Benjamin Britten’s opera based on the novel “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, was our subject in March. First performed in 1954 in Venice, we viewed an Opera Australia production from 1992. This is another “chamber” opera which can be performed with minimum stage effects. However this DVD used lavish and contemporary effects to simulate the dark and mysterious recesses of an isolated country house in nineteenth century England. Two children and their governess are troubled by the ghostly appearances of the former governess and the estate manager both who died after having an illicit liaison and corrupting the two children. Britten’s bleak music and libretto create a troubling backdrop as the new governess tried to rescue the children from their nightmares and memories. We all needed quite a lot of cheering up after this viewing.
An enjoyable evening was spent viewing Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, 1989, [American]. This DVD is of a recording session made by Bernstein himself and is regarded by some as the best recording of the work.
The presentation of it is different from most operas we have seen so far. Bernstein presents the work with the orchestra on stage and the singers presenting it as an oratorio instead of as a drama.
Bernstein chose an eighteenth-century novel “Candide” by the French philosopher Voltaire as his subject matter. This seems unusual for the mid twentieth century composer. In the novel Voltaire savagely satirises Optimism. Dr Pangloss is the eternal optimist who believes that everything that happens, happens for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire tests this by putting Candide, the innocent young man, through a series of wildly improbable events all of which are increasingly unpleasant. Monarchy, the churches, war, greed and betrayal were savagely attacked by Voltaire and turned into some marvellously amusing arias by Bernstein.
Born in America, Bernstein was quintessentially European in musical tastes and outlook and had been greatly affected by the events of the holocaust and the concentration camp orchestras in the Second World War. Composer and conductor (New York Philharmonic) he was one of the key musical influences in America in the twentieth century.
Opera - four wonderful seasons with Meg Dillon
'Opera - On the Dark Side' (2016)
'In the Mood for Opera' (which included 19th Century favourties) (2017)
'Exploring New Operas' (when most operas were based on twentieth century novels or events') (2018)
'A Night at the Opera - French Style', which explored some of the great nineteenth century French composers like Berlioz, Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc who were interested in opera as a musical form. Lovely arias, tuneful music, great singers and performances. (2019)
Scroll through these pages to enjoy, and for those who attended, reminisce about, four courses offered by Meg Dillon, supported by Terry, at their home, DVDs of the best possible versions were screened with subtitles in English. Limited to 10 members, participants received a synopsis of the story in the week prior to screening.
Thank you so much, Meg! What a truly wonderful program you developed for our members!
Convenor & Contact Details
Meg Dillon 5762 6558
2nd Wednesdays from 7.00 pm - Semester 1 only in 2018.
Developed and maintained by members, this website showcases U3A Benalla & District.
Photographs - U3A members; Benalla Art Gallery website; Weebly 'Free' images;Travel Victoria and State Library of Victoria