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Misconceptions of opera relating to Andrew Lloyd Webber


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Showing 1-12 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 12, 2008 3:02:34 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 12, 2008 4:02:43 AM PDT
Yi-Peng says:
I must admit that I am confronted with opera-related misconceptions that relate to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, as I am confronted by people's misconceptions that they are real operas. Yes I know that Lloyd-Webber's music borrows from Puccini at times, and I know that Phantom has some operatic tendencies. I also know that the Lloyd-Webber shows are sung-through scores, but the hard truth is that sung-through pieces of music theatre doth not an opera make. The hard truth is that the Lloyd-Webber musicals are most definitely not operas, even with the rock-opera tendencies of Superstar and Evita. His music is written in a more popular style than real opera.
I sense that my arguments might not have much grounding, but yet I'm aware that even classical performers have included the Lloyd-Webber show tunes in their repertory. I know that Kiri has sung some Lloyd-Webber, and so have the Three Tenors, most notably the songs from Phantom and Cats. I also do not deny that one of the singers associated with his music, Sarah Brightman, played a role in the genre of operatic pop. So while I do not deny the classical appearance of Lloyd-Webber's musicals, they are inherently not classical.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 15, 2008 11:17:04 AM PDT
Kay House says:
Rossini was the writer of the most popular music during the early 1800's, when the waltz was considered more outrageous than the twist, the jerk or the frug. George Gershwin despaired of getting anyone to take his music seriously, even when he had written "Rhapsody in Blue" and I suppose some people might say that _Porgy and Bess_ isn't "real" opera.

Some people do say that the dividing line between 'real' opera and operetta is whether any lines are spoken, but _Carmen_, as Bizet wrote it originally, included spoken dialog. The music for the recitative often used in performance today was written later by another composer.

I agree that the inclusion of a song in a recital or album by someone who regularly performs opera does not make that song either 'classical' or 'operatic' regardless of whether we would agree that 'all opera is classical' or not. On the other hand, unless the singer's talents are fading, that choice suggests that the piece provided the singer with an opportunity for vocal display as well as having other things to recommend it. I think that opportunity for vocal display is one of the things that contributes to making a work popular for singers of opera.

If you're suggesting that opera should not be popular, I disagree, and I suggest that we agree to disagree. I think that if opera is popular, that's good for the art form, and I'm in favor of it.

Surely you're not suggesting that the age of the piece of music is a requirement for making it 'opera?'

If someone has annoyed you by too great a reverence for Andrew Lloyd Webber's work, I sympathize. I like as much of his work as I've seen or heard, but he's not the only good composer who ever wrote. I'm not sure, though, that I would say that none of his work will ever come to rest in the repertory of opera companies. Neither would I say that all of it will. _Cats_, for example, is a fabulous show, but I'd guess that the way the singing and dancing are mixed will make it unlikely for opera companies. Only musical theater requires both song and dance from its performers. While ballet started in opera, the dances tend to be a bit separated. (I remember how, in _Prince Igor_ the ballet sequences are wonderful, but the singers don't dance.)

On the other hand, some of Lloyd-Webber's work is beautiful and touching, and he hasn't finished writing yet. Some of his work may yet find its way into the repertory of an opera company.

It's unfortunate that _Rent_ was touted as having been based on _La Boheme_ and _Les Miserables_ had the same title as Victor Hugo's work, which lent an impression that enough of the original works had survived in the shows performed that what was new had the information of the old.

Lloyd-Weber's _Phantom of the Opera_ however came into being in very much the same way as most classical operas came into being: a composer liked a play as a subject and, using it as his base, began work with a writer, and whether you call that person a lyricist or librettist is largely immaterial, regardless of whether or not either of them is "the very model of a modern major general."

For the moment, I think it will be fair to point out that if it is opera it is performed in the opera house by the opera company.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 15, 2008 6:25:04 PM PDT
Yi-Peng says:
Thank you for your insightful reply. I can tell you may be out of breath in letting this off your chest.
Well, I would like to clarify some things. I didn't write my post because I didn't like the great reverence of the Lloyd-Webber shows. I enjoy them, especially CATS. However, I wrote this post because I wanted to mention my feelings that people would mistakenly believe that Lloyd-Webber's works are like real opera. After your post, I can see that even opera is written in the manner of the pop music of the day, just like the Lloyd-Webber show tunes. I wouldn't want to engage in a Tweedledum-Tweedledee battle between opera and musical theatre, but I wanted to say that there are misconceptions of the Lloyd-Webber shows floating around.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2008 1:42:53 AM PDT
Of course AL-W's shows are operas. They are lousy operas, beyond a shadow of a doubt, but operas, nevertheless. History shows us in the careers of such luminaries as Pacini, Salieri and Flotow, the trifling charge of lousiness has never impeded entry into the operatic ranks.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2008 4:35:05 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 27, 2008 4:39:43 AM PDT
Yi-Peng says:
No, they may appear to be operas, but they are most definitely not operas. Their style is much more popular, even if they're all sung-through.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2008 12:13:46 PM PDT
Amused67 says:
The flaw with your argument is that YOU DO NOT DEFINE what opera is... You simply try and define that something isn't.

The classical artists of their day were rockstars, much like the artists of today. Classical music was once contemporary. Classical operas were also once contemporary.

I believe only time will tell. If Webber's music survives the test of time, it will be considered, one day, classical opera.

Deal with it.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2008 4:12:46 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 27, 2008 4:16:04 PM PDT
Yi-Peng:

Handel might have said the very same thing about the works of Gluck (whom Handel regarded as knowing less about counterpoint than his pastry cook.)

Amused67:

No, whatever may be the fate of AL-W's works, they will never be "classical opera." That is a designation for the operas of Mozart, Salieri and their contemporaries. At best, AL-W's stuff might be called "Webberian operas," although my own preference is for something along the lines of "lousy 20th Century commercial crap operas."

As for failing to "DEFINE what opera is," I shall point out that some very clever people have been trying to do so since the 1590s. When I hear of a valid definition, I'll post it here.

Dealt with it.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 27, 2008 4:40:13 PM PDT
Amused67 says:
L.E.:

When I was growing up, Motley Crue was modern rock.

Now it's considered classic rock.

Neither you nor I know what will happen with contemporary works in say, 200 years time. To pretend that you do know is at the very least, presumptuous, and more than a little foolish.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 28, 2008 3:29:42 AM PDT
Amused67:

The "classic" period in western music succeeded the "baroque" period and gave way before the "romantic" period. The classic era stretched from about 1770 to 1820 and is best exemplified by the mature work of Mozart and Haydn. In this sense, then, AL-W can never be a "classic" composer unless he makes a radical change of style and acquires a time machine.

On the other hand, I am more than presumptuous enough to predict with great confidence that anyone doing the equivalent of googling AL-W in the year 2208 will find him under "junk."

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 28, 2008 6:38:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 28, 2008 6:47:50 AM PDT
Amused67 says:
What will they find when googling L.E. Cantrell? :)

Do you think that Mozart and Haydn knew they were composing in the 'classic' period?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 29, 2008 2:57:04 PM PDT
Haydn and Mozart certainly knew that they were doing something radically different from their predecessors.

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2008 10:26:35 PM PDT
Amused, just accidentally ran across your post......

Granted that one must always leave room for bad taste, I bet, and really hope, that Andrew L-W.'s music will NOT survive "the test of time."
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Discussion in:  Opera forum
Participants:  5
Total posts:  12
Initial post:  Apr 12, 2008
Latest post:  May 17, 2008

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