I recently finished watching all of the Inspector Morse episodes that are available on Netflix, and that’s gotten me off on an opera kick. On the show, Morse is a big fan of opera in general, and Wagner in particular. I’ve never been that interested in opera, and have generally avoided Wagner, as his work seems a bit intimidating at first. But Morse got me curious.
I decided to start with Parsifal and Tristan und Isolde. I was already somewhat familiar with these two, based on having read P. Craig Russell’s adaptations of them, years ago. (Though, now that I’m looking at his opus list, I only see Parsifal. Weird. I could have sworn he did Tristan und Isolde too.) And (for no particular reason) they sounded less intimidating than some of his other operas.
I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so I initially found copies of them that I could listen to via Amazon Prime Music. That got me started, but the versions I found there didn’t sound that great, so I wanted to actually buy copies of them. That led me down a rabbit whole of searching through Amazon, iTunes, Arkiv Music and various classical/opera web sites to try and figure out which versions of these works to buy. In the end, I settled on buying a $5 performance of Parsifal from iTunes, and a $20 4-CD set of Tristan und Isolde from Amazon. I’m sure there are better versions, but these were affordable and had good reviews.
I’ve been listening to the $5 Parsifal for a couple of days now. I like it a lot, though I don’t know nearly enough about the work to be able to say anything other than “it sounds nice.” The sound quality at some points isn’t great, but I’m not sure if that’s the recording or my crappy earbuds. (I need to listen to it through better headphones or speakers at some point.)
I ripped the Tristan und Isolde CDs last night, but haven’t listened to them yet. The metadata that iTunes pulled in for the CDs is really scattershot, so I want to clean that up, which led me down another rabbit hole, messing around with tools like MusicBrainz Picard and stuff like that. The process of cleaning up the metadata and copying the files over to my Volumio box is going to take a while, so I may not even get around to listening to it until the weekend.
I really need to find video versions of these operas, with subtitles, that I can sit down and watch, so I can actually learn the stories, and get a clue as to what all the yelling (sorry, singing) is about. I couldn’t find any interesting opera material at all on Netflix, though maybe I’m not doing a good job of searching. I found a version of Tristan und Isolde on Amazon Prime Video, but with no subtitles, apparently. And there’s a good bit of opera material on YouTube, though I’m sure some of that is unauthorized.
The Metropolitan Opera has its own streaming service, but it’s not cheap: $15 per month. I can’t imagine watching enough opera to justify that. Medici.tv looks interesting too, but is also expensive ($13/month). So I don’t think I’m going to sign up for either of those. I’ll just stick with what I can get through PBS and other free options for now.
I’m not really sure how long this opera kick is going to last, but I’m finding myself somewhat interested in the new season at the Metropolitan Opera. They’re doing Tristan und Isolde later this month, as their first opera of the season. I’ve never been to an opera, and I’m not getting any younger, so maybe that would be a good thing to try, at least once. On the other hand, sitting still for four hours while people yell (sorry, sing) in German is a lot to ask.