After a decades-long struggle, the patience and slavish commitment of numberless friends, an inspiration that can truly be called superhuman, and a streak of luck that beggars the imagination, Richard Wagner finally finished his epic "Ring."
Despite the luminaries in attendance over the years - from Hugo Wolf and a who’s who of European royalty, to Tchaikovsky, Bernard Shaw and others - it could never pay its way.
There are a handful of operas that define the genre; their time period irrelevant and their themes go to the very heart of the human condition.
We live with these creations daily without our knowing it and they are the very musical air we breath. They exist in the opera house, on the the concert stage (without scenery), in the recital hall (as excerpts, arranged for piano), in the elevator, on the radio, in the lightest cartoons and the darkest dramas - and yes, in the shower.
Few single cantos of poetry have ever given as much to the world as Dante’s Canto V from the Inferno and the brief telling at the close of the love, death and afterlife of Francesca da Rimini.
Beginning with Dante in 1308 among the painters, musicians, painters , playwrights inspired by the tale can be included: Mercadante, Leigh Hunt, Ingres, Rodin, Rossini, Rachmaninoff, Doré (whose illustrations are reprinted to this day), Foote and of course Tchaikovsky, whose tone poem has done much to popularize the theme .
Giuseppi Verdi's "Don Carlo" was a Behemoth, a lumbering monster. It featured variant openings, duets and trios and choruses to burn, ballet music that now only exists as a separate concert work, and most importantly, a great psychological/musical narrative frame -- the reason for all the elaboration and development.
What most of us know begins in a tomb in Spain and builds out an old and new subtext of European history, the battle of reactionary politics and the spirit of the Reformation. This background weaves this ideological struggle into a love story of great power.