An Opera Odyssey
The four century history of opera from Peri and Monteverdi to Birtwistle, Bruči, and Tkach
About the series
An Opera Odyssey is a prodigious production undertaking by Elbrus TV – a boutique production company specialising in documentary making within the realms of classical music, literature, and history. It will represent the most substantial, significant, and meaningful visual history of opera ever to be produced.
Viewers will see how the communicative power of opera with its intoxicating mix of live orchestral music, the unique quality of the human voice, poetry-like stories, and inspiring stage designs, affects us both intellectually and emotionally. And it will demonstrate how we need all of these elements to coalesce to give us a true opera experience.
Being filmed in more than 40 countries, the four-season series will bring viewers on an unrivalled journey through the four-century history of this rich and multifaceted musical genre in an insightful and approachable manner. Viewers will learn not only of opera’s development from the late 1590’s in an alluring, at times amusing, and always engaging way – but also how vocal technique evolved, how the role of the orchestra changed through time, and they will gain a valuable insight into the lives of the great composers, who quite paradoxically, are frequently little more than a footnote in opera programmes, to say nothing of the librettists.
We will be bring our cameras inside some of the most opulent and majestic opera houses giving viewers unparalleled, behind the scenes access. They will be enlightened by musicologists, conductors, musicians, operatic singers, archivists, designers, and museum curators.
But far more than being a series solely with an emphasis on the troika of composers, operas, and singers, we will also explore the socio-political, philosophical, economic, religious, and aesthetic factors of the genre. We look at human behaviour by examining some notable operatic characters and try to ascertain if they were inherently bad or mentally disturbed. And given opera’s penchant for murder and mourning, we take a look at how some poor unfortunates met their end.
Uniquely, Opera Odyssey is a Massive Open Participatory Arts Project in which the public, as well as corporate entities, can play an invaluable part and leave a lasting educational legacy, by supporting our Friends & Patrons programme and product placement initiative.
A Word from our Music Director
In spite of, or maybe thanks to, Hermann Hesse’s Age of Feuilleton, opera is an integral part of modern society: starting with theatrical representations in the dawn of western culture, opera, in its various forms, moved through centuries, wars, political and cultural turmoils growing as one of the most popular artform expressions.
Sometimes funny, sometimes dramatic, sometimes tragic, opera traverses the entire spectrum of human emotions, summing up history in just a few hours: from Monteverdi’s Orfeo through Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte to Puccini’s Turandot and all the way to Bruci’s Gilgamesh we can observe history – our own history – through the glass of time, recognizing ourselves in all those characters that are nothing but a mirror exposing our flaws, our regrets, our passions, and making us love life to its very core.
Opera Odyssey is a fantastically inspiring journey, a coup de théâtre in the age of tweets that is bound to fascinate newcomers and aficionados alike, enticing them into exploring more of the magic of opera, and to realize that their stories, our stories, the composers’ stories are everything but one: the story of humankind.
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A Glimpse into Season 1
Far more than an exploration of opera, the series showcases the development of music itself in Europe from the Middle Ages, to the Renaissance, and Baroque era.
Temple of Dionysus
Where it all began - Ancient Greece. Granted the influence on opera took a millennia or two to take effect, but Season 1 will open here, in the Temple of Dionysus, where viewers will learn about Ancient Greek theatre and its import to opera as we know it today. Also featured will be the Epidaurus Theatre.
Viewers of Season 1 will have an exclusive backstage access to some of the most beautiful Baroque theatres in Europe. In fact two are older, being from the Renaissance period. They will learn of how theatres developed and how today, despite the pull of technology, they remain so crucial to our love of public performance.
It may surprise some, that period instruments of the baroque era are still played to this day - more than three centuries later. Season 1 will feature a selection of these and viewers will learn about them from distinguished virtuosi as well as hearing them played in intimate settings.
Composers & Librettists
The lives, times, and works of thirteen Baroque era composers and ten of their librettists are explored to reveal the rich tapestry of European music in the 17th and early 18th centuries.
What to expect
We begin by looking at what influenced and nourished the birth of opera in the final years of the 1500's. For that we need to travel back to ancient Greece however, and the theatres of Dionysus (6th century BC) in Athens, built on the southern slope of the Acropolis hill, and of Epidaurus (4th century BC) near modern day Lygourio. It was in the times of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero that this refined civilisation held music and theatre in such high esteem, which ultimately, albeit two millennia later, was such a pivotal catalyst in the development of opera.
The series then moves on to the Middle Ages and explores how music was used in liturgical drama and mystery plays, before we arrive at the real genesis of opera during the Renaissance period. We visit Ferrara in Italy where in the late 15th century, the earliest of the important precursors of opera - the intermedio - took place. From here we look at the Medici family in Florence and Gonzaga family in Mantua, and go on to discuss the Florentine Camerata, two of the members of which, Guilio Caccini and Jacopo Peri, wrote some of the earliest operas.
At the core of Season 1 is the first of four operatic eras that form the basis of the entire Opera Odyssey series - Baroque. But to give it context, we look too at the Baroque style as it was reflected in painting, architecture, sculpture, and dance. Also featured in Season 1 is a look at the history of the Teatro San Cassiano, the first public opera house which opened in 1637, and the wonderfully exciting plans to rebuild it.
We discuss how dramma per musica suffered Papal sanction; how new musical forms evolved, such as monody, recitative, and aria; and how other European countries developed their own operatic traditions. We discuss for example, the French divertissements and tragédie lyrique, and the English masques. We dedicate one episode to the phenomenon of the Castrati, and look at the lives of some of the more famed singers. It leads to a discussion on voice types in opera. We look at the lives of two early female stars - Madama Europa and Anna Renzi. Also discussed will be some of the period instruments which are still played today and we are delighted that viewers will have the opportunity of learning about them and hear them played by eminent musicians. And of course, we look at the lives of the renowned Baroque era composers as well as their librettists, as we discuss 33 of their operas.
Filming for Season 1 starts in the beautiful city of Prague in spring 2022 when we will record a selection of baroque arias that will be featured throughout the episodes. We are indebted to the management and staff of the National House at Vinohrady, for welcoming us to film in such an august institution. Our sincere thanks too to the Praga Sinfonietta Orchestra and its founder Miriam Němcová for their renowned scholarship and professionalism that they will bring to the aria recording.
Opera's Extraordinary Phenomenon
Season 1 will feature the lives of some of the most famous castrasti including Senesino, Gaetano Majorano, Nicolò Grimaldi, Gioacchino Conti, Giovanni Carestini, Antonio Bernacchi, Francesco Pistocchi and, perhaps the most famous all, Farinelli (1705-1782). This was the stage name of Carlo Maria Michelangelo Nicola Broschi, one of the greatest singers in the history of opera. Listen to the podcast below to learn more about the extraordinary phenomenon of the castrati.
A Philanthropic Project
The Opera Odyssey project is a non-profit and philanthropic undertaking for our production company. We are very pleased that upon its completion, Opera Odyssey will provide substantial support for the sterling work of the renowned charity Musicians Without Borders. We fully support and are committed to the charity's mission in using the power of music to bridge divides, connect communities, and heal the wounds of war.
National House at Vinohrady
The baroque aria recording will take place in the beautiful Myakovsky Hall of National House at Vinohrady, built in 1893/4 and we extend our sincerest appreciation to its management and staff, for working with us to make the Opera Odyssey series truly innovational.
We will be joined by the players of the Praga Sinfonietta Orchestra and its founder Miriam Němcová, who will work with us over the next few years in proving the music to the subsequent seasons in the series. But furthermore, they will collaborate on two festivals with us. One featuring the music of Alexander Scriabin (in 2022) and the other, the music of Dmitry Shostakovich (in 2025).
SOME OF OUR EXEMPLARY SINGERS
OUR GRACIOUS THANKS
Opera Odyssey is most grateful to all of the opera singers who attended our auditions in Dublin at the end of January (2020). The staggering depth of talent exceeded our wildest expectations. We sincerely thank all of the singers for their interest and support, as well as for their invaluable help in promoting and sharing our website, and joining us on Twitter.
We are also indebted to our most distinguished panel of judges: Maestro Gianmaria Griglio, the acclaimed Violetta Lazin, and the renowned Prizrenka McCray. Their dedication and hospitality towards the singers was matched by a most diligent selection process beforehand, to select 60 for the live auditions from more than 220 singers who had applied.
CHECK OUT SOME SINGERS' WEBSITES
Wiebe-Pier Cnossen – https://wcnossen.wixsite.com/wiebepiercnossen
Amelia Feuer – https://www.ameliafeuer.com
Lars Fosser – https://www.fosser.eu
Emmanuel Franco – https://www.emmanuelfrancobaritone.com
Bonnie Frauenthal – https://www.bonniefrauenthal.com
Morgane Heyse – https://en.morganeheyse.com
Julia Mintzer – http://www.juliamintzer.com
Facundo Munoz – https://www.facundomunoz.com
Rachel Pines – https://www.rachelpines.com/bio
Viktor Priebe – https://www.viktorpriebe.com
Michael Taylor – http://countertaylor.com/bio
Lona Mohr Villadsen – https://lonamohrvilladsen.com
Cathy-Di Zhang – http://www.cathydizhang.com
Ylva Gruen – https://ylvagruen.webnode.se
ARIAS BEING FEATURED
Opprimete i contumaci
Son pien di giubilo
Lascia ch’io pianga
Dover, giustizia, amor
Sempre in contrasti
When I am laid
Aux langueurs d’Apollon Daphne
Sussurrando il venticello
Classical & Belcanto
E che? Io sono Medea!
Una furtiva lagrima
Che faro’ senza Euridice
Rachel quand du Seigneur
Oh, wie will ich triumphieren
Mi tradi’ quell’alma ingrata
Largo al factotum
Nell’impero di Cupido
Song to the Moon
Death of Boris
Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix
Bella figlia dell’amore
Credo in un Dio crudel
Dich teure Halle
Die Frist ist um
Durch die Wälder, durch die Auen
Verismo & beyond
Now the great bear
Nemico della patria
To this we’ve come
Si’ morir ella d’e’
E lucevan le stelle
In questa reggia
Sein wir wieder gut
Aria of Katerina Izmailova act I
After the Prague aria recording....
is when the ‘road trip’, commences. Far from being a leisure and recreational sabbatical, our journey will see us filming in 10 countries, but passing through a few more. It is on this journey that the majority of the programme content will be acquired – filming in theatres, galleries, museums, archives, and historic buildings, as well as recording over 60 contributors to season 1. We will have the pleasure of working with eminent scholars and subject matter experts, which will bring so much added value to the production.
a celebration of four centuries of opera
Opera devotees and those new to opera, will be able to enjoy a more than five-hour festivity celebrating 400 years of opera. The Inaugural Gala will be presented in the beautiful city of Prague in the Czech Republic.
Sadly, due to the current global predicament of plagues, pestilence, and pandemics, we are unable to give a definitive date for the inaugural gala concert or subsequent ones. Autumn 2022 for the Prague Gala is our aspiration. But if you subscribe below for concert updates, we will let you know as soon as we have more information. (This subscription is not necessary if you are already a newsletter subscriber).
By being part of a society that values the heritage of classical music and how it enriches and impacts favourably on our lives, the Friends of Opera Odyssey are vital in ensuring the promotion of opera for generations to come. Our Friends are cultural collaborators of this entertaining and comprehensive educational resource, and as such, they make a valuable worldwide cultural and artistic contribution.
Opera Odyssey’s Corporate Patrons provide significant and strategic operational support to this breath-taking project. In particular, patrons ensure the series documents recherché operatic works, that are so vital to a comprehensive history. In light of that, Opera Odyssey works intently and diligently with corporate entities across the continent and beyond, to ensure we best meet our patrons’ specific business goals across a range of media.
We are truly honoured to be working with the celebrated artist and caricaturist Alexander Novoseltsev. Alexander will paint respectful caricatures of the more noted composers featured in our series, as well as scenes from many of operas discussed.
We will be making the artworks available as giclée fine art prints, both as general release paper prints, and limited edition canvas prints, (limited to 25 copies each). These will be available through this website commencing in 2021, and their sale will be a significant support in the funding of the Opera Odyssey project.
The Opera Odyssey Book
Accompanying the TV series, but being published to coincide with the launch of Season 1, is the Opera Odyssey book. It will resemble nothing like you have ever seen before. A limited edition, large format, lavishly illustrated, glorious work on opera’s history, it will be an expression of excellence and beauty. Written in an authoritative yet approachable style, the book will be a veritable treasure trove of opera’s life from its earliest times.
And for a truly exceptional experience, some may be interested in the Exclusive Edition, of which only 100 are being produced. Quarter bound in fine Moroccan leather, with gilt-edged pages, this exquisite volume is presented in a hand-made clamshell box.
Teatro San Cassiano
Opera Odyssey is not the only innovate opera project in progress. We urge you to have a look at the magnificent and praise-worthy plan to reconstruct the original Teatro San Cassiano (1637) in Venice, not only as prized attraction in itself, but also to stage historically informed performances of baroque opera.
Featured composers by era: BaroqueClassical & BelcantoRomanticVerismo & beyond
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When looking for the names of operas, please be aware they may not be listed here in English.
For example, Mozart’s The Magic Flute is featured here as Die Zauberflöte.
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Opera Odyssey is wholly owned by
Baikal Developments Ltd.
Registered in Ireland
The Opera Odyssey book is published by
part of Baikal Developments
Printed in Malta by
Gutenberg Press Ltd.
Dublin ♦ Brasov ♦ Prague ♦ Moscow ♦ Casablanca