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Amazing new opera!

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I saw Elliot Goldenthal's opera "Grendel" last night. It's incredible.

It's based on John Gardner's novel by the same name, telling the Beowulf story from Grendel's point of view.

One role, The Dragon, played by Denyce Graves, that has almost a three octave range - a baritone-soprano role. Something like from a Bb2 to a G5, and possibly higher and/or lower, because I don't have perfect pitch. And she sings it all fortissimo, pretty much. Graves also benefits from the fact that her scene (she's only in one scene in the whole opera) is the most coherent musically, and the best written both lyrically and musically.

The role of Grendel is a bass-baritone, who rarely leaves the stage during the course of the opera and sings much more than anyone else. They take some of the load off of him by having three "Shadow Grendels" - manifestations of Grendel's inner self - and these are tenor, baritone, and basso profundo shadows.

The lyric tenor of the show is The Shaper - a harper/storyteller/bard character who sings with an unearthly voice - lots of melismas, pentatonic music, and amazing ranges.

Julie Taymor, the show's designer (who also designed The Lion King: The Musical, and the Metropolitan Opera's recent production of The Magic Flute) uses her trademark post-modern design sensibilities - there are puppets both large and small, machines, projections, and modern dancers (some of whom fly).

Half the opera is sung in Old English - the Anglo-Saxon roots of Middle and Modern English. It sounds something like German, though with more of a musical lilt. It is rare, but there are times when you can hear some modern English peeking through the archaic vowels and Germanic roots. The Old English is used to separate the humans from Grendel - the humans speak the Old English; Grendel uses gritty modern English. There are some times, however, when the language barrier is crossed. The Shaper's music is so powerful that Grendel can understand it. Unferth, a hero, because of the necessary connection between hero and monster, can communicate with Grendel in his own modern English. Grendel, in a dream, sings a duet in Old English with the Queen. The language barrier affects the audience, too - it forces association with Grendel, rather than with the human characters.

The opera is dark, violent, comic, tragic, and amazing. Highly worth it if any of you can see it.

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That sounds so cool, kinda like Wagner-ish with it's weird story line, old saxon English and dark, dark, dark music!!! :dry:

Oh, I have to write an opera sometime soon...

It definitely falls into the whole gesamkunstwerk kind of thing. Goldenthal makes fun of Wagner in some parts, but he's definitely aware of the similarities between his work and Wagner's. The only thing is that I doubt Wagner used a company of 20 modern dancers.

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