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Producing Opera – Mr Kenneth Baird

On Monday 23rd November, I attended Kenneth Baird’s “Producing Opera”

workshop, in which he explained that there are a multitude of factors which
effect a company’s visual portrayal of a piece, and how these are often linked to
societal issues.
A Pre-requisite of attending the workshop was to watch the Royal Opera House’s
2008 production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”, which in itself has not only
expanded my repertoire, but also showed me that even seminal works such as
this are often altered in some way to respond to budgets or the soloists that they
have access to.
During the course of this workshop we were shown various different versions of
the same opera and discussed how certain visual cues matched up to meanings
in the music, one example of this was during a Swedish production of “The Magic
Flute” there was a copy of Wagner’s “Parsifal”, (which was first performed in
1882 long after Mozart’s death), this shows that it was a reference to Wagner
who was very interested in the music that preceded him, but interestingly once
said “Of Mozart I only cared for the Magic Flute. Don Giovanni went against my
grain, because of the Italian text: It seemed to me such rubbish.”
I think this workshop has helped me with various aspects of the music course;
first of all, after we discussed the importance of the concert hall, in order to fully
understand what was said in the workshop I focused my research towards other
composers of opera, such as, Mozart, Wagner and Britten, and how, the latter
two especially, depended on the acoustic effect provided by “Bayreuth” and
“Snape Maltings” Secondly, after looking at canon formation in my musicology
lessons, I thought that Mozart was a perfect composer to study with regards to
his place in the musical cannon, this encouraged me to read about how it is often
not entirely a system of meritocracy, but often hinges upon factors such as
gender, class and ethnicity. Finally, after researching the opera and finding a
copy of the score, I also looked at how the instruments were used to maximum
effect, this will naturally relate well to any future orchestration tasks, as I gained
a better understanding of how individual parts should be voiced and also noticed
certain idiosyncratic elements to his writing, which I can later reference in my
own acoustic compositions.
To conclude I think that this workshop has helped me to develop as a musician
by encouraging me to look beneath the surface and fully utilize my analytical and
research skills, to gain a fuller understanding of the historical context and
ultimately a greater understanding of the piece itself.