“I hope next time we’ll have an opera in Arabic and I think it should feature the oud, which is one of my favourite instruments”

Renée Fleming doing choreography by Sara Jo Slate for "Thaïs" at the Metropolitan Opera 2008 December

“I hope next time we’ll have an opera in Arabic and I think it should feature the oud, which is one of my favourite instruments”

Renée Fleming

But…but, Ms. Fleming–there are already operas in Arabic and Turkish.  Not long after the importation of Western Styled Orchestras into the Ottoman Empire in 1828 (led by Giuseppe Donizetti, the brother of the more famous Gaetano Donizetti), Ottoman composers were writing Operas which incorporated all the stylistic elements of Ottoman Classical Music (including improvisatory taksims).  And not long after the Cairo Congress in 1932, Arabic composers such as Mohammed Abdul Wahhab, were composing Operatic works which melded some elements of Western Classical Music with the indigenous maqams and instrumentation.  All of these works would have included a standard instrumentation of Middle Eastern ensembles of which the Oud is essential.

Sadly, such is the nature of Western Music History education that we don’t learn of such things.  And such is the nature of Western Music ensembles that we don’t play such things.

Fortunately, I’m not stuck in that mold and have, as standard repertoire in two of my groups, selections from some of these numbers.  One of my favorites is “Cleopatra,” which is a beautiful tune from Mohammed Abdul Wahhab’s Operetta “Kilopetra” (1947).

Here’s a wonderful non-staged rendition of it by the Nezareth Orchestra:

Maybe one of these days Western Classical Music ensembles will truly become international and stop focusing on the Western Canonical works as well as Western Canonical compositional style and instrumentation.

I do wonder, given some of the “exotic” themes, stories and locales of many Western Operas, whether Ms. Fleming gained that interest that way or through the work she did with one of my friends who choreographed for the Met Opera production of “Thaïs” back in ’08.   *shrugs*

 

 

The death of the cinematic industry…

The Met’s “Die Walküre” by Richard Wagner, now showing at your local movie theatre!

So the last movie I went to, Thor, I was intrigued to see a table with fliers for a couple of upcoming “special events.”

The two fliers were slick promos for upcoming (one now past) live HD cast performances by the Metropolitan Opera and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Look at that blurb in the top left hand corner of the first link – “Movie theaters aren’t just for the movies anymore.”  The big blurb in the middle column says:

GREAT ESCAPE THEATRES IS EXCITED TO BRING MORE THAN MOVIES TO OUR THEATRES!

Programming for everyone, and we mean everyone – from opera, sports, and comedy to original programming feature the biggest names in radio and television – with all of it containing exclusive content you won’t find anywhere else.  Special event features like behind-the-scenes footage and backstage interviews.  Big screens with high-definition picture and big-time surround sound with the best seats in the house and close-up view unlike any other.

For all the folks who continue to maintain the popularity of pop culture–in conjunction with the the supposed decline of high culture (Classical Music)–it’s a bit ironic that movie theaters are now showing live casts of, well, classical music.

The Met has been doing this for some time now, one of my friends and wonderful bellydancer, Sara Jo Slate, had the opportunity to teach Renée Fleming some moves and do choreography for the Gala show of the Met in ’08 (Thaïs) which I had to miss for various reasons (both the live opening as well as the livecast).  It was back then that the idea of live casting productions peaked my interest.

Now the LA Phil is getting in on the act.  With their new star power in the young Venezuelan conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, who first shook the Classical Music world when he toured the Venezuelan Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar (Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra).  Both he and the Orchestra are products of the Venezuelan, El Sistema, which has forcedsome of us to question how [little] we fund our Orchestras in the states given the wild success of the Venezuelan system.  The Berlin Philharmonic has also been broadcasting its concerts live for some time now with its Digital Concert Hall though I’m not sure how that fits into Movie Theaters as I believe this is for webcasting and/or live Television.