Happy New Year 2012: Looking to 2013, the 200th Anniversary of Verdi and Wagner

2012…Can you imagine?  Years ago, those who read Huxley’s 1984 might have thought, “Wow, the future!,” and now we embark on the second year of the second decade of the 21st millennium. For opera, this year is a relaxed one since there really isn’t a major composer’s anniversary on tap.  Of any importance, Friedrich von Flowtow (1812-1883) celebrates 200 years, the impressionist Claude Debussy (1862-1918) celebrates 150 years, film composer David Raksin (1912-2004) best known for his score for the film “Laura” celebrates 100 years, the silence loving John Cage (1912-1992) also celebrates 100 years.  Although the music these gentleman left behind might not be authentic opera, per se (except for Debussy’s exotic Pélleas et Mélisande) their compositions certainly retained a flavour that was operatic.  A rather quiet year for opera in this regard, perhaps in preparation for the 200th anniversary of two operatic giants:  Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner.

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How fascinating that these two men, who continue to retain individual camps where opera aficionados are concerned, would have anniversaries in the same year.  Their music is markedly different, and yet their focus was unified:  to present a satisfying, dramatic, and musical fusion of melody, harmony, orchestral fabric, and don’t forget those memorable tunes!  Perhaps it was Wagner who was more the innovator, with his expansion of the orchestra, use of a more chromatic harmonic palate, and the interweaving of the vocal melody with the orchestra, as well as the development of leitmotivs; yet, Verdi was no slouch.  From beginning to end, his repertoire saw an expansion of almost every operatic facet, especially the melding of words to music and the dramatic interplay between characters.  His melodies are universal and above all he kept the voice prominent, as the most sacred aspect of the operatic machine.  It will be interesting to see what opera companies in North America and internationally will conjure up to celebrate these great men.

Although Verdi and Wagner are certainly celebrated at the highest level,other operatic composers will also be noted:  Scapigliato and Verista Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) celebrates 150 years, and Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) celebrates 100 years.

So what are opera companies opening 2012 with:

At the Canadian Opera Company, from January 21-February 25th, Adrienne Pieczonka/Julie Makerov, Carlo Ventre, Mark Delevan, and Peter Strummer star in Puccini’s “Tosca.”

At the Metropolitan Opera, “La Fille du Regiment,”Hansel and Gretel,” “The Enchanted Island,” and “Faust” play in the opening weeks of January, followed by Patricia Racette and Roberto Alagna in Puccini’s “Tosca” premiering tomorrow night (January 10th).  Deborah Voigt and Waltraud Meier will star in Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung” beginning Friday, January 27th at 6pm.

Here’s wishing all singers, musicians, conductors and, of course, aficionados a safe, prosperous, and successful 2012 Season!