A Busy Week and The Horn in Opera

Last week I had the privilege of playing principal horn for a production of Donizetti’s L’elisir D’amore (The Elixir of Love) by Opera East Texas. The performances went very well, and the conductor, orchestra, cast, and crew were all fantastic.  Special thanks to Susan Rogers, the other half of the horn section, for an outstanding job.  Although the horn writing isn’t anything spectacular, the opera as a whole has some beautiful music in it, and there are also quite a few solo/soli sections interspersed between the upper middle register off beats and long tones.  I got an opportunity to focus on my piano attacks and transposition, as well.

Not surprisingly, I had opera on the brain last week, and got thinking about the resources available for horn players taking auditions for, or currently playing in, opera orchestras.  One great resource is The Horn in Opera: Important Excerpts from the Operatic Repertoire, recorded by Dr. Richard Chenoweth of the University of Dayton.

A longtime opera veteran, Professor Chenoweth has recorded major solo and section passages from twenty of the most frequently performed operas, with narration by Charles Wendelken-Wilson.  The insightful comments offer performance tips, and Professor Chenoweth masterfully demonstrates all of the technical and musical nuances required in this repertoire.  Of special interest is the recording of the “Long Call” from Wagner’s Siegfried, which is performed (or miked to sound that way) from offstage, just as it would be in the actual opera.  In addition to the recordings – available on CD and by digital download – the website contains a more complete list of essential opera excerpts.  This is a must have item for any serious horn player, especially those who might be taking opera auditions now or in the future.  Other important contributions from Professor Chenoweth include his doctoral dissertation, “The Horn in Opera: A Study in Orchestration with a Focus on Selected Operas by Britten and Strauss,” available from the IHS Thesis Lending Library, and his many articles on opera-related issues published in The Horn Call.

Another essential is the Hornist’s Opera and Ballet Handbook, compiled and edited by Arthur Labar, with commentary by Howard T. Howard.  Although less well known than his other publication the Horn Player’s Audition Handbook, this collection is worth having in your library as well.

While it would be a mammoth task, it seems that another useful tool would be a collection of complete, or near complete, parts for the most frequently requested works on opera auditions, similar to The Orchestral Audition Repertoire for Horn, published by Thompson Edition.  Anyone looking for a dissertation topic?

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Opera, Performing, Reviews

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