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  • Cantabile d'Eymet

Getting under the skin of the operatic chorus

We're getting to grips with a wide range of opera choruses as a choir which will be performed at our Feel the Spirit concerts on 11 May in Issigeac and 12 May in Eymet. So what's so special about the Operatic Chorus and what part does play in Grand Opera?

New York's famous Metropolitan Opera helps us out here:

'The chorus has always been an integral part of opera...As in ancient dramas, the operatic chorus commented on the action. Playing the part of bystanders, they could also represent society’s response to the action of the drama.'

'As the genre of opera developed over time, the presence and role of the chorus shifted. In France, the tradition of what is called “grand opera” was based in large part on spectacle and the inclusion of impressive technical elements, of which a large chorus was one. Meanwhile in Italy, when large choruses were employed they were often responsible for revealing the mood of “the people,”'

So, the operatic chorus creates a context for the action and comments on it from its own viewpoint.

With that in mind, here's a thumbnail sketch of just some of the opera choruses we're preparing!

The Anvil Chorus from 'Il Trovatore' by Giuseppe Verdi

Il Trovatore (The Troubadour) was one of Verdi’s most triumphant operas. The story, quite improbable but so romantic, transports us from the court of Aragon to the Gipsy camps, where Count di Luna’s brother has been  raised in secret after escaping death as a baby. This famous chorus is heard at the beginning of the second act, where the Zingari strike their anvil in rhythm with their hammers, celebrating hard work, good wine and pretty Gypsy women.

Placido E il Mar. Idomeneo by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

A complex plot ties together the destinies of Idomeneus, king of Crete, his son Idamante, Illia the daughter of King Priam, and the wrath of the god Neptune. We are in the aftermath of the fall of Troy. Idamante is preparing to accompany Electra back to Greece, and the chorus describes calm seas and friendly winds, predicting them a peaceful journey... Which will be denied even before the ship leaves the shore!

Bridal Chorus. Lohengrin by Richard Wagner

Yes indeed! This famous Wedding March, so often played at weddings to accompany the entrance or exit of the spouses, is taken from the opera Lohengrin by Richard Wagner. In Act 3 of this three-hour blockbuster, the mysterious knight marries Elsa, the daughter of the Duke of Brabant, but he has expressly ordered her never to ask his name. The choir accompanies the newlyweds to the bridal chamber. Elsa will break her word and the name of her husband will be revealed: Lohengrin, son of King Parsifal, guardian of the Grail. Legend, mystery and broken destinies run through the tragedy, tumultuous like the Scheldt which serves as its setting.

So any different worlds, each anhored by and enriched by the operatic chorus. Exciting and accessible to sing, great to experience and enjoy.

More later as we develop our theme of grand emotion from grand opera.

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