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Opera singer Denyce Graves talks with Naomi Lewin about what it's like to be an international opera star.
Giuseppe Verdi composed Aida for a new opera house in Cairo, Egypt that opened around the time as the opening of the Suez Canal. Aida is the story of an Ethiopian princess being held captive by Egyptians. One of the Egyptian generals is desperately in love with her, and she's in love with him -- but so is the daughter of the Egyptian king.
An opera is like a play in which the characters sing all their lines. Opera singers do not use microphones -- their voices are trained, and can fill a whole theater with sound without any amplification. All operas have solo singers and an orchestra -- and a lot of operas have a chorus, too. Operas have been written in many different languages, including English.
Guiseppe Verdi -- "Joe Green," in Italian -- was a great opera composer and Italian patriot. His music became part of the Italian fight for independence and unity.
From the time Frederic Chopin was a child, audiences loved to hear him play the piano. A lot of composers were famous as keyboard players, too: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt...
In his Military Polonaise, Frederic Chopin uses the piano to imitate the drums that accompanied armies marching into battle. A lot of composers have put battle sounds into their music.
The polonaise is a dance that was fashionable in the Polish court. Since Polish nobility used to like to speak French, the name "polonaise" is French. Eventually, the polonaise caught on all over Europe, and even migrated to America. Lots of operas contain polonaises, and after a while, composers began to use the polonaise as a form for non-dancing, instrumental pieces.
Frederic Chopin was one of the greatest pianists of his day. Every single piece of music he wrote used the piano. The name Chopin doesn't sound very Polish because Chopin's father was born in France. Even though he was fiercely proud of being Polish, Frederic Chopin wound up moving to France, and never returned to Poland.
Benjamin Britten was asked to compose music for a film that explained the instruments of the orchestra to children. Britten borrowed a tune by one of his favorite composers, Henry Purcell, to create his Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. This show uses Britten's Guide to introduce the instruments of the brass and percussion families.
Benjamin Britten was asked to compose music for a film that explained the instruments of the orchestra to children. Britten borrowed a tune by one of his favorite composers, Henry Purcell, to create his Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. This show uses Britten's Guide to introduce the instruments of the woodwind and string families.
Pizzicato is the Italian word for "plucked" -- it tells string players how to play their instruments at a given spot in the music. A lot of musical "traffic signals" are in Italian. This show has explanations and examples of some more of them.
Benjamin Britten composed his Simple Symphony when he was twenty, but he based it on music that he'd written much earlier -- some of it when he was only 10! The "Simple Symphony" has four movements, each of which has a very catchy name: Boisterous Bouree, Playful Pizzicato, Sentimental Sarabande, and Frolicsome Finale.
After studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in London, Benjamin Britten got a job writing film music. Then he went on to compose choral music, chamber music, songs, and quite a few operas, including some for major events in British history. In addition to being a composer, Britten was an excellent pianist and conductor.
A program featuring acclaimed conductor JoAnn Falletta, who talks about her early love of music, how seeing her first symphony concert inspired her to become a conductor, and all the listening and preparation that goes into being successful at her job.
Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker is based on a story by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann. In The Nutcracker, a Christmas present -- a nutcracker -- comes to life as a handsome prince. He takes the young girl who received him as a present on some fantastic adventures.
"Rhapsody" is an ancient word that means "songs stitched together". The Greeks used to write long poems in praise of their heroes, and then take bits and pieces of those poems and string them together for performance. In music, a rhapsody is a free-form piece that takes different tunes and strings them together.
George Gershwin was an American composer who combined classical music and jazz to create his own unique style. Gershwin wrote music for Broadway shows, movies, the concert hall, and opera. One of the people he liked to work with was his brother Ira, who wrote wonderful lyrics (words) for George Gershwin's songs.
Handel wrote his Water Music for the King of England. Lots of aristocrats hired composers to write music for them. But some kings and nobles wrote music themselves, including King Henry VIII; Alfonso X; Frederick the Great and others.
The Water Music that Handel composed may be the most famous classical music associated with water, but there are lots of other composers who wrote watery pieces.
As soon as Handel got his first job of court composer to a German prince, he headed for England. Through a bizarre twist of royal succession, that prince ended up becoming king of England. Instead of staying angry at Handel for leaving Germany, King George I asked him to compose music for a huge party he held on barges on the River Thames.
Comments (8)

Yalda Ehs

I like choosing classical pieces in the movies 😍

Mar 6th
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Mariejose

too bad the first three episodes on Grieg don't load

Oct 26th
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Mariejose

Can you do a pidcast on Paganini?

Jul 28th
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Alison Rucker

Great list! Thanks! Any chance you'll be covering Weber soon?

Sep 13th
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Armin van Buuren

Thank you a lot for your podcast that teach us something valuable about famous musicians. you are the best.

May 31st
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Tim Sentell

how are you doing I hope all is going well and enjoying the family 😎 live ok

Feb 3rd
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