21 January 2011

Listless List

The List is out. Here's how our boys fared:

But the dynamic duo of 19th-century opera, Verdi and Wagner, aimed high. As I already let slip, they both make my list. That a new production of a Verdi opera, like Willy Decker’s spare, boldly reimagined staging of “La Traviata” at the Metropolitan Opera, can provoke such heated passions among audiences is testimony to the enduring richness of Verdi’s works. A production of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle has become the entry card for any opera company that wants to be considered big time. The last 20 minutes of “Die Walküre” may be the most sadly beautiful music ever written.

But who ranks higher? They may be tied as composers but not as people. Though Verdi had an ornery side, he was a decent man, an Italian patriot and the founder of a retirement home for musicians still in operation in Milan. Wagner was an anti-Semitic, egomaniacal jerk who transcended himself in his art. So Verdi is No. 8 and Wagner No. 9.
Mozart was listed, of course, but only at No. 3? The other opera composers who made it are Beethoven and Debussy.  It's actually an amusing read, full of funny apologies and excuses. The exercise of putting together such lists is not unlike choosing a favorite child, if you're too serious about it. But it can also be a "gun-to-your-head" or desert island game, if you're on your second bottle of wine.

I wish a blog like Parterre Box would host a similar challenge to readers, for our very own Top 10 List of Opera's Greatest Composers.  I'm sure it's been done here and there, more times than I can imagine, but to have perhaps the greatest collection of queens bitch it out for days and days would be a true highlight of operablogging in a while.  (Sorry, it can't be hosted here, since (a) I have a readership of about a dozen, and (b) I don't allow comments in the blog.) Mascagni, anyone?