Wednesday 15 May 2013

Donizetti: "La Favorite" Arranged for Two Violins by Richard Wagner

Imagine, if you will, that you are a young 26 year old artist living in Paris in 1840. And not any old artist mind, but a composer of long, sprawling operas. You have just completed one such opera that will soon make your name and provide you with some economic stability - but which you will eventually, at least publicly, reject - called Rienzi .

At the same time, you have just written the first prose draft of an unusually concise work called The Flying Dutchman -  a work completely unlike anything that you have conceived so far and which may well set you on a  path to "revolutionize opera". You also have the loyal support of one of the most famous opera composers in Europe - Meyerbeer.

However, despite all of this, you and your young wife are  right now,  this very day, living in poverty - and once again you are heavily in debt and hiding out from debtors. How then might you earn a little money so that you do not end up like a character in an opera not yet written by another future composer: in Paris, forced to burn your manuscripts to stay warm and no doubt singing about tiny little frozen hands"?

If you were Richard Wagner you might turn, among other things, to earn a very meager living by correcting proofs of other peoples operas. Indeed, if you were Richard Wagner you might end up doing so on Donizetti's La favorita. But what if you were Richard Wagner, living in such conditions, and given the opportunity to earn, using your far from meager talents, the  princely sum of 500 francs to  prepare a piano vocal score and arrangements for various instrumental combinations, of said opera. Would you do it? Of course you would.

And so we are left today with the recording below of La Favorite Arranged for Two Violins by Richard Wagner. Alas, on this recording the producers added a spoken narrative, written by opera director Michael DiƟmeier, and read in German by Daniel Morgenroth to fit between the 19 excerpts. It "breaks the flow" somewhat, but if it starts to irritate, you could always just play Wagner's' arrangement and ignore the rest completely. Available below on Spotify complete, you can also listen to some excerpts on youtube here, here and here.

But before doing so, we thought you might find the "article" below from the San Francisco Call's (now The San Francisco Examiner) opera article "Through The Opera Glass" (published 27 July 1890) to be of some amusement.