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Seattle Opera Podcast

May 13, 2020

In this series of podcasts, Seattle Opera Dramaturg Jonathan Dean gives listeners a taste of nine different types of traditional opera. Operetta is a delightful kind of entertainment resembling opera, but different; whereas in opera the music tells the story, in operetta the music decorates a story which is usually little more than a joke—a story that nobody could possibly take seriously. Operetta developed, in the late nineteenth century, just as opera began taking itself perhaps too seriously. Operettas from traditions in Paris (Orphée aux enfers), London (The Pirates of Penzance), Vienna (Die Fledermaus) and New York City (Rose-Marie) typify the genre. And although many operettas remained popular for decades, the golden era of creating operetta turned to silver, then iron and finally steel as the twentieth century turned its energy toward making movies and wars.

Musical examples on this podcast drawn from the 1997 EMI recording of Orphée aux enfers conducted by Mark Minkowski and starring Ewa Podles and Natalie Dessay, EMI recordings conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent of The Pirates of Penzance, 1961, H.M.S. Pinafore, 1958, and Iolanthe, 1959; the EMI Classics recording of Die Lustige Witwe, conducted by Franz Welser-Möst; the 1960 Decca recording of Die Fledermaus, conducted by Herbert von Karajan; excerpts from Rose Marie from a Pearl Historical recording of Oscar Hammerstein—the Legacy; and from the 1955 film of Oklahoma starring Gordon MacRae.