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For Spooky Halloween Music , There's No Better Place Than Opera !

   Many people would not associate opera with the spooky and supernatural , but in fact , there are quite a few operas in which  the devil gets his due ,  as well as ones with other decidedly macabre elements in them .
   The good old devil  himself  appears in a number of popular  and  less familiar operas , including  Gounod's rather tame Faust , where he's more  elegant and  playful than  sinister,  Mefistofele by the Italian composer Arrigo Boito , both based on the epic play by Goethe about  an aged  philosopher who is tempted by the devil
to experience the delights of the flesh and lust for power .riches and  the answer to the ultimate meaning of
life, but who must follow his master to hell for eternity .

   The Boito opera is more earthy  and elemental  , and  Hector Berlioz wrote his highly original oratorio
The Damnation of Faust ,which is sometimes stages as if it were an opera,most recently at the Metropolitan .
It concludes with a  terrifying  ride straight into hell  for Faust , where he is greeted by the demons of the
netherworld  with  a  grotesque mocking  chorus in  a made up hellish language .  This will  make the hair on your head  stand straight up !  

   The great Italian  pianist  and composer Ferruccio Busoni (1866- 1924 )  wrote his  own enigmatic take on
the Faust legend called Doktor Faust ,  whose final scene had to be completed by a pupil  after his death .
Here , the  roles of  Faust and Mephisto , which are sung repsectively by tenor and bass in the other operas , are reversed , and Faust is a  solemn  bass baritone , and the devil is a sarcastic and mocking tenor who
appears in different disguises throughout the opera , set to Busoni's  spiky and sulfuric music .

   Antonin Dvorak turned  the devil and hell into a  screwball comedy with his  droll  comic opera
The Devil and Kate , where hell is a fun place and the devils are just a bunch of good old boys who
like to sit around   hell drinking , singing lusty  songs and playing cards !    Marbuel , an assistant devil to
Lucifer , is not a sinister figure but a total wimp  who allows  the title character Kate,  a bossy and talkative young woman who is rather overweight  to boss him around ! 

   Other  strange  and sinister operas include  The Turn Of The Screw by  the great English composer Benjamin Britten  (1913 - 1976 ) , which is based on the eerie  and enigmatic short story by Henry James of the same name .  Here , two orphan children on  their family estate are tormented by the ghosts  of 
former  employees  on the estate  .  Britten's chillingly understated music is scored for a small  ensemble of about a dozen instruments rather than a full orchestra .

   Perhaps the most  bizarre  and  disturbing of them all is  the bone chilling    The Fiery Angel
by  Sergei Prokofiev (1891 - 1953 ).  This  opera ,set in  16th century Germany during the Inquisition ,
is  a nightmarish tale of  Renata ,  a crazed young  woman who is tormented by demons  and demonic visions  throughout the opera , and gets involved with the blacked of black magic and  demonology 
with her  friend  the wandering knight Ruprecht , who is desperately in love with her but whose love is
unrequited . 

   In the final scene she has entered a nunnery to try to escape her demons , but  they begin to infest the whole nunnery , the other nuns become possessed , and  an exorcism is performed on her  which goes horribly wrong , leading to total chaos  in the nunnery .  For this, she is sentenced to be tortured and burnt at the stake !    Prokofiev's music throughout the opera is almost unbearably intense, violent
and  churning .   He later used music from the opera in his third symphony .

    Have a  spooky  and  fun-filled Halloween , but be careful about the Prokofiev opera - it may cause nightmares. I'm not kidding ! 


Posted: Oct 31 2011, 11:07 AM by the horn | with no comments
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