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A while back, I posted about "One Hit Wonders" and followed it up with "One Hit Wagner". Dmopbuff made a comment about one hit operas.

It's a terrific category. The requirements are an opera that is rarely performed except for a famous aria, duet, or orchestral excerpt.

First in line, Massenet's "Thais". The opera has something to do with an Egyptian princess, I have no idea. "The Meditation from Thais" is routinely performed by orchestras around the world. I first heard it at a summer pops concert on The Embarcadero. I bought a recording of it that very night. The meditation is for orchestra and solo violin. I like Anne Sophie Mutter as the violinist.

La Wally is another opera about which I know nothing.

So far I've admitted to not knowing much about these operas. I was tempted to look them up and get some background information. Then, I realized that they're not well known for a good reason. They're mediocre operas. Yes, bad operas exist, lots of them.

Not all classical music is great. Not all Elvis songs are great either but he's still The King.

This is getting way off topic here but I'm not a huge fan of Bach. Bach is among the top three composers of all time, along with Mozart and Beethoven but I'm just not a fan of a lot of his music. I do adore his six suites for solo cello.

To me, Bach is like kale. He's very good for me but I don't go out of my way to consume him. That could change.

I used to have no time for any recording that was pre-stereo but now some of my favorite recordings are from the monaural period.

La Wally is known for one soprano aria, "Ebben! ne andro lontano" which translates, "Very well, I shall go far away." Every soprano you've heard of has recorded this aria but I've chosen Kiri Te Kanawa for this example.

Puccini had a few of stinkers of his own. His opera "La Rondine", "The Swallow", is dwarfed by his other hits. In the first act, "Chi il sogno di Doretta" is sung by the lead soprano. The aria has nothing to do with the plot of the show, it's a piece that another character has written. This aria became famous when Merchant Ivory used it in the 1986 film, "A Room with a View."

A few years ago, La Rondine was produced by Lyric Opera San Diego, Los Angeles Opera, and San Francisco Opera all in the same season. I guess that theory of things happeining in "3's" has some merit.

This is merely a start to the one hit wonders of opera.

A Room with A View Clip.

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Comments

jdMaya April 28, 2011 @ 5:59 p.m.

Your clip of Room with A View has Dame Kiri singing "Chi il sogno di Doretta". The same movie also has her singing her signature "O Mio Babbino Caro." When the movie first opened in NYC the audience gave standing ovations when both were sung. They were chosen from an earlier recording she had made of them and are still sung regularly in concert and recital by her. The arias have several things in common as you mentioned above. The "O Mio" is mostly a one off as well.

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Garrett Harris April 28, 2011 @ 11:52 p.m.

Yes, the Dame Kiri album was on the CBS Masterworks label. When it was transferred to CD the recording level was strangely low.

You're right about O mio babbino caro being a one off. However, it doesn't quite fit as a one hit opera since Gianni Schicchi is performed prolifically, especially in college and university opera workshops.

I wasn't aware of the ovations from the movie premiere. That has to be one of the top 5 kisses in movie history. Of course, Wesley and Buttercup are the self proclaimed number 1!

Thank you for the comment, Garrett

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pcbick May 12, 2011 @ 2:08 p.m.

"Thais" surely does not qualify as a one-hit opera. Massenet wrote many other works that are still performed pretty often, especially "Manon", "Don Quixote" (heard recently at the SD Opera), and "Cendrillon".

It would also have been nice if you'd at least mentioned Catalani, the guy who wrote "La Wally".

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RobertoTenore May 13, 2011 @ 8:45 a.m.

Garrett,

Thais is not about an Egyptian Princess. Thais is a famous and notorious Courtesan in Alexandria. A pious Christian monk keeps hanging around with her, trying to convert her. He won't admit it, but of course he lusts after her. Finally, he is successful and she converts to Christianity. But then the roles reverse - she goes off to live in contemplation and prayer, while he pursues her out of lust. I saw the opera once, a long time ago. I think it ought to be performed more often.

Robert

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