Mudcat Café message #2098264 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #103166   Message #2098264
Posted By: Don Firth
09-Jul-07 - 09:02 PM
Thread Name: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
Subject: RE: 'It Ain't Necessarily So' meaning
Not many Americans, especially Americans who say they don't like opera, think of "Porgy and Bess" as being opera in the traditions of European opera. But a lot of Europeans do consider it as such. An American opera rather than an Italian or French or German opera, but an opera, nevertheless. It has all the characteristics that define opera:   a drama in which most or all of the dialogue is sung, often interspersed with set-pieces (like the soliloquies in Shakespeare) called "arias" in Italian (simply "airs" in English), or duets, or ensembles.

"Porgy and Bess" falls into the category of "opera verismo," or an opera about realistic people (rather than kings or gods—grand opera). Other "verismo" operas:

"I Pagliacci," about a troupe of traveling players (of the Comedia del Arte school), in which the head of the troupe, Canio, discovers that his wife Nedda is having an affair, and the stage play (play within a play) the comedians are putting on in the second act suddenly morphs from a comedic farce into the real thing. All too real.

"Carmen," about a promiscuous gypsy girl and a naïve young soldier, complete with smugglers and other outlaws. After turning José into a wanted man for deserting from the army and joining the smugglers, Carmen dumps him and runs off with a popular bull fighter. José meets her outside the bull ring, begs her to come back to him, and when she refuses, he kills her.

"La Bohème," about a bunch of bohemians (hippies) in 1850s Paris, living on the edge of poverty in order to practice their arts (painting, poetry, music, philosophy), and their girl friends. Mimi, who has "consumption" (tuberculosis), dies tragically in the end.

A grand opera, Donizetti's "Lucia de Lammermoor" has a plot right out of balladry, like a cross between "Romeo and Juliet" and "Anachie Gordon." It's similarity to a ballad plot is not surprising when you consider that the story for the opera came from a novel, "The Bride of Lammermoor" by Sir Walter Scott, who was an avid collector of Scottish ballads.

Sure, "Lucia," "Pagliacci," and "Bohème" are usually sung in Italian, and "Carmen" is usually sung in French, but these four (along with many others) and "Porgy and Bess" (sung, of course, in English) all belong to the same music-drama genre. Opera.

Don Firth