Opera Completely Changes in the Nineteenth Century. History twists and turns trends in music as it does everything else. Basically opera writers wrote everything in the 18th century. Their writing skills ranged from operatic to symphonic music to cantatas, trios duets, quartets and all types of sonatas. That was the norm. One man was quite an exception: Christoph Willibald Gluck. He was a good half a century ahead of his time:
The reformer-composer clearly announced his avant-guard intentions in the prelude to his opera Alceste (1767): “I have sought to reduce music to its true function: Supporting poetry so as to strengthen emotional expression and the impact of dramatic situations without interrupting the action and without weakening it with superfluous ornamentation.” Gluck defined his music as “the language of humanity”. He left behind musical hedonism in favor of lyric drama. Passion was expressed as naturally as possible by lyrics.
Opera Completely Changes in the 19th Century
With few exceptions, instrumental musical was either more important than or at least as important as lyrics in pre-19th century opera. With most 19th century composers of opera, lyrics became much more important: Music served the intent of the lyrics. Wife Sharon and I approached our new opera, Patra, using the philosophy of Gluck. Sharon, as lyricist, freely added dissonance when called for by the lyrics. If a mood changed suddenly, Sharon would, for example, change the meter to fit the new sentiment. If something called for a Capella singing, she freely cut the instrumental accompaniment. Below a couple of samples on youtube. For more details, our website for Patra is Patraopera.com.
Our opera is all about how Octavian, after his fateful meeting with Cleopatra, changed his life. He transformed from be a rough and insensitive person into the man who will become August Casear. Augustus was famous for initiating the 200 year era of “Roman peace.”
This thrilling new opera filled with enchanting melodies brings to life the seductive world of Cleopatra.
Having defeated his rival Marc Antony, General Octavian marches into Egypt determined to make Cleopatra his slave.
But Cleopatra is determined to somehow save herself and her four children. Her only hope is to win the love of a third Roman Consul and General, Octavian.
A Theatrical Phoenix is Beginning to Fly- a Brief History. It took wing in New York as a staged reading. This was at the oldest summer vocal training camp in America: The Seagle Music Colony. Our singers had won auditions with the New York Metropolitan Opera. Other prominent opera companies were represented. Among the people who have tested their work at Seagle have been Stephen Schwartz and Pulitzer Prize winners. Patra is now scheduled in Sarasota.
We have been riding on a phoenix for this experience. Our opera, entitled Patra, has “Wings of Song”. This new opus emphasizes the importance of meaningful and healthy relationships between men and women. The show highlights rulers of two great empires, Rome and Egypt. For Egypt we have Cleopatra; for Rome, we have Octavian. He, through Patra’s influence, decides to become the future Augustus Caesar.
Theatrical Phoenix is Scheduled for Sarasota
Sarasota is famous for opera. A marquee, only, from the Sarasota Opera House is pictured below and to the right. . Our new opera, however, will be presented in concert version at The Glenridge Performing Arts center. Immediately above/right is a photo of the setting . We will even have a professional “snake” dance. Our dancer also portrays the Egyptian goddess, Aset.
Our first staged concert was at the Westcoast Black Theater in Sarasota
The story of Octavian and Cleopatra has its own thrust. It is an engaging opera comique. Sharon, as the librettist, not only offers a cornucopia of hope in this lifetime; but also gives ancient instructions on how to be reborn to a high position. Make your reservations at The Glenridge Performing Arts Center today. Contact info is on featured picture.
Song Without Words Can Stand on its Own. It certainly has in the past. Witness the musical compositions of Felix Mendelssohn.
If you ask me what I had in mind when I wrote it, I would say: just the song as it is. And if I happen to have certain words in mind for one or another of these songs, I would never want to tell them to anyone. This is because the same words never mean the same things to others: Only the song can say the same thing. Such songs can arouse the same feelings in one person as in another. Words cannot express this feeling.
Songs Without Words, German Lieder ohne Worte, collection of 48 songs written for solo piano rather than voice by Felix Mendelssohn. Part of the collection—consisting of 36 songs—was published in six volumes during the composer’s lifetime. Two further volumes—with 12 more songs—were published after Mendelssohn’s death in 1847.
Felix Mendelssohn, painting by Wilhelm Hensel.Photos.com/Getty Images…………………………………………………………..
A Song Without Words – Can it Stand on its own Today?
Certainly, there are some affirmative examples. But the music to much of what is written today is circular and repetitive. In computer terms you could say the music “loops”. Repetition of the the same three notes over and over to simplistic lyrics or single words is the style. Basically I feel that what much of the music industry markets today is the image of the “composer.” The archetype example, in my opinion is found in the movie, The Producers.
YouTube – Feb 17, 2016
A gun-wielding Franz confronts Max and Leo, accusing them of breaking the “Siegfried Oath“. He is partially angered over the continual used of the word “baby” in the musical lyrics by the star in the cast.
I Write in the Song Without Words Form
Fortunately, I am married to my own lyricist. What a convenient source for words. We are producing a concert version with dance of our New York tested opera, Patra. It was presented as a staged reading by the American Center for New Works Development. Date of the Sarasota performance is March 23 at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center in Sarasota, Fl. Reserve your tickets today.
Opera Comique In Two Acts – By Sharon and David Ohrenstein
Patra Workshop to debut in New York. Patra is the shorter name for Cleopatra. Queen of Egypt, she was one of the most famous women in history. Her full name was Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator (69 BC – 12 August 30 BC). She was the last of the Pharaohs set up in Egypt by Alexander the Great. By descent, she was a Macedonian Princess. It will appear off book in the workshop. Our singers will literally be top notch. My wife, Sharon is the librettist and a co-composer of Patra. . I, husband David, am also a composer. Before going to NY, it will have a staged concert presentation. This will be in Sarasota Fl at the newly built Sarasota Westcoast Black Theater. Our casts in both NY and Fla are busy rehearsing. Here’s the gist:
Cleopatra had stopped the onslaught of two invading Roman generals through love. She thus neutralized the worst effects of their invasions by marrying the generals. Patra had children with each. They were, first, Julius Caesar and later Marc Antony.
Enter Octavian, a third Roman invader. She almost stops his aggression through love. In order to save her children, she follows the way of the warrior: An honorable death. If she she married Octavian and moved to Rome, both her and her children would have been seen as a threat to the Roman triumvirate. Our opera features Patra and Octavian’s encounter. In the opera she convinces him to become Augustus Caesar- 1st emperor of Rome Later, as a result, he honors her by placing a statue of her in the Temple of Venus in Rome. The statue was displayed exemplifying her as the good mother.
Patra has memorable melodies, Latin rhythms and most important – a gripping story. Sample our music on Patraopera.com.
See PATRA in Sarasota before it goes to New York !!
Presented in Sarasota for One Night Only
Before heading to New York in September, our new opera PATRA will be presented as a concert reading in Sarasota. The complete opera will be presented on Fri. July 19 at the new Westcoast Black Theatre at 6:30 pm.
The New York Workshop
PATRA has been selected for a fully-staged professional workshop in upstate New York at the Seagle Music Colony in Schroon Lake. The American Center for New Works Development at Seagle has work shopped pieces by many award-winning writers like Stephen Schwartz, Mark Adamo, Kevin Putts and more.
Patra Workshop – the Story
PATRA is loosely based on Cleopatra’s final days. When the villainous Octavian dangles a marriage proposal before Cleopatra, she hopes to secure a future for herself and her children. Yet, things do not go as he planned. Cleopatra’s love challenges Octavian and transforms him into a new man. PATRA has five singing roles. Our great Sarasota cast is listed below.
Writer, co-composer, librettist states: “When I began the eleven month rewrite of our more tragic Octavian & Cleopatra, I wanted to lighten the work and give it a popular bent. I cut two singing roles and added a dancer. Then, I infused comedy, lively dance rhythms, a small amount of spoken dialogue and a surprise at every turn. Most of all, I showcased the singer. I did something rather unusual in any musical or opera I created numerous dramatic moments where the instrumental accompaniment is silent. Only singing voices are heard.”
PATRA is an opera comique: It uses techniques from Bizet’s Carmen and Bernstein’s The West Side Story. .
Patra Concert Presentation
The WBTT concert has a $20 suggested donation ticket price to be paid at the door. For an advance reserved seat visit GoFundMe.com/PatraOpera, make a donation and in the notes write WBTT ticket. Westcoast Black Theatre is located at 1012 N Orange Ave, Sarasota, FL 34236.
Libretto by Sharon Ohrenstein
Music by David Ohrenstein and Sharon Ohrenstein
Our terrific Sarasota CAST
Kathryn Parks as Cleopatra, Joseph Ryan as Octavian, Carole Cornman as Iras, Robyn Rocklein as Charmian, and Baron Garriott as Marcellus. Pianist Teresa O’Connell will accompany the shows.
Dancer Vanessa Russo, currently based in Sarasota, has been hired for the New York Patra workshop workshop. Only singers will be performing in Sarasota.
Background for the Patra Workshop: About Ohrenstein and Ohrenstein
Musical theater writers and performers, Sharon and David Ohrenstein have performed internationally from Canada to Honduras. Their musicals, Octavian and Cleopatra, Our Golda, and Elizabeth of Russia have been produced in Florida and New York to remarkable reviews. Sharon was honored to be chosen an Amazing Woman of the Suncoast by ABC 7. David’s chamber compositions for wind ensembles and larger works for concert band have had world premieres in New York, Ontario, Ohio and Florida. David just finished his tenth season at the Gasparilla Inn where he plays for U.S. presidents and other dignitaries. For more information visit Patraopera.com. Here is an internal link to a ballet I, David, wrote: Zodiac Dance Demonstrates Extremes from Ballet to Modern