A Year of Laughter and Tears

2019 in our U3A opera course

Opera Australia has a slogan "Life Magnified". How much have we seen magnified in the last year - tears from the desperate verismo tragedy of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci to laughter in Rossini's send-up of anybody who thinks they're somebody in Il Viaggio a Reims.

Themes we had aplenty. The fairy-tale theme took many forms - Dvorak's cross-species love in Rusalka, Humperdinck's gentle Hansel and Gretel and Tchaikovski's Tsarina's Slippers, not forgetting Massenet's Thais and Cendrillon.

At the beginning of the year we saw off our 2018 Shakespeare theme with two Otellos - Rossini and Verdi. Then on to the comedy theme, opera buffa, from the almost vicious absurdity of Tchaikovski's The Nose to Offenbach's satire on Greek heroes in La Belle Helene. Here we took in the stock comedies, Rossini's Barber of Seville and the deeper darker Marriage of Figaro by Mozart. Absurdity there was too, the Gilbert & Sullivan Pinafore and Richard Strauss's Fledermaus.

Then we focused on the turn of the century, where we met the verismo theme, rejecting Romanticism for gritty Realism. Cav and Pag were both hard to take in their brilliant realistic productions; but there was also Giordano's Andrea Chenier and the brutality of the late French Revolution. And do we count as verismo the two Manons - by Massenet and Puccini? And what about Massenet's Werther? But Romanticism we met too, in Debussy's Peleas et Melisande, and its nationalistic version in Rossini's William Tell.

Altogether we took in twenty-three operas by sixteen composers. Do scroll through this blog and refresh your memories. Opera memories are too deep and beautiful to get forgotten.

And in the whole year, what was my favourite? Offenbach's Orphee. Why? aside from its glorious send-up humour, the teasing exploration of the whole idea of gods, there was the sharp exploration of how Public Opinion shaped and controlled everything, from the thoughtless and trapped Orpheus to the equally thoughtless gods. And Natalie Dessai's singing and acting were brilliant.

What was your favourite for the year? Tell us about it on our egroup.

Oh yes, and Happy New Year. On to another year of laughter and tears - operatic of course.


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