression in the world". Although Despina is not the most intelligent of people she is definitely very cunning. She uses her wits to deceive the naïve sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi (not like that's something very hard to do), merely for funsies with Don Alfonso.


Well, that's it for my hero identification day. I discovered how to take a test and discover which hero I am, so click here is you'd like to find out about yourself.


"When The Ocean Is Tired", a short story by Laura Iceberg

Usually, when I go to the beach in the morning, I say:

"Ocean! Oh, Ocean! I like you! Do you like me too?"


And the ocean answers:


"S-s-s-sure. . . S-s-s-sure. . . S-s-s-sure. . ."


And when I go to the beach in the evening, I can hear the ocean telling me "He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . "

But how can I help the ocean? And I shout to him:


"Oh, Ocean! Oh, Great Ocean! Oh, hoary Ocean! You're so ancient and so huge! You're so wise and so mighty. Oh, tell me, please, how can I help you? I'm so small and weak, and old and tired. . . Explain to me, please, how can I help you?"


But the ocean only asks me again and again: "He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . "


"Oh, Ocean! I see! You're tired. You're like our poor heart: working, and working, and working constantly without ceasing. The human's heart is tired too. And when it ceases, our life will cease too.



"Oh, Ocean! You're the heart of our Earth, and if you stop, the life of our wonderful World will stop too. Remember it, please. Don't forget about it, Ocean, please!"


But the ocean asks me again and again: "He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . "


"Oh, Ocean! I guess I know! I know how I can help you!"


And I said to him softly and quietly,


"Ocean, I love you. Do you hear me? I lo-o-ove you-u-u-u. Do you hear me?"


"Y-e-e-e-s. . . th-a-a-a-anks. . . Y-e-e-e-s. . . th-a-a-a-anks. . . Y-e-e-e-s. . . th-a-a-a-anks" tiredly sighed the Pacific Ocean.
 



Written by: Laura Iceberg


"When The Ocean Is Tired", a short story by Laura Iceberg

Usually, when I go to the beach in the morning, I say:

"Ocean! Oh, Ocean! I like you! Do you like me too?"

And the ocean answers:

"S-s-s-sure. . . S-s-s-sure. . . S-s-s-sure. . ."

And when I go to the beach in the evening, I can hear the ocean telling me "He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . "

But how can I help the ocean? And I shout to him:

"Oh, Ocean! Oh, Great Ocean! Oh, hoary Ocean! You're so ancient and so huge! You're so wise and so mighty. Oh, tell me, please, how can I help you? I'm so small and weak, and old and tired. . . Explain to me, please, how can I help you?"

But the ocean only asks me again and again: "He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . "


"Oh, Ocean! I see! You're tired. You're like our poor heart: working, and working, and working constantly without ceasing. The human's heart is tired too. And when it ceases, our life will cease too.


"Oh, Ocean! You're the heart of our Earth, and if you stop, the life of our wonderful World will stop too. Remember it, please. Don't forget about it, Ocean, please!"

But the ocean asks me again and again: "He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . He-e-e-e-lp-p-p me, ple-e-a-ase. . . "

"Oh, Ocean! I guess I know! I know how I can help you!"

And I said to him softly and quietly,

"Ocean, I love you. Do you hear me? I lo-o-ove you-u-u-u. Do you hear me?"

"Y-e-e-e-s. . . th-a-a-a-anks. . . Y-e-e-e-s. . . th-a-a-a-anks. . . Y-e-e-e-s. . . th-a-a-a-anks" tiredly sighed the Pacific Ocean. 


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Luciano Pavarotti on Opera

The following is an excerpt from the foreword written by the legendary Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti to The La Scala Encyclopedia of the Opera by Giorgio Bagnoli. Translated by Graham Fawcett.

"Opera means passion, excitement and love, but like all great emotional experiences, it calls for a deeper understanding and needs to be constantly cultivated and nurtured. This is why for some years now I have not concentrated exclusively on performing opera but also on making it more widely known as well as strengthening its roots by searching out new singing talent, setting up new music institutions and becoming involved in operatic events aimed to have widespread public appeal."

-Luciano Pavarotti

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Most "Villainy" Operatic Villain Part 2

It's here! Part 2 of my absolutely useless list of operatic villains. Check out Part 1 by pressing the link and stay tuned for Part 3 which will be dedicated to Iago and the antagonists in The Tales of Hoffman. Thanks!


Diana Damrau as The Queen of the Night

The Queen of the Night from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Magic Flute
This one should be on the list of Worst Operatic Moms or something. She literally tries to sell her daughter for power, which as far as I'm concerned she already has a lot of. Right? She didn't exactly cut the mustard when she showed the portrait of Pamino to Tamino because his love for her is basically what saved Pamina from her messed up mom and the weirdo Monostatos. (In truth, Papageno actually physically rescued her and Tamino took all of the credit, leaving Papageno to seem as the oaf of the story. Not cool.)
Bryn Terfel as Scarpia

Vitellio Scarpia from Giocomo Puccini's Tosca
He's really evil, but his leitmotif is the best. I don't think I'm going to write anything else for Scarpia. We all know that he's kind of an a**hole (I'm being as censored as possible), but the music that Puccini loftily set him to is intriguing, especially when the opening chord progression of Tosca is essentially Scarpia's leitmotif, foreshadowing the tremendous impact he will have on the fates of Mario and Floria.

Wurm from Verdi's Luisa Miller
This guy caused a chain reaction of doom with his weird love intrigues. A lot of people do this, even in our time. I won't say that he is directly to blame for Rodolfo and Luisa's deaths, per se; but he is essentially the initial cause of most of their internal and external conflicts. Wurm is similar to Count di Luna in that all of his not noble deeds stemmed from his everlasting love directed towards Luisa. However, he is on this particular list because he caused several unnecessary deaths (alla Scarpia) and got himself killed in the process (alla Scarpia). He also just seems much meaner than di Luna.
Giuseppe di Stefano as the Duke of Mantua

The Duke of Mantua from Verdi's Rigoletto
Best music, evilest character. I personally think that taking advantage of young girls and then shaming them before everyone is worthy of being labelled a villain. The result of this particular story is not solely his fault, but he plays a dramatic role in its outcome. It was his egotism and the overly-protective nature of Rigoletto that led Gilda to take desperate action to achieve something that probably wasn't even worth the trouble. The Duke should not be blamed for Gilda's desire to die for him. It's Rigoletto who decided to keep her cooped up her entire life and then show her how a hired murderer prepares to murder her only love. But the Duke is messed up, much like his morals, and is hereby officially granted the Worst Villain Award. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Most "Villainy" Operatic Villain

After doing some intense research on operatic villains I decided to make my own list of operatic villains and figure out which one of them is the most "villainy". I have decided to extend this list into a few blogposts instead of simply narrowing it down to the worst of the worst.

(Also, Mesphistopheles from Faust is NOT going to be on this list because it's not fair for all the other mortal villains. He lies on a totally different level of Villain and none of the other guys can compete with him. Sorry to all you Mephisto fans.)

This is Part 1 of my Operatic Villain posts, with the least evil characters featured.

Luca Pisaroni as Count Almaviva
Count Almaviva from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro
Just a jealous husband. He literally has nothing better to do than to suspect his wife of infidelities, while he himself runs after any hoop skirt that passes by. I'm sorry if you don't know the plot of The Marriage of Figaro because it's absolutely AWESOME. Unfortunately I'm not motivated enough to summarize it in this blogpost, so google it or something. What's the worst thing he does? I'd say that sending a 13 year-old boy to army camp merely because you're way too jealous of your wife is kind of nasty. He's just a kid who is discovering life and sending him away because you consider him a threat to your marriage is silly. At least Cherubino should feel proud that Count Almaviva considers him a worthy opponent!




Mariusz Kwiecen as Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Don Giovanni
Controversial. Very controversial. I found so many different opinions of Don Giovanni's evilness. (Once again, Mozart's operas are too complicated plot wise for me to go through the trouble of trying to explain them in a comprehensible way. Google is your best friend.)

From one side, Don Giovanni is pretty bad. Despite his seemingly harmless behavior, he basically stripped several noblewomen of  the honor they carried and then added insult to injury if they called him out on it. From the other side, they fell for him themselves. He abused Leporello when he burned the midnight oil and forced his servant to stand guard outside in the cold while he "entertained" himself. Pretty bad. Zerlina's sexual assault is a little shaky because from what I gather it's not a given that he actually tried to do anything violent. Or maybe he did, I don't know. Wasn't there, sorry.

Personally, I wouldn't put Don Giovanni on this list. Compared to the endeavors of the Duke of Mantua, this guy is innocent. He didn't kidnap anyone, and the only man he killed was in a dual initiated by the Commendatore himself. 

Marco Vinco as Don Alfonso
Danielle De Niese as Despina
Don Alfonso and Despina from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Cosi fan tutte 
Nah! One was an old man with nothing better to do than take advantage of other's stupidity while Despina was desperate to have her revenge on her mistresses who got more luxuries than she could even wish for. Not evil at all. The two couples were to blame for everything that happened. 




Count di Luna from Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore
Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Count di Luna
He's not that bad, right? I'm not sure he should even be on this list, but society pressures me into including him so here you are.
He desperately loves Leonora, but she's a weirdo who loves a gypsy troubadour, Manrico, who also happens to be Count di Luna's long lost brother! Manrico's so-called mother, Azucena, accidentally burned her own baby instead of a noble baby when she was avenging her mother's death. What? Count di Luna can't seem to get his useless army of soldiers to catch Manrico and Leonora, who manage to escape from him every single time. The power of true love? And then the count finally captures Manrico when he gets Azucena; and then he wants Leonora to give herself to him in exchange for Manrico's life, but she poisons herself instead. Running to Manrico, she tells him that he is free to go and he accuses her of being unfaithful but when she starts dying realizes that she literally gave her life for him and decides to stay in jail instead of running off. When he is executed, Azucena tells Count di Luna that Manrico was, in fact, his brother, and he believes her! What? Why? And while di Luna laments that now he'll have to live on while his brother and love are dead, Azucena cries out Mother, you are avenged! So where is the count's crime of evilness in this? All he was doing was protecting his family name and trying to get his crush to like him back, right?




Check out Part 2