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In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

DR. VON LYRIC AND PART 2 OF HIS LISZTOMANIA (sorry – irresistible!)

Oct 2, 2014 3:56:00 PM
By BLO Staff

I checked out the interesting - if extended - Wikipedia article on " courtesans" and their history. BLO's Stage Director for La Traviata, Chas Rader-Shieber, is making a strong point in his staging about the difference between the society and worlds of the courtesan and the prostitute, and I was led to a book of synonyms (which often give a clue to a word's wider connotations beyond it's dictionary definition). Here is the list (partial) of what I found under "courtesan" (the line of demarcation between "courtesan" and "prostitute" is obviously ever flexible).
"Prostitute, street walker, harlot, whore, trollop, doxy, strumpet, hussy, trull, drab, hooker, floozy, wanton, chippy, call girl, tart, slut."

Strung out one after another, the total picture is surprisingly shocking to me in its sense of degradation and palpable misogynistic disgust. In contrast, the list of words and synonyms under "lover" seem bland (almost polite) and mostly non-confrontational.

"Beau, swain, wooer, suitor, gallant, amorist, playboy, stud, philanderer, paramour, rake, libertine, cavalier, flirt, infatuate, courter."

A list of the quite nasty things that were said about La Traviata at its various premieres and first performances (the London critics were particularly rough):

  • " ... permeated with foul and hideous horrors."
  • "...the music has no value whatever."
  • "It has pretty tunes, for every Italian has, more or less, the gift of melody; but even tunes are trite and common."
  • "Trash...the poorest music...poorly sung."
  • "Consumption for one who is to sing! A ballet with a lame Sylphide would be as rational." 

The premiere in Venice was one of the low points in Verdi's professional life.

  • "La Traviata last night - a fiasco. Was it my fault or the singers? Time will tell."  
  • "The worst of it was they laughed. They will hear it again - and we shall see!"
  • "I believed I had done something passable, but it seems that I was wrong." 

But he was right - time told, they heard it again, it wasn't his fault and La Traviata has become (according to some) the most popular opera ever written. (So prove it...OK...see below.)

For my (almost) last list of the day, here are the top 10 performed operas (world-wide) in the 2012/13 season. And this is certainly the MOST PREDICTABLE list of all time. In order 1 - 10: 

  1. LA TRAVIATA (see, Giuseppi, those who valiantly stay the course might just win in the end)
  2. CARMEN
  3. LA BOHEME
  4. THE MAGIC FLUTE
  5. TOSCA
  6. MADAMA BUTTERFLY
  7. THE BARBER OF SEVILLE
  8. THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO
  9. RIGOLETTO
  10. DON GIOVANNI 

But in my absolutely last list (for today) things get considerably more interesting. The NEXT 10 are (in order):  DIE FLEDERMAUS, AIDA, THE ELIXIR of LOVE, COSI FAN TUTTE, HANSEL and GRETEL, EUGENE ONEGIN, TURANDOT, NABUCCO, I PAGLIACCI, IL TROVATORE.
( NABUCCO? ...who knew?)

Check all this out (and much, much more) on a really cool site...operabase.com. (Great statistics!)

See you at La Traviata!

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