Fires are lit, effigies are burnt and the skies sparkle with fireworks. Tuesday 5 November is more commonly known as Bonfire Night: the night the nation huddles together en masse to enjoy a chilly autumnal evening. However, if you don’t want to run the risk of catching a cold, there is an option to enjoy all the thrills that are linked with the evening, indoors. Opera performed live can give you exactly the same thrill as attending your local fireworks display.
The combination of dramatic narrative, stagecraft and music, and especially the range and vulnerability of the human voice, make opera the art form that comes closest to expressing pure emotion. It is storytelling at its most vivid. To celebrate Bonfire Night, we explore our favourite dramatic moments in opera.
How could we not begin with Bizet’s Carmen? ‘Love is a rebellious bird that none can tame’. The opening line oozes dramatic intent. From the entrancing music, high drama which includes knives, two love triangles and a cat fight, it’s an opera that is both passionate and explosive; a real showstopper. The only thing we are missing is the bright lights of fireworks… or are we? To commemorate the day, we’ve turned our trailer into a banger! (excuse the pun.)
Considered as one of the most blisteringly dramatic moments in all of opera, the entrance of the vengeful ghost is a spine-chilling highlight in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Accompanied by the full force of the brass section, the wicked Don Giovanni is given a mournful ultimatum. The juxtaposition of the subject matter has made Don Giovanni one of the most popular operas ever written. Mixing comedy, tragedy and drama with the supernatural, Mozart manages to be surpassingly dramatic.
THE MAGIC FLUTE
It may be one of be biggest crowd-pleasing operas around but Mozart’s The Magic Flute contains one of the most dramatic entrances in all of opera. Often referred to as the vocal equivalent of the 100 metres, the world famous ‘Der Hölle Rache’ sees the human voice pushed to breaking point, climbing to the Everest of high notes. The menacingly grandiose aria, depicts a fit of vengeful rage in which the Queen of the Night places a knife into the hand of her daughter Pamina and exhorts her to assassinate her rival, Sarastro. ‘Hear, ye gods of vengeance! Hear a mother's vow!’
Described by a critic in the 1950s as a ‘shabby little shocker’, Puccini’s Tosca is one of the most lethal of operas. Addressing the themes of sex, power, politics and religion to exceptionally dramatic effect, it features one of the best stage villains ever created, the menacing Baron Scarpia. With examples of physical and psychological torture, none of the central characters make it to the end alive.
Known as ‘sixty minutes of tragic intensity’, Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle revolves around the relationship between Bluebeard and his wife Judith who seeks to unlock the secrets of his soul. It is Bartok’s ability to delve deeply into their thoughts and emotions through the medium of the orchestra that builds the dramatic intensity of this piece. The dramatic interest depends, not on dramatic action per se, but on the psychological and emotional interaction of the two characters.