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Books in Opera

Posted on February 27, 2014 by Isky Roberts

I love the books my sisters make for Dot & Cross and for my blog post I thought I would search links with books and opera.

Music plays an important part in our lives; me and another sister studied music and we still have lessons and (rare on my part!) performances. Opera is a great love of mine and I am always in awe of the collected effort in putting on a production: the prop makers, stage managers and the rehearsals with the performers, chorus and orchestra and how it all seems to come together.

So I started to think about operas I have seen that has a book or letter integral to a character or plot. The first I thought that fitted into this category was from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. His servant Leporello tells a former lover, Don Elvira who is searching for Giovanni, that he is not worth pursuing. He proves the point by revealing the many books categorising his conquests: 640 Italians, 231 Germans, 100 French, 91 Turks and 1,003 Spanish ladies where the opera takes place. This would definitely be an interesting use of our pocket books!

See the scene below from a production at the Royal Opera House performed by bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen.

Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin based on Pushkin’s novel, has a character called Tatyana. She is a serious, studious young girl who always has a book in her hands. But one day a Mr. Darcy type (tall, dark, handsome) called Eugene Onegin visits her family country home and she falls desperately in love. She then decides to write a letter revealing her love in the brilliant ‘Letter Scene’. The aria is full of hope and expectation, but inevitably the letter she writes is met with a cool response and it’s downhill from them both. I’m sure that if they had a chance to read the other’s diary they would have known how they truly felt for each other and would have avoided all the drama! 

View an excerpt of the Letter Scene from the Met in New York performed by Russian soprano Anna Netrebko.

Posted in Culture, Places


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