Friday, October 15, 2010

America’s Next Top Opera

Dear AriaGirl:
What does verismo opera mean? Are those operas performed at a much faster tempo?
Manon L.

Dear Manon:

Not quite, as entertaining as that sounds. (Can you imagine a version of the Ring Cycle at twice the tempo?) Verismo opera refers to a style of opera that became popular in the late 19th century. Composers began looking for stories of ordinary people, rather than the heroic tales from myth and history that had previously occupied the stages. Puccini called them “little souls,” and some argue that Madama Butterfy, Tosca and La Bohème are all stories of ordinary people in ordinary situations. These stories were often inspired by midnineteenth century French literature and frequently depicted the darker, more sordid or violent aspects of lower-class life. Today, you might compare them to reality TV; both verismo and reality TV are certainly melodramatic versions of these “little souls.” I’d certainly argue, however, that Puccini especially treated his characters with much more dignity and respect than their present-day counterparts.

Got a question about opera? Send it in to

Ciao for now!

No comments: