The sounds of Operaland

31 May 2019

In Alice Through the Opera Glass, our curious heroine journeys to Operaland where she meets famous opera characters and discovers the joys of singing. Get to know the operas and music featured in this fun family show.

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Alice Through the Opera Glass (Scene 1). Photo: Charlie Kinross for Victorian Opera

Verdi’s La Traviata

The story 

Alfredo falls in love with Violetta and they try to start a new life together in the country, but Alfredo’s father convinces Violetta to end their relationship to save his family from shame.

De’ miei bollenti spiriti (‘My passionate spirit’) 

In this aria, Alfredo sings of how Violetta’s love fills him with happiness, lifts his spirits and calms his restless heart.

Fun facts about La traviata 

  1. Verdi composed the score for this opera in just under a month. 
  2. This opera features some of the most challenging music for sopranos.
  3. La traviata was not successful at its premiere but now it is the most performed opera in the world.

Delibes’ Lakmé

The story

Lakmé is about the forbidden love between Lakmé, an Indian priestess, and Gerald, a British army officer. 

The Flower Duet

This duet helps set up the opera’s exotic scenery. Lakmé and her servant Mallika gather flowers by a river and sing about the beauty of nature.

Fun facts about Lakmé 

  1. Between its premiere in 1883 and 1931, Lakmé was performed 1,000 times. 
  2. The Flower Duet was used by British Airways in one of its advertising campaigns. 
  3. It is based on the novel The Marriage of Loti by French author, Pierre Loti.
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Shakira Dugan (Mallika), Timothy Reynolds (White Rabbit) and Alice (Georgia Wilkinson) in Alice Through the Opera Glass. Photo: Charlie Kinross for Victorian Opera

Mozart’s Idomeneo

The story 

King of Crete, Idomeneo, breaks his vow to the god Neptune by sending away his son Idamante, whom he has promised to Neptune as a sacrifice.

Voyagers’ Chorus

In this chorus number, the people farewell Idamante, as he escorts Elettra back to her homeland. The chorus prays that the sea remains calm and their journey is safe. 

Fun facts about Idomeneo 

  1. This opera is considered to be one of Mozart’s first great operas, written when he was just 24 years old. 
  2. Mozart developed the opera seria tradition with this work, introducing new traits and forms. 
  3. Much of the immediate success of this work was due to its set designs.

Handel’s Alcina

The story

The knight Ruggiero has been abducted by sorceress Alcina, who lures heroes to her enchanted island and turns them into animals and rocks.

The Chorus of Enchanted Islanders

Setting the scene of Alcina’s magnificent palace, members of the chorus sing in celebration, rejoicing at the pleasures and happiness the island brings to its heroes.

Fun facts about Alcina

  1. The opera contains musical numbers which would have originally been written for dancers. 
  2. It is one of three operas composed by Handel based on the epic poem Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto 
  3. After performances in 1737, the opera wasn’t performed again until its first modern revival in Leipzig in 1928.
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Emily Burke (Elettra) in Alice Through the Opera Glass. Photo: Charlie Kinross for Victorian Opera

Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado

The story

In the imaginary town of Titipu, Nanki-Poo returns to marry his sweetheart Yum-Yum after a year away but discovers that she is still engaged to her guardian Ko-Ko.

A wand’ring minstrel, I

Nanki-Poo sings this song to introduce himself to the gentlemen who are gathered in the town. He sings of the many songs in his repertoire, suitable for any mood.

Fun facts about The Mikado

  1. At the time of the premiere in 1885, London audiences were captivated by the Japanese culture exhibited in Knightsbridge. 
  2. The opening season of The Mikado ran for 672 performances. 
  3. The phrase ‘let the punishment fit the crime’ came to life in this opera.

Bizet’s The Pearlfishers

The story

In ancient times on the island of Ceylon – now Sri Lanka – the vow of eternal friendship between Nadir and Zurga is tested when they both fall in love with the mysterious and beautiful Leïla.

The Pearlfisher’s Duet

In this duet, Nadir and Zurga remember how they turned against each other to win the love of a priestess. They vow to never let anything threaten their friendship again and swear to remain friends until they die.

Fun facts about The Pearlfishers

  1. This story was originally set in Mexico, before Bizet decided on Ceylon. 
  2. The premiere of this opera was not well received by critics but became very popular after Bizet died. 
  3. Bizet’s dog was named Zurga, like the character in the opera.
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Stephen Marsh and Carlos E. Bárcenas (Fishermen) in Alice Through the Opera Glass. Photo: Charlie Kinross for Victorian Opera

Mozart’s The Magic Flute

The story

Prince Tamino and Papageno set off on a quest to save Pamina from the clutches of the evil Sarastro and discover that the Queen of the Night is not who she seems.

The Hm Hm Quintet

Papageno is found to be lying and has his mouth padlocked as punishment, meaning he can only make humming noises. The Queen’s three ladies pardon him and Papageno learns his lesson.

Fun facts about The Magic Flute

  1. The work was an immediate success, performed 100 times in the 14 months after its premiere.
  2. Each of the characters had their own musical themes so their arrival on stage was often preceded by the music. 
  3. Unfortunately, Mozart died two months after this opera premiered.

Bizet’s Carmen

The story

Young soldier Don José deserts his military duties and abandons his loved ones after being seduced by the fiery gypsy, Carmen. When she turns her attention to the glamorous bullfighter Escamillo, Don José struggles to deal with the jealousy that overwhelms him. 

Toreador Song

Escamillo sings about the courage that is needed when facing a bull and the fame that comes with victory. The crowd joins in with a chorus praising the great bullfighter.

Fun facts about Carmen

  1. This opera was considered a great risk as it dealt with tragic and controversial themes not previously addressed on the stage. 
  2. At the time it was written, the orchestral parts were considered very difficult for the musicians to play. 
  3. Bizet had been to Spain yet was able to successfully evoke its warmth and colour by using the seguidilla (a Spanish dance in triple time) and habanera (a Cuban dance) in the score.

Have you seen any of these operas before? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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Alice Through the Opera Glass. Photo: Charlie Kinross for Victorian Opera

Victorian Opera performed Alice Through the Opera Glass as part of Season 2019.