Top 5 Operas That Bury the Hatchet
Thursday, August 07, 2014
For the past several weeks, opera fans have been hoping for a resolution between the Metropolitan Opera management and the several labor unions in their contract negotiations. To send some good karma to the bargaining table—neither a strike nor a lockout benefits anyone who truly loves this art form—we’ve collected the top 5 reconciliations in opera.
1. Though its title suggests otherwise, The Marriage of Figaro carries a rather cynical view of nuptial bliss, especially through the relationship of the philandering Count Almaviva and his disconsolate wife. At the culmination of the opera, the Countess finally catches her unfaithful husband chasing after her maid, Suzanna. When the Count asks for his wife’s forgiveness, the Countess takes the moral high ground and obliges him. “I am kinder than you,” she explains. Perhaps it’s more than coincidence that the Met will open its season with a new production of this repertory chestnut.
2. In the second act of Verdi’s La Traviata, the patriarch of the Germont family proves to be the least understanding of potential father-in-laws. Worried that his son, Alfredo, and his paramour, the former courtesan Violetta, will bring scorn upon his family, Germont asks Violetta to leave his son. Not knowing his father’s role in the breakup, Alfredo further insults her at a lavish party, throwing his gambling winnings at her feet to “repay his debts.” As Violetta lies dying of tuberculosis, both father and son visit her to make amends and ask her forgiveness in time for them to say their final goodbyes.
3. Richard Strauss’s one act opera Capriccio wages a debate between music and words. Each genre is personified by a suitor to the Countess Madeline: music is represented by composer Flamand, and words by poet Olivier. The two try to impress the Countess,—one through his lyrics and the other with melodies—but neither one wins. The opera ends with the Countess enigmatically walking off stage without determining which is most important: they’re equally vital.
4. At the opening of Gilbert and Sullivan’s one act operetta, Trial by Jury, the audience finds the young man Edwin, the defendant, being sued by his jilted former fiancée, Angelina, the plaintiff, for breaking his promise of marriage. After rather contentious testimony in which Edwin suggests a bigamous relationship as a potential solution, and tries to avoid paying damages since he doesn’t have the constitution of a good husband, the judge finds a conclusion suitable to all: he will marry Angelina instead of Edwin.
5. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as fairy dust, which helps resolve rifts between feuding humans in Benjamin Britten’s adaption of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. But good old compassion and understanding patches the relationship between the Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies. At the close of the opera, both the magical and human characters sit together to watch a performance of Pyramus and Thisbe. Even the mischievous Puck offers to “restore amends.”
What are your picks for the best operas that bury the hatchet? Post in the comments below.