Modern Opera MastersBy
Opera is alive and well. There are new operas being written and composed all the time. Today, many of the modern operas are gaining recognition far beyond the world of the concert hall. Two of the most noted present-day masters are Andrew Lloyd Webber and Dmitri Shostakovich.
Arguably, the most well-known name in the opera and theatre world today, as far as composers go, is that of Andrew Lloyd Webber. There can be no doubt that he is among the most commercially successful composers of all time.
Andrew was born in Kensington, London on the 22nd of March 1948. As a child, Andrew grew up surrounded by music and theatre. His father Lloyd was an organist and composer and his mother, Jean, was a violinist and pianist. Andrew attended Westminster School before moving on to the Royal College of Music.
Andrew’s first collaboration was with Tim Rice was in 1965. They wrote the production “The Likes of Us”. However, the public would not see this work until 2005. The two friends continued to work together and created the first version of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. Afterwards, the two went on to achieve worldwide recognition with their hits “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita”.
There has been no turning back for Andrew. His career is still reaching new heights, and he has expanded into the world of reality television. He selected the lead for his latest music extravaganza, “The Wizard of Oz” using the popularity of talent shows.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has won countless awards and has been recognized by the monarchy for his contributions to the world of music and theatre. He earned himself a knighthood in 1992 and a baron in 1997. There is no end in sight for this truly inspiring musical genius.
Dmitri has only composed two full-length operas, but his effort the “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District” is one of the most popular of all the operas written in the 20th century. His musical contributions included 15 symphonies and six concerti.
Dmitri was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on the 26th of September 1906. By the age of eight, he was recognized as being a child prodigy. At the age of 13, he gained entrance to the Petrograd Conservatory. After graduating, he embarked on a career as both a composer and a professional pianist. Although, his playing style was frequently cited as being uninspired, his compositions began to gain in recognition throughout the world.
Sadly, for the world, his work, including that of the Lady Macbeth, was met with severe criticism and was publically denounced. Stalin was among his harshest critics. His style was not considered to be politically correct. For many years Dmitri was forced to restrict his composing to films in order to remain in good standing with the government. During this period, many of Dmitri’s friends and peers were executed. Between 1936 and 1948 Dmitri was able to gain some recognition; a few of his works even gained him favor. However, in 1948 Dmitri along with several other composers was targeted for writing music that was not acceptable. He not only lost his position at the conservatoire, but his work was banned.
After the death of Stalin in 1953, Dmitri’s life took a turn for the better. He began reconstructing his career and was able to compose more freely. In 1965, he was diagnosed with polio and that marked his slow decline until his death in 1975.
Shostakovich produced one of the most creative operas of the 20th century. Unfortunately, for the world, his writing and creativity was stifled by the political climate in which he lived. Who knows to what level he might have risen if he had been given the opportunity to really explore his talents.
These are just two of the men who have had an impact on the world of opera and music in general. Although Shostakovich was never given the chance to fully develop his talent what he was able to create did indeed leave its mark.