Friday, January 18, 2008
While opinions about the quality of contemporary opera singing differ, there's probably a general agreement that we're in a golden age for playing by opera orchestras. Opera orchestras are different herds from concert hall orchestras and have to master a considerably different skill set. As accompanists, they have to master fairly complex figuration, often long-winded and repetitive, and a great deal of the time off the beat, and they have to respond flexibly and extemporaneously to the circumstances onstage. While the opera orchestra definitely has moments in the forefront, much of their responsibility is for the music beneath the surface and that's too often undervalued (I am a great admirer of internal instrumental parts in the operas of Rossini). It occurs to me that minimal(ist) music, when it goes orchestral, is too often assigned to concert rather than operatic ensembles, which would have a natural edge with a music in which an unambiguous surface is often absent. With a few exceptions (Glass, Adams, and...) that's clearly an opportunity missed.