December 12, 2011

The 12 Days of Opera

Ho ho ho, festive blog readers all!  Virginia Opera recently asked me to come up with an opera-centric version of that fresh, new, completely unhackneyed song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" (that was a little Yule Sarcasm there) to post on our Facebook page.  The idea was that I would find some operatic significance for each number from one through twelve and convert that into a holly-jolly, pretty-witty parody-harody.  (Oops, scratch that last part - got carried away.)  These were duly posted one "day" at a time, and now I'm recapping the complete list, with added commentary afterwards to provide a bit of further explanation for each item.  Just what we needed:  a song parody requiring footnotes...  <sigh>  Not hard to spot someone with a doctorate, is it?!

And......  here it is! (Don't forget to check at the bottom for your "slightly irreverent" footnotes!) So put down that cup of wassail and join me in singing:

THE TWELVE DAYS OF OPERA

On the first day of Christmas, grand opera gave to me:
     Just one character in Schoenberg's Erwartung. (a)

On the second day of Christmas, Grand Opera gave to me:
            Two different La Bohèmes (b)  
            And just one character in Schoenberg’s Erwartung.

On the third day of Christmas, Grand Opera gave to me:
            Three Chinese Riddles (c)  
            Two different La Bohèmes
            And just one character in Schoenberg’s Erwartung.

On the fourth day of Christmas, Grand Opera gave to me:
            Four gigantic operas (d) 
            Three Chinese Riddles   
            Two different La Bohèmes
            And just one character in Schoenberg’s Erwartung.

On the fifth day of Christmas, Grand Opera gave to me:
            Five Faustian acts (e) 
            Four gigantic operas 
            Three Chinese Riddles   
            Two different La Bohèmes
            And just one character in Schoenberg’s Erwartung.

On the sixth day of Christmas, Grand Opera gave to me:
            A six-day engagement (f) 
            Five Faustian acts 
            Four gigantic operas 
            Three Chinese Riddles   
            Two different La Bohèmes
            And just one character in Schoenberg’s Erwartung.

On the seventh day of Christmas, Grand Opera gave to me:
            Seven veils a-dropping (g) 
            A six-day engagement 
            Five Faustian acts 
            Four gigantic operas 
            Three Chinese Riddles   
            Two different La Bohèmes
            And just one character in Schoenberg’s Erwartung.

On the eighth day of Christmas, Grand Opera gave to me:
            Eight days in prison  (h)
            Seven veils a-dropping 
            A six-day engagement 
            Five Faustian acts 
            Four gigantic operas 
            Three Chinese Riddles   
            Two different La Bohèmes
            And just one character in Schoenberg’s Erwartung.

On the ninth day of Christmas, Grand Opera gave to me:
            Nine high C’s (i)
            Eight days in prison 
            Seven veils a-dropping 
            A six-day engagement 
            Five Faustian acts 
            Four gigantic operas 
            Three Chinese Riddles   
            Two different La Bohèmes
            And just one character in Schoenberg’s Erwartung.

On the tenth day of Christmas, Grand Opera gave to me:
            Ten youthful operas (j) 
            Nine high C’s 
            Eight days in prison 
            Seven veils a-dropping 
            A six-day engagement 
            Five Faustian acts 
            Four gigantic operas 
            Three Chinese Riddles   
            Two different La Bohèmes
            And just one character in Schoenberg’s Erwartung.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Grand Opera gave to me:
            Eleven precocious years (k)
            Ten youthful operas 
            Nine high C’s 
            Eight days in prison 
            Seven veils a-dropping 
            A six-day engagement 
            Five Faustian acts 
            Four gigantic operas 
            Three Chinese Riddles   
            Two different La Bohèmes
            And just one character in Schoenberg’s Erwartung.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Grand Opera gave to me:
            Twelve chiming clock-chimes (l) 
            Eleven precocious years 
            Ten youthful operas 
            Nine high C’s 
            Eight days in prison 
            Seven veils a-dropping 
            A six-day engagement 
            Five Faustian acts 
            Four gigantic operas 
            Three Chinese Riddles   
            Two different La Bohèmes
            And just one character in Schoenberg’s Erwartung.

a:  A creepy Expressionist drama, Erwartung has a cast of exactly one soprano.  Some feel it's one too many.
b:  One by Puccini and one by his rival Leoncavallo.  Awkward.
c:  The title character in Puccini's Turandot will marry any prince who solves her threesome of riddles. 
Although, if she and the other soprano, Liu, would be willing to get a little kinky, Calaf could've had an actual threesome.  Woo-hoo!
d:  Wagner's cycle Das Ring der Nibelungen.  (Come on now, you figured that one out on your own, didn't you?  I know you did!)
e:  I refer to Gounod's five-act spectacle.  I was really, really hoping that Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Golden Cockerl was in five acts so the line could've been: "Five gol-den cockerls!"  No such luck.
f.  In Donizetti's Elixir of Love, Adina promises to marry Sgt. Belcore in six days.  That should give Nemorino just enough time to get drunk enough to propose to her.
g.  Another fairly obvious one:  the "Dance of the Seven Veils" from Richard Strauss's Salome, a scene producing titillation when done by sopranos under age 40 and weighing less than, say, 220.  Otherwise, one goes to bed with visions of Immodium dancing in one's head.  (Note the additional holiday reference there; no extra charge for that.)
h.  In J. Strauss's Die Fledermaus, poor Eisenstein has been sentenced to eight days in the local Viennese pokey for some heinous crime, like failing to use mouthwash prior to singing.
i.  If you already knew this reference was to Tonio's aria-cum-high-wire-act in Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment, you get an extra slice of fruitcake.  Actually, you can have the whole damn thing - I'm allergic to nuts.  Go ahead, take it.
j.  Did you know that Gioacchino Rossini, in a burst of adolescent frenzy, had already written ten operas by the time he turned 21?  What had you accomplished by that age, hmmm?  Got your driver's license?  Well, you rock!  (Not.)
k.  Little boy-wonder W. A. Mozart wrote Apollo and Hyacinthus (his opera, or sing-spiel, or miracle play, or off-Broadway musical, or whatever the heck it is) at age eleven.  Again, what had you accomp--- (oh, forget it.)
l:  We end with a reference to my personal, all-time favorite opera: Verdi's Falstaff.  In the final scene, silly old Sir John appears at Herne's Oak dressed up in cloak and antlers (doubtless the 19th-century version of cloak and dagger) and freaks out when some unseen clock s.l.o.w.l.y bangs out twelve chimes, upon which he brilliantly remarks:  "It's midnight."  Sharp as a tack, that Falstaff...


MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

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