The elements of opera were introduced in a special concert for children, their parents, and others curious about the Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM) on Sunday evening at the Family Concert 2014.
The concert was designed to teach the audience, many of whom were so small they had to sit on their parents’ laps to see the stage, about the types of songs included in an opera. It featured the orchestra and chorus from the Teatro Verdi Trieste from Italy, conducted by Francesco Quattrocchi, and a number of renowned opera singers.
Dr Issam El Mallah, ROHM’s Advisor to the Board for Programming and Events, and Director General Christina Scheppelmann provided explanations in Arabic and English about the musical selections included in the programme.
“This is designed to walk you through all the components of opera. Music goes straight to our hearts…and this is one of the strengths of opera,” Scheppelmann said, adding that opera is considered a complete form of art since it includes music, acting, literature, costumes and sets.
The first piece the orchestra played was the Overture from William Tell by Gioachino Rossini, a piece that many in the audience would have recognised, especially at its triumphant ending, which sounds like thundering horses. The audience learned that an overture is an instrumental piece of music that introduces the opera, setting the tone of the story.
Perhaps, one of the most commonly referred to opera songs is the aria, or a song usually sung by one main character. It reveals the character’s emotional state, and it is often followed by another solo or duet, called a cabaletta, in which the character sings about what they plan to do, or their intentions. The aria is often the most important part of the opera for the principal singers, since they are often judged by how they sing them.
An aria from Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Corsaro was sung by tenor Luciano Ganci, to showcase the highest range of male voices, along with baritone Christian Starinieri, whose voice represents a medium male range, deeper and fuller than a tenor, but not as low as a bass, which is the lowest male range.
The concert then shifted to duets, or songs for two singers. The lyrics may sungs in turns or at the same time, with the voices overlapping. First baritone Carmelo Corrado Caruso and soprano Isabelle Kabatu, whose voice is the highest kind of women’s or boy’s vocal range, sang a tragic duet in which a woman promises to marry someone she doesn’t love in order to protect the man who has her heart, from Verdi’s Il Trovatore. Then tenor Ganci joined Kabatu to sing one of the most famous romantic arias, “Viene la sera,” from Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.
The singers then doubled in number on stage, as the quartet was introduced.
Scheppelmann compared a quartet to a lively gathering of friends or family when everyone talks at the same time, though in this case the voices are beautifully arranged. Baritone Carus and tenor Ganci sang with soprano Vania Soldan and mezzo-soprano Maria Cioppi, who revealed a slightly lower type of female voice. They sang the quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto, a famous piece in which a playboy tries to seduce a woman while a woman whose heart he recently broke watches jealously from the sidelines with her protective father.