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In the years sixteen seventy eight sent every mon said Opera is a bizarre affair of poetry and music in which the poet and the musician each equally obstructed by the other give themselves no end of trouble to produce a wretched result. On the other hand a hundred years later Mozart said the best thing of all is when a good composer who understands the stage meets an able poet. In that case no fears need be entertained as to the applause even of the ignorant Riverside radio w while they are in New York City presents opera the battleground of the arts. In this series of half hour programmes Borys gold ASCII discusses some of the problems that beset operators and those who create and produce them. The programmes are produced in association with the gold of ski opera Institute for National Educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation. He is nationally known as an intermission commentator for broadcaster the Metropolitan Opera
and as an opera producer but a play through the productions of The Gold Opera Theatre which have been presented in about four hundred communities from coast to coast. Here is Mr. Gold of ski in the opening programme of this series of broadcasts. I defined upper arm as a play in which the actors sang with orchestral accompany me. Then in the next four programs we discussed at length the problems connected with the vocal and orchestral sides of opera. But singing accompanied by an orchestra does not yet add up to a play is not in itself a dramatic show. This combination of singing and orchestral playing exists also in other forms of performance such as a concert the radio broadcast or a recording to turn orchestrally accompanied singing into a play. One has to add such theatrical elements as scenery costumes lighting and above all acting the stage must be transformed into what they are trickle city.
And the singer must become an actor or. And so in this battleground of the arts which we call opera the favor of the audience is wooed by still another contest the architect of the stage picture the scenic designer. It is his aim to answer all the opera lover with extraordinary spectacles and to amaze him with magically lifelike settings and transformations. It was the fate of opera to be born just at the time when the visual side of the optical Productions had developed a new and revolutionary weapon a device that provided a complete illusion. This new weapon was painted perspective which could deceive the human eye for hours on end. The laws of perspective proved to be the greatest stage trick of all any stage could be made to seem larger than its actual size. The stage designer was able to simulate the widest
Horizons a stage with an actual depth of 70 or 100 feet could be made to appear to extend for many miles around by the sea or mountains and reach to the sky. But that was not all. Since all this magic was painted on canvas and hung on lines or mounted on very light frames it could be flown and shifted around with great ease. What appeared to be a cave or a palace. Good. Within moments be changed into a garden or a landscape and scenery was not the only thing that could fly. All sorts of machines could descend from heaven and asain to it and these shells or clouds could contain an act or sport training the Gods of Olympus or some dreadful looking monster spewing flames and smoke. No wonder that spectators flocked to the theaters not in order to hear words or lovely vocal sounds. Not in
order to listen to beguiling orchestral melodies but just to see this unbelievable magic of scenery and machines. And so the stage designer who knew how to produce the most spectacular effects was often more acclaimed than the composer of the opera or the singers of the company. One of the earliest of these theatrical magicians was Giacomo Torelli known in his native land as prego the great sorcerer Torelli so amazed his Venetian contemporaries that they openly accused him of being in league with the devil. Imported to Paris by King Louis the Fourteenth Torelli created the sensation by his the optical illusions. So much so that ever since his time the Paris Opera House has been known under the official name of Lassonde the machine. The whole of machine to give you an idea of the magic tricks of which Dora Lee
was capable. Here is part of his own description of the scenery in the Royal Opera Ballet and titled The wedding of Phoebe's NPL years which was performed in Paris in the year 16 54 the first scene shows a grotto composed of stones and fearsome rocks through an opening above. One sees a landscape with mountains and paths that descend to the entrance of the grotto. During the incantation of the sorcerers a chariot bearing peal iOS rises amid thunder and lightning. It goes up in the air in the midst of flames and smoke. When the smoke vanishes the scene is transformed into a calm surrounded by lovely shore. On one side appears a shadow betting Thetis
the goddess of the sea who is accompanied by man. It's Neptune in love with rises from the waters with a chorus of Tritons and sirens. Joe meanwhile appears in the air mounted on an eagle at the same time. Juno descends from Heaven in her own chariot and in a fit of jealousy calls a few orders to assemble from hell. Joe flies off to Olympus on his eagle while the head of the horrible monster rises from the earth and with clouds of self Yorick smoke and flames casts up for a few warriors. I should add perhaps that at the end of the spectacular affair no less than 18 additional characters were seen descending from heaven in the program of this event. They're described as the celestial intelligences and they must have put the final touch of grandeur to this display of extravagant
theatrical magic. The French were not the only ones who succumbed to the lure of this machine made illusion in the 19th century German composers producers and audiences also fell under the spell of machines and drove the art of stage magic to new heights. The devilish operations of the wolves Glen the invaders their fresh fruits were elaborate the still further by Richard Wagner who introduced such novelties as Rhine maidens swimming from rock to rock in the depths of a river as Val curious cavalcade ing in the clouds on their steeds as the waters flooding the mansion of the Eby homes in the Gotterdammerung and last but not least of the continuously changing scenery background in the last act of Parsifal Richard Strauss and his li brightest who often have months to continue in this tradition in their own are Shotton which depends for its effectiveness on the most elaborate stage machinery. But this is a lure of operatic
machine made magic began to lose its appeal. After the First World War it was superseded by the magic of the moving pictures. The camera could produce illusions and tricks with which the real theatre simply could not compete. And so the operatic producer turned his attention more and more to the final element of the visual theater namely to the acting of the characters on stage. For the function of great art is not merely to please us and to amuse us it's noblest task consists in taking us out of our narrow individual personalities in transforming us into an almost endless number of individuals capable of an almost endless variety of experiences by neighboring us to identify ourselves with characters and situations other than our own. The act or can give us new and significant insights into our own life and character. But in order to identify with the people on stage we must
accept them as credible human beings. We must be made to believe that given similar circumstances and conditions we would most likely also act and react in exactly the same manner. And this is where a new contestant enters the battlefield of the operatic arts. It is the stage director who soon becomes a rival of the composer the singer the conductor and the scenic designer. Most opera goers imagine that the stage director functions mainly as the intermediary between the librettist and the actors in the same sense that the conductor or acts as the middleman between the composer and instrumentalists up to a point this analogy holds true. The composer creates the music. The conductor interprets the composer's intentions and transmits them to the actual players. Observe that the division of responsibilities is perfectly clean cut. The composer does not have to be a
competent conductor nor does the conductor have to complete an unfinished score. The situation is quite different with the stage director. Unlike his musical counterpart the non composing conductor the stage director is more or less forced to Blythe a trait of a dramatic author whether the operatic stage director once it or not whether he is equal to the task or not it is his lot to complete and fill out much of the dramatic action that theoretically at least should have been invented and preset by the librettist and the composer. Even the most cursory perusal of operatic librettos and scores reveals that very few of them contain a sufficient number of acting indications and most of them contain pitifully few or none at all. It is possible that audiences of the past who did not expect opera singers to act or at least were satisfied with very little when it came to dramatic values.
However in the olden days are gone today a much more serious approach to operatic acting and staging is taken for granted willy nilly. The problem of developing additional dramatic values has fallen into the lap of the stage director. This developing of additional dramatic values can be done either by elaborating on existing ideas or by inventing completely new dramatic business. Let me give you some examples of both methods. In the last act of business Carmen for instance there is mention of a ring that Don Jose once gave to his firey friend Carmen takes it off her finger saying you're a member of this ring in the ring that once you gave me here take it and she hurls it. Don Jose. It so happens however that this ring has not been previously mentioned or shown in any other scene of the opera. What could be more natural than to have Don Jose put this
ring on a common thing or at the end of the second act when he finally decides to throw in his lot with the gypsy smugglers. This is a sensible idea but what makes it truly valid is that it fits so perfectly from the point of view a bold move and tie me with a loud and jubilant C major strains with which busy closes this particular act. Think the opening scene of the Artes La Traviata. It is understood of course that in the beginning of the opera of your letter Valerie is a kept woman but this fact is not spelled out clearly in the text or in the stage directions of the score.
In order not to offend the sensibilities of their contemporaries Verdi and his leave readiest obviously had to soft pedal all references to their letters unsavory status. The modern theatre has long since outgrown such Victorian prudery. Audiences are no longer shocked by revelations of the morality. And since we know that Baron Duvall is the lover of the moment his position as host and Mr Moneybags should be strengthened and developed. I tried to accomplish this during the twenty nine bars of orchestral music that followed the Brotherhood and preceded the entrance of Laura and the guests who come in with her. At this point I introduce a jeweler who enters with a small box bordered for the livery that deep in the barren piece the jeweler from a well-filled
wallet. Taking care however not to be seen but you let them know where the movement is busy booking people for. Later. The Baron opens the box and takes out the gleaming diamond bracelet. After assuring it the floor and the marquee do for presents it with a grand gesture to Violette that who graciously lets him place it on her wrist. This bit of added business identifies the Baron as the current Protech door of the elect that it also helps the contrast to falls vulgarest than de Sion with the delicate attentions of Olive Riddle who as Gus Dawn informs us came daily during the war let the illness to inquire about her. During the rest of the scene I continue to stress the Barents intimacy with your letter. When the guests get ready to leave the party at the approach of dawn do 4 stands next to Violette that bidding his friends goodbye and acting as if you fully
expected to spend the rest of the night with his mistress. This makes you a little uncomfortable. She runs to Flora and in a discreet pantomime asks her to explain to the Baron that his continued presence will be unwelcome. On this occasion when later during her aria Violetta hears Alfredo singing outside she slips the Baron's bracelet off her arm and throws it on a table thus symbolically discarding the golden fetters that chain her to a life that is rapidly becoming repulsive to her. It is essential of course that all these new dramatic elaborations be compatible with the existing vocal markets to live in. In this instance luck favors the stage director and the singers and the integration of musical and the optical ideas does not offer the slightest problem. Near the beginning of the act when your letter invites her guests to partake of the food and the wine the chorus sings two gay sentences separated by 16 measure long instrumental passage. It is during
this interlude that the Baron makes his presentation of the bracelet and the second vocal outburst of this sampled company becomes a fitting expression of the admiration and envy of the elector's male and female friends. The brilliance scale played by the violins near the end of the farewell chorus becomes a perfect illustration of the old Does around who Flora and Violette does emotionally broken up sentences during other three those first off stage
singing seem made to order for the final business with the bracelet. Dramatic inventiveness of this type is by no means restricted to operas like those of Verdi that furnished only a minimum of printed stage directions. Even people Jeanie whose devotion to minute every day realities earned him the nickname of the board of the little things. Even by no means exhausted the possibilities inherent in an imaginative employment and the refusal of existing ideas to add to our earlier examples I should like to point to a telling opportunity that presents itself in the last act of Tosca during the uniquely lovely passage for divided
cellos that precedes cover of those seas aria even Miss Stella the painter has enough time to write down several sentences of his farewell message to his beloved. I see no reason why he can also go on with his writing after the aria
the orchestral interlude that accompanies the entrance of the sergeant and finally Tosca is quite long and his opening measures can certainly be employed to continue the action that was interrupted for the emotional reliving of the lot of Dorothy's memory. Whether or not Governor Dorsey keeps on writing after he finishes his aria is relatively unimportant. What matters is that at least part of the letter is written and that it lies on the table and that an ideal opportunity for exploiting its presence is provided later by the dramatic situation the music and the text. I arrange the music the same in such a way that a move toward the baby during the section where she describes how she and her lover will embark on a sailboat at Civita Vecchia at the end of her phrases describing how nature awaits the sunrise she
sees the letter picks it up and starts reading it. The lines that come out are those she sings at this point and they are marked and with the most tender emotion. Begin with the words better. They may write more or you play pretend they are nice blend which can be translated as how painful was the thought that I would leave you to part from you me death itself more frightful. This sentence is the most direct imaginable reference book of one of those sentiments when he was
spinning the letter reading her lover's farewell at the very moment she saw certain of his deliverance from death gives a chance to react to his passionate words with a depth of feeling quite different from the generalized expression of tenderness we usually witness here. After reading the letter folded and hides it in her bosom she does it in a way that makes us certain that she plans to treasure it and reread it. The rest of her life. One of the most important duties of the stage director consists in clarifying and explaining the story and the action of the opera to the participating singers so that they in turn can act it out in a convincing and lucid manner. It happens every once in a while that the librettist introduces some words or actions that seem out of character illogical or just plain puzzling. A conscientious director always drives to get to the root of these matters and in so doing. Usually hits upon a very useful new
idea. One of these puzzling happenings occurs in the midst of the first phenol of Rossini's Barber of Seville when the NBA's ilio enters the stage solfeggio in solar solar solar solar solar solar sold all for a me father I thought to be loved by Cecil dog. It is only after this that he notices the presence of the dipsy soldier and begins to realize that something out of the ordinary is afoot at this point. He has been described by fear on the first scene of the opera as a hypocrite and pendulous marriage broker who is also a music teacher. When we meet in the flesh the first part of the girl's description is fully confirmed but clearly reveals himself as a
hypocritical and greedy meddling in other people's matrimonial affairs. There is not a single word however on the subject of music. The opera is filled with musical activities. Rosina sings our lesson song accompanied on the piano by the count about a dollar defends his preference for a more conservative type of music by parading an old fashioned area. A few got old dances and plays the guitar. They all speak of music and make music only Donbas Eliu who is a student simply the one professional among them never mentions or practices his art with the single exception of course of that moment of solfeggio singing in the middle of the finale where it appears without any apparent rhyme or reason. Now I felt that this bit of solfeggio had to be justified and the only way I saw to accomplish it was to extend by the lowest musical personality. And then too. Transpose exploit and elaborate this idea throughout his entire role. I finally decided to have compose a wedding cantata
that he must finish in time to be performed the nuptials of his pupil and her guardian Bartle of sudden decision to hurry up the wedding arrangements means that a conductor has to be completed without delay. Thus it is perfectly natural for the anxious composer who when left alone in Bartolo study to use this free moment to write out some of the missing choral parts he solfeggio in in the phenol and now turns into the commonplace task of checking the accuracy of the freshly knotted passages and it can also be used for the actual business of writing down or correcting some of these notes. I decided therefore that Brasilia should always be seen with a large briefcase containing the music of his contact him on top of all this this wedding and the other made it possible to add a new and very funny touch to the final number of the opera. I assume that having worked on his composition most of the afternoon which incidentally is the reason why he arrives so late to give us you know her music lesson but manages to finish it in dime to have it some at the sudden marriage of Rosina and the count
in the final scene after the servants hand out the music to the newly arrived neighbors and soldiers by senior himself climbs on the chair and conducts the assembled company including the instrumentalists in the pit. Thus ending the opera with an unexpected and exciting tableau. You've been listening to opera the battleground of the arts with Boris cooled
off ski nationally known operatic commentator producer and scholar opera the battleground of the arts is produced in association with the golden ski opera Institute by W. R. They are the noncommercial cultural and information station of the Riverside Church in New York City. Producer Walter Shepherd production assistance and technical operations. Matthew Bieber feld and Peter Feldman Corelli's description of his setting for the wedding of the descent Pili as was read by James Prescot a member of the bonnet college data company. Portions of the script for this week's program were drawn from Mr. Gold on skis a book bringing opera to Life published by Appleton century Coffs. Next week Mr. Gold ASCII topic is the validity of operatic stories is a guess for the discussion will be Walter Shepard the producer of this series of
programs. Two weeks from now the great opera in English controversy. A grant from the National Home Library Foundation has made possible a production of this program for a national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
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Negro music in America
Episode Number
Producing Organization
WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the sixteenth of thirty nine parts, presents various examples of African-American folk and jazz music.
Series Description
This series focuses on music created and performed by African-Americans, including folk, and jazz styles. This series is hosted by Anton Luckenbach of Carbondale, Illinois, who also gathered interviews in New Orleans for this series.
Broadcast Date
Race and Ethnicity
Media type
Host: Luckenbach, Anton
Producing Organization: WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-1-16 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:20
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Chicago: “Negro music in America; 16,” 1967-03-13, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
MLA: “Negro music in America; 16.” 1967-03-13. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2024. <>.
APA: Negro music in America; 16. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from