Painter, musician, bibliophile...
In this brief introduction Johnson takes us from the opening e-flat of the Das Rheingold to the consuming flames of Götterdämmerung. Discussions of staging, orchestration, plot development, mythic elements and more are interspersed with musical excerpts.
Wagner designed the tetralogy to begin with the Vorabend, (a "preliminary evening") in which Das Rheingold is perfomed, followed by the succession of the operas Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung. Johnson makes an admirable presentation of each part of the cycle without excessive digression.
Of course, countless volumes have been devoted to the discussion of meaning, leitmotif, scoring, and all things Wagnerian, should one want to look deeper. But for a brief discussion of Ring essentials, look no further.
These operas share a somewhat daunting reputation. Even opera fans have been known to quaver before Valhalla! But don't be one of them. Listen to this book, then jump right in. Some of the most beautiful music ever written awaits you.
If you had crossed Bizet's path in 1875, the year "Carmen" was first staged, you would have met with a plump, bespectacled Frenchman who was forever nibbling sweet delicacies. But while you might overlook this unassuming person, you could not have ignored his music.
From early childhood, Bizet possessed prodigious talent. In the Conservatoire at nine, and winning every prize going, he worked his magic on a variety of instruments. At the age of 19, he won the Prix de Rome. With innate musical taste, judgment, and imagination, he stands above his contemporaries.
As this program points out, Bizet was no "one trick pony." He'd written most of his work before anyone had heard of "Carmen," and some of this sadly neglected work deserves rediscovery and appreciation, such as his opera "The Pearl Fishers."
Harold Schonberg wrote, "Carmen is an opera of passion, power, and truth, infinitely superior to the carefully arranged, prettily served canapés of Gounod and Massenet. They were skilled professionals. Bizet was a genius."
Tchaikovsky and Brahms were fans of "Carmen," too. Wagner, having heard it, said of Bizet, "At last, for a change, someone with ideas in his head!"
All this makes it the more stunning that this perennial favorite did not meet with immediate success. "Carmen" was called "immoral," and accused of being (even worse) "Wagnerian."
In this excellent program, David Timson brings the spectacle of "Carmen" vividly to life, with reference to many important excerpts, the fast and furious scene changes demanded by the complex action, and so much more.
If you're fortunate enough to be going to see the opera or just want to understand it better while you listen at home, you can't go wrong with this exploration of "Carmen essentials."
This was the first opera I heard (at the age of nine) and it left me forever in love with opera itself. My French wasn't under firm control, and I couldn't really understand everything that was happening, but that music! I have never forgotten it. Such is the power of Bizet.
"How does art get done? Why, often, does it not get done? And what is the nature of the difficulties that stop so many who start?"
These are the questions the authors ask, and more importantly, answer, in this concise, brilliant book. By turns philosophical and pragmatic, insightful and witty, ART AND FEAR is a gift for the creative soul.
It's valuable to working artists, artists who have given up, and artists who have yet to begin.
And if you remove the charged word "artist," one might say it's valuable to anyone who struggles to create anything.
You need not be writing a symphony or a novel, dancing a principal role, or attempting to release a sculpture from a hulking block of marble. Maybe you're designing a dress, creating a new dish, keeping an illustrated journal, or teaching yourself to play a ukulele. What creative thing you do isn't the point. Continuing to do it is:
"What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don't quit."
This is at the heart of the authors' message. They've written it to help us figure out how to stay in that first group. To stay in it, you must be able to combat fear, which includes facing any issues, preconceptions, misunderstandings, or even delusions about yourself or anyone else that may be holding you back from doing your work. What is involved will be as individual as your work. There are no easy answers or magic formulae. But it can be done, and is, every day you refuse to give up.
When my brother gave me this book, I didn't hold out much hope, but I kept my reservations to myself. After all, I'd read a sea of books about creativity, many of which turned out to be filled with useless pop psych clichés and other nonsense. But this one is different. It provides something deep and true, something everyone who creates can use.
Or as another artist friend said, "This is the straight stuff, straight up."
Indeed it is, and it just might change your creative life.