Since 2011 I am contributing a drawing for the last page (“Letzte Seite”) of German opera magazine “Engelsloge” issued by the Bayerische Staatsoper.
The column is meant to be like an opera lexicon, where terms from the world of opera and music are explained.
In the beginning I was very consistent, in style, color choice and also subject. I also tried to give every theme a funny twist. But lately things have become more eclectic and experimental. Thank you to the great team at Engelsloge, that gives me so much freedom for this column.
Laura Schieferle, Gabriele Brousek
Below a chronological listing of all drawings I have made so far (as of summer 2016), with a short explanation.
… the embellishments, high register runs and trills typically associated with opera singing.
… a pun on the German word “Fassungen”, which can be translated to “versions” or “editions”, referring to various slightly different variations of one opera. However a “Fassung” is also the part of a lamp that takes the light bulb.
… is a term of nordic-germanic mythology, literally the “burning of the world”. Richard Wagner used the subject at the end of his ring cycle. Maybe I am hinting also at the questionable influence Wagner’s work had on some of his fans.
… is a male role played by a female. In more prudish times, this was used as an excuse to dress up actresses in a more skimpy fashion. Men flocked to the opera just to see women in pants.
… is simply a band or group of musicians that is part of the action on stage, as opposed to the regular orchestra in the pit. The band’s members sometimes are rather actors than musicians, so the quality of the banda’s music might be looked down upon by members of the orchestra.
… is a form of dialog(recitative-)-heavy opera, that was especially popular among Russian composers of the late 19th century. Here five of them (or rather four) are seen talking shop.
An opera that is written especially for a certain opera house, or for the inauguration of a new stage – a term coined by Richard Wagner who decreed that his “Parsifal” could only be performed in the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth. Engelbert Humperdinck later poked fun at the term by calling his fairytale opera of “Hänsel und Gretel” a Kinderstubenweihfestspiel.
… “opera by numbers” – whereas the early operas were still rather free, the form became more stylized during the late 17th and early 18th century. The order of arias, recitatives and ensemble-pieces began to follow a certain numbered order. These numbers and their order soon became more important than the actual plot.
… is an instrumental piece that takes inspiration from a subject outside of music and treats it in a musical fashion. An example would be Vivaldi’s “Four seasons”. This was controversial in the 19th century as some musicians saw the “subjectlessness” of music in itself as one of it’s highest values.
… syncopation, are you on the one and three, or are you on the two and four? Do you wear Lederhosen or dreadlocks? It’s as easy as that.
… is a term that describes the relation between arms, shoulders and head, but also the body’s pose in general. In ballet certain poses have distinct names, that I pictured here. I decided not to use the typical ballet figure types for this, maybe to make ballet a more democratic thing. One of the poses got later used for another project.
The lyra is what we had before the electric guitar.
… is a piece of instrumental music between acts, meant to give time to change the scenery. Usually the music is lighthearted, but in certain cases the Intermezzo might musically comment the preceding plot like in Puccinis “Manon Lescaut”, where the Intermezzo illustrates the hopelessness of the two lovers.
The “Scene of madness” in opera usually shows a female character lose her mind other unrequited love. At the end of these tragic or comedic scenes the character often turns herself to God. Hey – it’s opera.
… dynamic is the gamut of speed a dancer is able to express. The dancer with most control over dynamic has the ability to embody his motion with the most emotion.
… true love has no guarantees, even less in the dramatic scenes of the opera. So it has been established in countless operas, that the only proof of true love is death. Only the one who loves truly is ready to die. Here is a rare occasion where I use a heart in an illustration.
The choir on stage is common in opera productions, but sometimes there is also another choir that is only heard from the off: the Coro Interno. It can be used to create an atmospheric inner voice of the actors or to contradict the actions and feelings of the protagonists.
… is a term originating from painting and is used to describe the contrasting interplay of dark and light areas – Caravaggio for example was a master of this. But the term has also found it’s way into music, were extreme contrasts in characters or moods can be expressed musically.
… is a virtuoso jump of a dancer from one leg onto the other, while performing a split mid-air. The skills required made me think of athletes.
… “tuning” – the common contemporary standard tuning sets the A note above middle C at 440 Hertz. This is rather arbitrary and historically the pitch of A has been creeping up more and more, to a point where some musicians question, if we still play historical pieces, as they were intended to be played.