Posts tagged ‘Opera’

June 18, 2018

Glittering and Being Gay

Following on from my recent “Candide” practice notes post, I forgot to mention this…

You know the Glitter and Be Gay number? Here’s an example featuring, very briefly, Patti Lupone.

“Fraaaance”…

And another version, this one from The Proms 2015 season. Much less American than the previous link.

Aaaanyway, there’s also this very different recording.

This one’s by Madeline Kahn. Who? Well, you might know her better from a saloon in a small town called Rockridge:

Yup. Lili von Shtupp also recorded Glitter & Be Gay…

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May 22, 2018

Mozart – Cosi Fan Tutte – Excerpt

Quickie from tonight’s rehearsal for tomorrow night’s performance…

Act 1, Terzetto (#3) – from page 8 of the double bass part at IMSLP

This bit is a bit…awkward. Allegro. A bit too allegro, maybe. Just doesn’t quite fit under my fingers. I would actually look at this if the gig wasn’t tomorrow! Oh well.

August 10, 2017

Bernstein – “Candide”

Oh, where to begin with the plot of this one…

Based on the Voltaire novella of the same name, which I’ve not yet read. We see death, and recovery from death, a seemingly endless repetition of boy loses girl, boy finds girl again, a lot of travelling, and some very short-lived minor roles.

Standard opera rules apply for playing this – watch, watch, count, watch. Particularly in the colloratura number “Glitter and be Gay”. Some of the time signatures are “non-standard”, and there are some eyewatering key changes as well as some tricky rhythmic bits that seem designed to catch the tired bassist. Fortunately, the notes themselves are generally playable. A five-string bass, or a bass with a C string extension is advisable for maximum effect.

One man, all this kit…

Watch the percussionist – in our production, there was only one, and he had got all this kit to play with, and about a quarter of the pit area, so was dashing around like Billy Whizz.

As we go through this, I keep thinking of other music – various bits of G&S come to my mind (“Warders are Ye”, from Yeomen, “He’s Telling A Terrible Story”, from Pirates), Abba (“Money, Money, Money”), Rogers & Hammerstein (“Bali Hai” from South Pacific), the old work song “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”, to name but five. Add that to the various Monty Python moments (“Medical Love Song” and the general tone of our “Voltaire” which makes me think of the Decomposing Composers). Actually, Monty Python moments abound – there are also references to the “Spanish Inquisition”, and “Luxury”, “And now for something completely different – a man with three buttocks”… Enough. Irrelevant mental meandering.


Right. Let’s start looking at notes and rhythms.

As stated above, a five string bass (or C string extension) is advisable. As is a willingness to suspend disbelief when it comes to bar numbers – these are not necessarily sequential, thanks to the various versions that the score has gone through since its premiere and the current (4th) version.

Overture

Nothing particularly problematic, apart from an extended passage of playing every third crotchet in a passage of 2/2.

5 – Best of All Possible Worlds

This is marked as having two complete bars rest at the start, but, in reality, it’s five crotchets of brisk 2/2.

12 – Dear Boy

Described as being “the only song in the repertoire about sexually transmitted disease” (which I find hard to believe – what about Tom Lehrer’s “I Got It From Agnes”, or Bon Jovi’s “Social Disease”, or Monty Python’s “Medical Love Song”? OK, I’m not staying within genre…) For all that, though, nothing to worry about.

13 – Paris Waltz

The last two notes are (a) important, (b) exposed, and (c) solo. You have been warned.

14 – Glitter and Be Gay

The big issue here is bars 127-138, where there’s an extended passage of mostly playing every third quaver in a section that’s mostly in 4/4 time with the occasional bar of 5/4. Yeah. Counting this hurts.

It might be easier if it had been printed consistently with quaver rests, but it hasn’t. And it’s a big soprano coloratura benefit, so the beat will be pulled around.

15 – Storm Music

Glissando central, but just sliding up & down the D string.

16 – Earthquake Music

The Lisbon Earthquake – which dates this episode of the story to 1st of November 1755.

17 – Auto da Fe

A high day holiday and hanging day. Niiiice. Let’s hope that Pangloss’s head doesn’t detach from his body again like it did during the dress rehearsal, as that would make his reappearance later on even more improbable than it already is… Awkward rhythm:

And some fun notes:

22 – I am Easily Assimilated

This jazzy rhythm can catch you out if you’re not paying attention.

It reappears at the beginning of the Entr’acte and in the finale/bows music.

25 – We Are Women

Features my favourite set of instructions…

Really? crescendo through a pizzicato / rest?

The rest is either straightforward or something we’ve already seen.

Hmm. This post took rather a long time to write – I started it in about 2013, hence any deviation in tenses…

November 26, 2015

Amahl and the Night Visitors by Menotti

No? Me neither.

Apparently, this short opera was written for a TV company, and is appropriate for the season of, erm, next month. So we (Northern Opera Group) are rehearsing it now for production in Leeds Corn Exchange next Friday / Saturday (4th / 5th December). Something like that. There’s a Facebook page and everything.

I’m told that this is supposed to be a chamber work, and that the orchestration was for a few string players – including just one contrabass. Which leads me to wonder why there are a few bits marked “divisi” (playable by one person easily enough), and, indeed, “2 soli” (not so easy to do on your own!).

From a double bass player’s perspective, it’s not that difficult, as long as you remember rule 1 of playing opera (“Watch”), and don’t have problems with counting alternate bars of 5 and 6 quavers (don’t panic – that passage is quite short).

There is just one bit that’s worth of some attention. Figure 65, bars 368 & following – a relatively rapid pizzicato passage that’s got just enough accents and accidentals and irregularities of rhythm to be not quite readable. This picture shows the bulk of the passage – there are a couple more lines, but they’re significantly easier.

Amahl - excerpt

That’s the extent of the musical problems. There are other issues with this work, though. I would like to point out a vocal cue at figure 128 (mercifully near the end of the opera), where the young boy Amahl says in a recit passage:

Well, I don’t know if I’m going to let you touch me… Oh… all right… but just once

And once you’ve seen that, it’s difficult to read some of the other cues without sniggering…

February 11, 2013

Massenet – Cendrillon (“Cinderella”)

I’ve recently spent a week playing the bass part in Massenet’s opera “Cendrillon” for Leeds University Union’s OperaSoc. The plot should be familiar to all of you, as it is just another version of the Cinderella story…

There’s nothing much to worry the double bass player, unless you are doing this as part of a very small orchestra – there are places where the double bass part divides (albeit usually as a pizz & arco versions of the same note). However, if your band has only one cellist, then you might have to cover some of the lines where the cello part divides as well. There were points where I found myself covering three cello lines as well as the two basslines. Fortunately, there’s significant overlap!

The only other advice is my usual operatic advice: WATCH THE CONDUCTOR. Singers miss beats, or add in extra ones, and it’s up to the band to follow the conductor. Make sure, therefore, that you’ve got a good sightline between you and the conductor and put your music in it, so you don’t have to move your eyes too far between dots and beats.

 

Incidentally, what *was* Massenet on? In Manon, he had her singing about a table, and in Cinders, she sings about a chair. Was he some sort of furniture fetishist?

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April 16, 2012

Opera time again!

Well, to be more accurate, operetta, then musical, then opera.

Operatta – Gilbert & Sullivan – The Mikado

Leeds University Union’s Opera Society is putting on G&S’s Mikado next month.
Performance Dates: 2012-05-02 – 2012-05-05
Location: Riley Smith Hall, Leeds University
More details at OperaSoc’s website

Musical – Victoria Wood – Acorn Antiques, the Musical

I know very little about this, having just been approached to see if it’s a go-er for me. It is. Google tells me that it’s being put on by Cleckheaton and Spenborough’s Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society.
Performance Dates: 2012-05-16 – 2012-05-19
Location: Cleckheaton Town Hall
More information at CSAODS’s website

Opera – Massenet – Manon

Leeds Youth Opera’s summer production is Massenet’s classic opera, Manon. Not done this before – anyone got any tips?
Performance Dates: 2012-07-04 – 2012-07-07
Location: Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds
More information, as it becomes available, at Leeds Youth Opera Group’s website

March 3, 2012

Gilbert & Sullivan – Iolanthe

This week, I’m playing in Leeds Gilbert & Sullivan Society‘s production of G&S’s Iolanthe, at the Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds.

As with most G&S operettas, there’s not a lot to worry the bassists, apart from a few little bits. These excerpts are all from Act 1 (but one of them is repeated in Act 2, Sullivan being an eco-friendly composer, recycling material throughout…)

06a – Entrance of the Chancellor

The cello/bass department kicks off the fugue here – it’s brisk-ish, but the notes just don’t quite lie under the fingers.

This figure is repeated in Act 2 at the start of Number 7 (Recit & Song)

10 – Song

This next little riff occurs twice in each verse…:

11 – Recit

How are your scales?


Did you play a G at the end? Look again.

13 – Finale

The finale to Act 1 contains this passage to delight – it’s a long first half, and this is near the end of a long Finale. ’nuff said.

(While preparing this, I noticed that the last note of the first bar of the second line may be a C – it’s difficult to tell from the part – and I can’t remember what the Truth actually is…)

February 5, 2012

Vaughan Williams – The Poisoned Kiss

This is an opera that isn’t performed very often – I understand that the number of productions it has had since its composition is still in single figures, and the first non-UK production happened this month in New York. I’m not going to discuss the story here, because it’s utterly ludicrous, involving a girl brought up on poisons, and a boy brought up on antidotes… No, it’s making me cross just thinking about it. If you want to know more, then you could always check this version of the synopsis. As a reviewer of a recent production put it, “You have to wonder what Vaughan Williams was on when he composed [it]”.

Anyway, on to the music – mostly playable, but just a few little “moments”.

Overture

Here’s the first trickier bit, the main nastiness being due to a gratuitous tenor clef. I suspect that it used more ink to go into the tenor clef than it saved…

Me? Grumpy? Surely not!

And so into

Act 1

Number 5 – Ensemble

Moderato alla marcia? Hmm. Seems a bit brisk, but think of the Durham Light Infantry – their normal march step is quicker than most units’ quickstep, sorry, double time. The basic four-in-a-bar pulse stays the same between the 4/4 and 12/8.

Number 6 – Duet

Another brisk number… and, near the end, accidentals everywhere.

Number 8 – Ensemble

Starts out as a nice gentle Andantino, but then kicks into an Allegro, with a lot of semiquavers:

Number 13 – Finale

A couple of more interesting moments here. First off, a 3/4 section from Figure 57:

and the final chunk of the “Dance” starting just after figure 62:

Act 2

I’ve not highlighted anything of note in Act 2.

Act 3

Only one particularly tricky moment here.

Number 27 – Trio

There’s a sort of tango feel to this movement (see the tempo mark – “Tempo di Tango (molto moderato)”). However, just as you settle into it, there’s an unpleasant rhythmic kick in bars 6-8.

January 28, 2012

Two weeks, two operas

This is the busiest I’ve been on the bass for a while. I got asked a week or so ago if I would help out with Leeds University’s Opera Society’s production of Don Giovanni that runs next week, which is the week before I’m on a run of Leeds Youth Opera Group’s production of RVW’s Poisoned Kiss. Not much to say here – I’m not sure that I’ve yet played every note of Don G, and those that I have played have mostly been either under the fingers, or not too quick, but I do have a few things to say about Poison, which will get a separate post shortly.

LUU Opera Soc – Mozart – Don Giovanni – 1st-4th February 2012, 7:30pm, Riley Smith Hall, Leeds University. More details on their website.

LYOG – Vaughan Williams – Poisoned Kiss – 8th-11th February 2012, 7:30pm, Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds. More details on their website.

October 8, 2011

Wagner – Tannhaüser

So let’s restart this blog with a few notes on Wagner’s epic opera Tannhaüser, which I had the pleasure of working through last month with the Northern Wagner Orchestra.

This is a relatively straightforward play when compared with other Wagner operas; it’s also a comparatively short double bass part, weighing in at under 50 pages!

To begin at the beginning.

Act 1 Scene 1

Bars 105 & 106 – just an awkward little fake arpeggio, then a few bars later an awkward pizzicato passage.  Not helped by the page turn during that two bar rest…

Act 1 Scene 2

The scene begins with a little riff that’s unison strings, and needs accuracy.

Over the page, and at the end of the page we see the following excerpt. It doesn’t look too intimidating, but, for some reason, I found it just didn’t want to lie under the fingers nicely.

A few pages later, we come across the following little bit of fun:

And then, a few bars later:

Moving on, Act 2 Scene 3 is borderline silent – lots of counting, though! A friend of mine said that it looks like a trombone part…

Act 2 Scene 4

This is the big march number. And we get the tune (albeit doubling with other heavies…):

Over the page, we come across a deeply deeply unpleasant quaver figure.

I hate five sharps plus accidentals.

Nearly there

Unfortunately, I’ve lost track of which Act/Scene we’re in at this point – however, I suspect these last bits are all towards the tail end of Act 2.  I don’t recall there being anything in Act 3 to worry about.  I’ve tagged these with page numbers from the part I was using…

Next page:

And the final excerpt for your attention:

There’s still an act to go, but I don’t recall anything in that final act being particularly unpleasant… …except for the stamina required. But that’s a standard problem for Wagner!