OPERA AND WAR

OPERA AND WAR

We often think of opera being inspired by love, intrigues and conflicts, fights and murder – but inspired by war?

Actually there are quite many operas which feature and depict war, and even more with a story with war as background.
I will only include operas which feature and depict war.

WARS IN ANTIQUITY

An important source of inspiration for opera libretti is of course the Trojan War.

Les Troyens by Berlioz stages the famous war episode (Trojan horse included) very dramatically

 

King Priam by Michael Tippet is based on Homer’s Iliad and depicts the horrors of war.

 

Alessandro by Handel begins with a  battle in progress with Alessandro (Alexander the Great), besieging the Indian city of Oxidraca.
The same subject was also composed by Leonardo Vinci (1690-1730) in Alessandro nell Indie

AIDA by Verdi deals with the war between Egypt and Nubia. The actual war is never shown in the opera. But both the planning and the famous triumphal victory scene

Norma by Bellini is about the war against the invading Romans.
Famous is the chorus “Guerra, guerra”

and here in a fun version

 

 

WARS IN THE MIDDLE AGES

Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda by Claudio Monteverdi has a  libretto drawn from Torquato Tasso’s La Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered).  A Romance set against the backdrop of the First Crusade, when Godfrey of Bouillon conquered Jerusalem

 

Attila by Verdi
Attila and his victorious horde of Huns have destroyed the city of Aquileia in their war against the Romans

 

Macbeth by Verdi

Macbeth has learned that an army of Scottish rebels backed by England is advancing against him, but is reassured by remembering the words of the apparitions, that no man born of woman can harm him. However, in an aria (Pietà, rispetto, amore / “Compassion, honour, love”) he contemplates the fact that he is already hated and feared: there will be no compassion, honour and love for him in his old age even if he wins this battle, nor kind words on a royal tomb, only curses and hatred. He receives the news of the Queen’s death with indifference. Rallying his troops he learns that Birnam Wood has indeed come to his castle. Battle is joined.

Macbeth has learned that an army of Scottish rebels backed by England is advancing against him, but is reassured by remembering the words of the apparitions, that no man born of woman can harm him. However, in an aria (Pietà, rispetto, amore / “Compassion, honour, love”) he contemplates the fact that he is already hated and feared: there will be no compassion, honour and love for him in his old age even if he wins this battle, nor kind words on a royal tomb, only curses and hatred. He receives the news of the Queen’s death with indifference. Rallying his troops he learns that Birnam Wood has indeed come to his castle. Battle is joined.

 

I lombardi alla prima crociata by Verdi
The action occurs during the first crusade.
Verdi wrote some of his finest choruses for this opera

 

WARS IN THE 17TH, 18TH AND 19TH CENTURY

La Forza del Destino by Verdi
The third act depicts the Battle of  Velletri,  an historical event which occurred in 1744.

 

War and Peace by Prokofiev 

based on the novel by Tolstoy about the Russian Napoleonic war.

 

Cold Mountain by Jennifer Higdon

The bestselling Civil War novel by Charles Frazier, tells the story of a Confederate soldier who decides he has had enough and walks away in search of the woman he left behind.
Now that epic has been distilled into a work of opera, created by celebrated composer Jennifer Higdon.

 

WARS IN MODERN TIME

Silent Night by Kevin Puts
A Putlizer Prize-winning opera that recounts the true story of a spontaneous cease-fire among Scottish, French and Germans during World War I, displaying versatility of style and cutting straight to the heart.

The Passenger by Mieczysław Weinberg
based on the 1959 Polish radio play Passenger from Cabin Number 45 by a concentration-camp survivor
Depicts scenes from Auschwitz concentration camp

 

Love and War by Fredrik Emilson is an animated short opera-movie.
During her training to become a nurse, Bunny meets, by mere chance, the handsome fighter pilot Bear. Romance ensues and they form a couple. When Bear is about to propose, they are suddenly interrupted by an international conflict. Duty calls and Bear is sent into battle.
“Love and War” won best animated/experimental short film at Los Angeles Film Festival 2007, best short film at Nordisk Panorama 2007 and at the Golden Lion Film Festival 2007.

This blog provides a selection of operas and by no means complete.
Please comment about any operas you would like to see included

 

 

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