Trust your audio "gut". If the music sounds this way, that way, or the other way to you, you are right. It is. Then the drama - the real drama - comes alive.
—William Berger, commentator
Manitoba Opera is having a very Verdi 40th anniversary season. They are opening with the great Italian composer Giuseppi Verdi's Rigoletto on Saturday November 24. Then in April 2013 they'll present Aida.
William Berger is a producer, writer and commentator for the Metropolitan Opera. He has written many books about opera, including one on Verdi called Verdi with a Vengeance.
Berger was in Winnipeg recently to speak about Verdi as a great storyteller, in anticipation of these two productions.
Berger feels we need to hear the story through the music. "The music is not great only because it is great music. That may be true for other composers, but for Verdi it is great music AND it gives us specific dramatic information. We need to HEAR the story" he explains.
SCENE asked William Berger to give us five reasons why Verdi is so very special.
1. There is no greater storyteller in history than Verdi. He ranks with Shakespeare and Sophocles and anyone else you care to name.
2. The stories he tells are great for the same reasons Shakespeare's are - because as he tells them, his insights into the human experience astound us in the audience.
William Berger (Courtesy Met. Opera)
3. Verdi uses music, mostly, as Shakespeare uses words, mostly, to tell his stories.
4. The plots are the mere frames upon which these canvases are stretched. There's no more wisdom in dismissing the plot of a Verdi opera for being "silly" ("she threw the wrong baby into the fire." [Il trovatore]) than there is in doing the same with Shakespeare ("he was so mad he baked her sons in a pie" [Titus Andronicus]). The wisdom in those particular works lies in seeing what people are like in extreme situations. And both Shakespeare and Verdi have a lot of works that are much closer to our daily lives, when they chose to operate in that mode.
5. To follow a Verdi opera with the same mindfulness that one uses to pay close attention to a Shakespeare play, we need to savor the music the way we savor Shakespeare's words - with mindfulness and trust that the author knew what he was doing. Put another way - trust your audio "gut". If the music sounds this way, that way, or the other way to you, you are right. It is. Then the drama - the real drama - comes alive. Manitoba Opera's production of Verdi's Rigoletto has a cast of international performers including American baritone Todd Thomas, Winnipeg's coloratura soprano Tracy Dahl, Canadian tenor David Pomeroy and Canadian mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal. See Rigoletto on November 24, 27, and 30 at the Centennial Concert Hall.This content is provided by William Berger. The views expressed do not express the views of CBC. CBC is not responsible for this content.