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Opera Connection

Author Solivagant
#1 | Posted: 30 Apr 2008 14:32 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Hi Els - I see you have asked me if I would comment on some suggestions for WHS connections to "opera" as I first raised the subject and populated it! I don't want people get "upset" at seeing their suggestions "rejected" so I felt I had better put my logic down in this forum for public view! In any case it is nice to know that there are some other travelling opera lovers out there! I hope you enjoy comparing the Operas and any productions of them which you might see to the "reality" of the UNESCO sites - this may be a fairly "trivial" connection but it is, I think, worth getting assignment to it reasonably "correct" so that these sorts of comparisons can be made!

First I suggest that the definition of "Connected to opera" needs to be beefed up to be more specific thus providing a better "rule base" for the future. I suggest something like:-
"Connected to specific operas where at least 1 scene takes place in a location which is specifically and identifiably within the boundary of the inscribed site - even though it may not now exist or the events portrayed may be fictional."

With this in mind I have looked back at over the Operas I proposed as well as those added and proposed since. The italicised descriptions within "Quotes" are the actual words used in the libretto to describe the "exact location"

Boris Gudunov (Mussorgsky) - Novodevichy Convent - "Courtyard of the Novodevichy Monastery". A specific existing building so the connection is ok?

Boris Gudunov (Mussorgsky) - Kremlin - "Square in the Moscow Kremlin" - We don't know "which" square but the location is a specific set of existing buildings so seems ok?

Die Tote Stad (Korngold) - Brugge/Beguinage - "A beguinage in Brugge" - slight problem that it is "a" rather than "the" beguinage but it is specifically in Brugge. I guess there may have been more beguinages in Brugge than the one(s) inscribed but generally I would feel that was ok?

Romeo + Juliet (Gounod) - Verona - "The Capulet house" - "Juliet's palace" in Verona is actually mentioned in the inscription documents! As the Capulets were fictional there cannot of course be an "actual" house - but i think this is pretty close for our purpose!

Aida (Verdi) - Thebes - "One of the city gates of Thebes" - perhaps a slight problem in that there are (now?) no "city gates" of Thebes only gates of Karnak and Luxor temples -but again for atmosphere etc the Gates of Karnak temple can act as a valid proxy for fictional "gates of Thebes" I would have thought?

Electra (R Strauss) - Mycenae - "The inner courtyard of Agamemnon's palace" This is pretty specific as the foundations of Agamemnon's palace are identified and actually visible. So no problem.

Turandot (Puccini) - Imperial Palace Beijing- "A public square in Peking beneath the city ramparts with the imperial palace ot one side" . Again the ramparts and the palace do actually exist -so specific enough??

La Boheme (Puccini) - Banks of Seine Paris - A lot of it takes place in "a garret overlooking the snow covered roofs of Paris" which is too vague BUT another scene is in "The Cafe Momus" and this refers to an ACTUAL cafe which was situated on the Right Bank near the church of Saint-Germaine-l'Auxerrois - so that seems ok.

Anna Bolena (Donizetti) - Tower of London - "In London" - ie the libretto isn't specific but the historical fact is that she was imprisoned (in "State rooms" as per the opera - not in a dungeon!) AND executed in the Tower so I see no problem wtih this "connection"

Maria Stuarda (Donizetti) - Westminster - "At the Palace of Westminster" - no particular room is specified but the building's location is pretty specific

Les Troyens (Berlioz) - Troy- "The Palace of Aeneas". Well the whole thing is pretty "mythical" - but the WHS of "Troy" seems big enough to encompass it??

Les Troyens (Berlioz) - Carthage - "Dido's room and Palace Gardens". The ruins of Carthage are largely from Roman times but I feel that "mythical Carthage" has Dido's Palace somewhere inside those ruins!

Carmen (Bizet)- Seville - "A square in Seville outside a tobacco factory" and "outside the bull ring". The Maestranza Bull ring exists and the Tobacco Factory, thought to have been used by Merimee in the original story, is now part of Seville University. Unfortunately ONLY 3 buildings in Seville are inscribed (The Cathedral, Alcazar and Archivo de Indios) so I don't think this can be viewed as a true connection.

Barber of Seville (Rossini)- Seville - "A square in Seville" - so again not a true connection for the reasons above

Abduction from Seraglio (Mozart) - Istambul - "The country Palace of Pasha Selim on the Med coast in an unidentified part of the Turkish Empire". So this was not set in the Seraglio in Istambul and is not a true connection.

The Ring (Wagner) - Rhine Valley - Most of the 4 operas are set in mythical places and its origins are not even German - Wagner developed these. BUT parts of Das Rheingold are set "at the bottom of the Rhine" and "On a mountain height near the Rhine". So I would (just about) agree that linking it to Das Rheingold WOULD be a valid connection

Dido and Aeneas (Purcell) - Carthage. "The Palace, Carthage". The "Palace" is not identifiable among the very limited ruins left within Carthage but the arguments used above for Les Troyens should apply here also?

The Coronation of Poppea (Monteverdi) - Rome. "Outside Poppea's Palace", "The imperial Apartments Rome", "In the garden of Seneca's villa outside Rome" and just in "Rome". There is a ruined "Imperial Palace" in Rome ("Domus Augustana) built in 92AD. Now Poppea lived 32-65AD and thus was dead when these palaces were built!! But I would regard this as close enough for a "connection"?

The Clemency of Titus (Mozart) - Rome. "Before the Roman Forum" and "In a Garden in the Imperial Palace on the Palatine". The Palatine Hill and the Forum still "exist" so I think this is OK?

The Italian Girl in Algiers (Rossini) - Algiers. "Mustafa's Palace". There are "palaces" within the inscription but I have been unable to confirm that any of them was the Bey's though there is one called "Dar Hassan Pasha" "Palais d'Art Mauresque, construit en 1791 par Hassan Dey d'Alger (1791-1797)" - looking at photos of it i think this as about as close as you are ever likely to get to a "Bey's Palace" so I would allow it! "Bey" and "pasha" (or "Pacha") are ranks of Turkish leaders and so are reasoanbly interchangeable within the unreal world of Opera!!!

A Midsummer Night's Dream (Britten) - Athens. "A wood near Athens". I think this is too general for a real connection?

Hamlet (A Thomas) - Elsinore. "Elsinore Castle" - mythical events but the connection seems ok?

Author Assif
#2 | Posted: 30 Apr 2008 18:09 
First I would like to praise Solivagant's most accurate work that I find very impressive!
At the end of Midsummer's Night Dream there is a scene at Theseus' Palace who is regarded as king of Athens. Where do you think this palace could be?

Author Solivagant
#3 | Posted: 1 May 2008 03:41 
Hi Assif,
Yes you are quite correct - Shakespeare's play makes rather more use of the Palace of Theseus than does Britten's opera but I had forgotten that the 3rd act of the opera has a final scene in the Palace of Theseus. By pure coincidence my local opera company "Opera North" is doing this opera in 2 weeks time - which we will be seeing, so I will be able to refresh my memory!

As I understand it Theseus was a "(semi?)mythical" Athenian founder-hero who among other activities killed the Minotaur, so any palace he had would presumably have been somewhere on the Acropolis??

We must assume that Shakespeare (and Britten's) Theseus "Duke of Athens" is the very same Theseus. I guess on that basis this scene should enable the opera to have a connection with the Acropolis?

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