Shumaila 10/1/2012

During Monday’s class, Professor Kahan introduced different types of singing voices in operas between men and women. The three types of male voices that we went over were bass, baritone, and tenor. I was particularly fascinated to learn how combining the elements of drama and music created opera.

I learned about the four biggest musical composers, Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, and Bizet. Professor Kahan explained how writing Operas isn’t as easy as it seems, because you have to look for unique high-pitched words that display the performer’s talents effectively.  Then for the first time, I watched an opera video in class. This was something, to be honest, I never saw myself doing at any point in my life. However, I’m glad I was provided with such an intriguing introduction to Operas before attending one myself during Wednesday evening. I was most fascinated when I learned about Pavarotti, and how he sang at various points in his life, but he consistently sounded the same. Although, his voice had matured somewhat, I was awestruck but how one can sing so powerfully even at such an old age. My appreciation for Opera definitely grew after I watched the “Nessun Dorma” meaning  “None shall sleep.”

I learned more about the opera during this class than I had thought I’d get to know. I have a new appreciation for such a unique musical form, and hope to learn more styles that I never thought to learn if I had not been in Macaulay’s Seminar class. After being in Monday’s class, I felt much more interested in attending my first Opera.

Corinna K. 10-1-12

Monday’s class was all about opera.  This seemed appropriate considering that in a couple of days we’d be going to see what, for most of us, was our first opera.  Something that professor Kahan had said that I found to be particularly interesting was that opera singers were like athletes.  I listened to the explanation about how both need to practice a lot and take care of themselves in order to keep up and perform well, and being an athlete myself, I instantly understood and began to have more admiration and respect for opera singers. Another thing about opera that I found interesting was its history.  The fact that women were once not allowed to be on stage and some men had to make the sacrifice/decision to take their roles seems ludicrous.

As the class progressed, we took an even closer look at opera.  First, we discussed how all of Mozart’s works have a consistent theme of overcoming depression, which was actually news to me.  Then, we looked at the structure of opera.  We discussed how at certain times, the plot would simply get moved along and notes would be used mainly to get the speech out.  On the other hand, there is an aria, which is the main part of music.  It is when the singer expresses an emotion or thought.  It is usually sung twice and the second time with improvisation in order to show off the singer’s voice.   Women’s voice types were also a major part of our discussion on Monday.  There is mezzo soprano, dramatic soprano, lyric soprano, spinto soprano, and light lyric soprano, just to name a few.

To truly understand the different styles and components of opera, we listened to a few examples. Nessun Dorma by Pavarotti was so touching and the talent that the vocalist had was incredible.  Madamina was also an enjoyable performance, but for a different reason.  It was a comedy about rape, which shows what was expected of men with power, sexually.

Seminar Class 10/1/12

On Monday’s class, Professor Kahan explained to us the different types of singing in an opera. The three types of male voices, from lowest to highest, that we discussed in class were bass, baritone, and tenor. For a male to be able to sing in tenor is extremely difficult because it is very high pitched. One example of a male singing in tenor was when Luciano Pavarotti sang “Nessun Dorma.” Luciano Pavarotti had become extremely famous for singing this song from the opera Turandot because he hits the line “vincerò” at a perfect tenor pitch. Since Luciano Pavarotti is one of the most respected opera singers in the twenty first century, we watched his performances of “Nessun Dorma” three times each during different time frames. Even though Pavarotti was a different age each time he sang this song, it sounded amazing all three times. He also sounded the same all three times. However, he had a more matured voice in his later years. It truly amazes me how he could sing so beautifully and powerfully at the age of seventy and at an unhealthy state.

Another video that we watched to give an example of a type of male opera voice was the song “Largo al Factotum” from the opera The Barber of Seville. This song was shown to give an example of a baritone male voice. I have seen the this opera before and this was my absolute favorite song. It is probably one of the most famous baritone songs in an opera. It is a difficult song to sing because it is very upbeat and the performer singing it must be moving around the stage the whole time, since the role of Figaro is very exuberant.     “Largo al Factotum” is also a great example of a patter song. A patter song  is a song in which the words are sung extremely fast. Both of these songs, “Nessun Dorma” and “Largo al Factotum” are two songs that i fully enjoy and I am so happy that Professor Kahan chose them to exemplify some of the types of male opera voices.

10/1/12- Preparing for the Opera

In preparation to see the opera on Monday night, we discussed the history and different aspects of an opera in seminar class. Professor Kahan explained that the opera was originally conceived during the 1600s in Italy in order to combine music and drama. After its conception, the opera really caught on and became a sought after art form. Besides having entertainment value for the audience, there was a strong competition between the opera singers to hit the highest note they could and hold it for the longest time.

Professor explained that some of the best opera composers (in her opinion) were Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini and Bizet. In seminar, we the music of three of these great composers: Mozart, Puccini and Bizet. First, we listened to Don Giovanni by Beethoven Mozart. Using this opera, we learned that there are two main parts of the opera: an aria and a recitativo. An aria is a long piece sang to express one emotion or thought. Singers often use this piece to show off their vocal abilities to others. A recitativo, on the other hand, is a minor part in the opera that is used for dialogue and narration. This is the closest to ordinary speech that you will hear during the opera.

The second opera that we listened to was The Barber of Seville by Rossini. The portion that we listened to was the character Figgero singing about the different tasks and business deals he performs on behalf of his patrons. Here, we examined an example of a pattersong. A pattersong requires the singer to sing a lot of words in a very short period of time. It is very often used to convey comedy and levity.

Finally, we looked at the opera we are going to see on Wednesday, Turandot by Puccini. This VERY popular aria has been sung by many, many, tenors over the years, but none compares to the musical brilliance of Pavarotti. As a class, we watched clips from 1980, 1998 and 2006. It is quite peculiar how Pavarotti’s sing abilities got better as he aged. It was absolutely astounding to see a 71-year-old man sing this beautiful yet difficult aria perfectly! There are no words that describe Pavoritti’s amazing talent.


In today’s seminar, I learned a lot about something I honestly never thought I would understand: Opera. Not to sound immature or uneducated, but the thought of people yelling long words at each other in different languages wasn’t anything I thought I could understand. However, today’s class really shined a light on to what the art of opera is really about and what it consists of.

We began the class by speaking about the different ranges of voice for men. The lowest range for a man is bass, but a long time ago, young men would castrate themselves (ouch) for the sake of being able to sing higher. These young men literally devoted their entire lives to singing opera, and I find this dedication, although somewhat psychotic, to be respectable nevertheless. Next, we learned the two types of opera singing: Recitativo and Aria. Recitativo is moderately paced dialogue, usually used to explain part of the story or keep it rolling along. Aria, however, is when the singer is able to have his or her “time to shine” and show off what they can really do with their voice. I was especially impressed by opera singing after I was able to understand Aria. Most people, including myself, would hear opera singing and immediately just think of a man in a fluffy costume yelling FIGAROOOOOOOO for as long as he could. After learning the emotional passion that is contained in the aria, as well as the incredible strain the singers must put on their voices to maintain high notes with no amplification, I was definitely able to appreciate the opera much more.

Opera, like any other type of music, can also be about anything. Giovanni’s Catalog Aria tells a very lighthearted and humorous story about a promiscuous man who’s had relations with practically everyone in town. So, contrary to my previous beliefs, opera really isn’t just people in fluffy costumes singing gibberish in angry languages. The emotional element, as well as the physical demand, have definitely changed my opinion about opera.


Opera, 10/1

Up until this seminar class, I was not looking forward to the opera.  Dressing up and heading all the way to Manhattan to watch something I have no interest in felt displeasing. Fortunately, due to the several YouTube videos we watched during the class, heading to the opera seems like a trip worth taking.

I went to multiple musicals in my life, ranging from the disney musicals to the Phantom of the Opera.  The only musical that I thoroughly enjoyed was the The Lion King and in all honesty, the rest were a bore.  Since most of the shows I have seen lacked my interest, my past experience contributed to my disinterest of operas. I did consider the fact that musicals and operas were two different art forms but since I never took an in depth look at opera before, I sort of meshed the two as a single genre.

To my surprise, the opera videos we watched in class were simply fun to watch.  The performance from The Marriage of Figaro was by far my favorite since it made me laugh.  I actually never thought of operas as comedies, in fact, I had the notion that all operas were just melodramatic performances.  I am not sure why I had this outlook on the art form,  maybe because of the term, Soap Opera.  Melodrama is the first thing I think of when it comes to Soap Operas.

Thanks to youtube and this class, my thoughts towards opera changed. I never figured that operas would be fun to watch, I assumed they were boring melodramatic performances.  It is nice to expect a good time Wednesday night and I am sure I will be seeing more operas in the near future.



Today was a good introduction to what the opera is going to be like Wednesday night. In this class we learned a lot about different types of opera singers by watching different clips of well-known operas. To be honest, I wasn’t very excited about going to see the opera prior to this class because I had never seen them before, and I imagined them to be very boring because there would only be singing. Now that I have more of an idea on what opera is all about from seeing different opera clips, I am excited to see Turandot this Wednesday.

First, we watched Don Giovanni. It was a light-hearted comedy about a noble man named Don Giovanni being very promiscuous and he was not afraid to show it. It says a lot about how society viewed men of higher class who are promiscuous during the time period of the opera. I enjoyed this clip of the opera a lot because of the light-hearted feeling of the music, and the comedy of the scene. The music blended very well with the singer’s voice, and the singer’s acting was good which made it entertaining.

Later on we watched a clip from La Traviata that was sung by Beverly Sills. I didn’t like this scene because although she had a very good voice and the music was nice, it had very bad acting in it. It would have been very difficult to follow this scene without subtitles. The singer is saying how she has very conflicting feeling about falling in love. However, you get the feeling that she is happy instead of conflicted about her love because of her facial expressions and how she has very up beat movements.

Finally, we watched three clips of one of the most famous opera arias of all time, Nessun Dorma, from Turandot, sung by Pavarotti. Unlike the previous two clips, there was no acting involved, and the singer was stationary the entire time. However, I enjoyed the clips. I had no idea that Opera singers were not in their prime until their forties, and I was very impressed by Pavarotti because of his age and the longevity of his career. His last performance was during the 2006 winter Olympics, which is an extraordinary accomplishment.

Ariana Z. 10/1/12 Opera

Following today’s seminar, I must say that my excitement for attending the Opera this Wednesday has grown. Rather than simply attending the Opera “cold turkey” and without any prior knowledge or analysis, I am thankful that this seminar allows us to truly look into the art form of the Opera and learn the great passion and talent it takes to be an opera singer. Prior to the class, for example, I had been exposed to Pavarotti through school, my parents or other moments of passing by. I had not, however, truly understood how spectacular he was or how different an opera singer’s career is compared to a career in tennis, for example.

Professor Kahan explained that in 1981 he had just entered his “prime” at the age of 45, when you compare that age to tennis player Andy Roddick, who at age 30 retired from his tennis career, one can see how it is quite a contrast. When we analyzed the three clips of Pavarotti singing “Nessun Dorma” in 1981,1998 and then in 2006, it was amazing to hear that even at the age of 70 he could compete with his prior riveting performances. In 1998, when he was 63 years old, he was by far at his prime. Unlike his 1981 performance which was also breathtaking, in the second clip one could see that he was truly in his element and definitely looked like he was in complete control of his voice.

I must say, however, despite it being his best performance of the three we watched, my favorite performance would have to be at the 2006 Winter Olympics. At seventy years old, to even be able to stand in a crowd so large and have the physical capacity to perform, blew me away. Also, to hear the tenderness of his voice and the true passion and pride he had in his country was one of a kind. It surpassed the fact that this performance lacked the longevity of the notes. In fact, despite the minimized use of technique, one also saw his passion displayed as (unlike his last performances) he moved his hands more and truly expressed his emotions across his face. I could only imagine how amazing it must have been to be a spectator that night in 2006. And though Wednesday’s performance of “Nessun Dorma” may have high expectations after listening to Pavarotti, I am sure that being in the presence of any talented tenor will truly be a treat.

Opera 10/1/12

To be perfectly honest, before this class today, I knew little to nothing about opera and all that it entails. From the beginning of the class until the end, it was an entire learning experience for me. For starters, I quickly grasped the fact that the four most influential opera composers included: Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Puccini. The lowest voice for a man is the bass and through the evolution of opera, which began nearly four hundred years ago, it became a combination of the artistic approach and the concept of “showing off” in the way that the audience wants to hear those high notes. For example, Mozart wrote dozen of operas and particularly, four of them are famous, each of them ridiculing the aristocracy.  I find that rather comical because I think it takes a great deal of skill to use a form of art to make fun of the upper class so eloquently and gracefully. There are two types of sung music. The first one is recitative, which by definition is a music narration because the notes go along with the particular voice. The other is an aria, which is the main part of music, and the singer expresses one emotion, thought, or idea. The main tune of the opera is sung twice and the second time, the singer adds more notes as a way of showing off.  We listened to an aria by Don Giovanni, and it was a funny drama consisting of comedy mostly about the idea of rape and was discussed in a light-hearted manner. After that, we began to listen to Barbiere Di Siviglia by Rossini. This particular piece has a baritone, which is voice above the bass. Also, synonymous to the work performed by Mozart, Rossini was a stand up to the aristocracy to Pre-French Revolution literary movement. In good aria, I learned that the singer says one idea or notion but repeats it in numerous different ways. Another thing, I became accustomed to in this class was, a librettist, which works with the composer, has to understand how voice works, and build a character/plot. In opera, all Shakespearean poetry turns in kinds of arias, and little synopses are given about what Shakespeare wrote.

Soon, we listened to aria from Othello by Verdi that is composed of a dramatic baritone in which the top of the voice is used more and it relates better with the character. Unknown by me, the King of the High Seas is the composer Pavarotti, and women in opera have for some strange reason a high death rate. Finally, there are many more voices for women than men, such as: alto, mezzo-soprano, soprano, dramatic, lyrical, spinto, light lyric soprano, coloratura, and finally soubrette. All of these are used frequently in operas composed by women. Today’s class was quite influential and I am satisfied that it came before our trip to the opera because now I will be able to apply this new knowledge to the opera itself. I have a new liking for this particular art form mainly because of the intricacy behind the various voices as well as the overall persona embodied by the men and women on stage.


Today, we spoke about opera and the different types of voices for men and women. I thought it was pretty interesting to find out that opera was created around the early 1600s by combining drama and music. I was a bit disappointed when Professor Kahan didn’t include my favorite composer, Rossini, in her “Four Greats” but I was particularly happy when we spoke about him for a few minutes. Being a horn player, I’ve unfortunately come to brush off listening to Mozart (his four horn concertos are drilled into any horn player so, it can be a not so nice reminder when Mozart comes on the radio) and I feel terrible for not recognizing that he was a great opera composer.

Learning some of the opera vocabulary is making me more comfortable in talking about operas. I’ve always been afraid to speak about operas because I thought I might come off as unintelligent about the subject and therefore too inferior to speak about it. Now that I know some of the vocabulary, I’m becoming more comfortable and embracing this opera loving side of me. In my high school music program, we had to go to a school broadcasting live performance of the Met once a semester. I remember Carmen, obviously, even though I saw it almost two years ago. At the time I thought I was too young to find enjoyment in the operas but now that I’m older I know that was really silly of me.

I’m so excited to see the opera, and even the dressed up audience members, that I listened to the opening night of Turandot on Saturday on my satellite radio. I didn’t have the time to listen to it all and I didn’t have English subtitles but I had tremendous respect for what goes into the opera.

– Amber G