So the Grammys were just on, and many fine musicians won prestigious awards. In fact, you may remember that I told you to go out and get Tim Kubart’s album “Home,” because it was the best children’s music of the year. Turns out I was right, and he won the Grammy. Awesome! Congrats, Tim! But Tim is in the minority when it comes to the long list of winners this year. You see, Tim did not share his award with 19 other people. Sure, he collaborated with a few people, but this was really a Tim Kubart album. On the back, it clearly states that all songs are copyright Tim Kubart. But when you look at the other categories, well, it’s just not the case.
I’m not opposed to collaboration. Remember how exciting “We Are the World” was? No? I see. You are younger than I am. Anyway, it used to be that artists and musicians did not collaborate so much. It was a rare treat to hear two singers joining forces. Now every track on the top 100 list is somebody, featuring somebody else. Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars. Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar. Alexander Hamilton ft. The Original Broadway Cast. It is out of control. Classical composers didn’t do that so much. Composition was never a team sport, was it? And yet, what if it was?
An article this week claims that a new opera has been discovered, a collaboration between Mozart and Salieri. Wow. That would be amazing. I hope it turns out to be true. I would love to hear that opera. But Salieri wasn’t Mozart’s only contemporary. What if he had reached out to other composers to create new works? What if composers regularly assembled a team of writers to ensure the most commercially successful products? We can only dream of things like:
B Minor Messiah – J.S. Bach, ft. Handel
This epic work, performed either as a Catholic mass or as a standalone oratorio, contains some of the most important and beloved music in the Western world. From “But Who May Abide the Domine Deus” to the Hallelujah Chorus performed in B minor, this award-winning composition will stand the test of time.
Griselda and Aeneas – A. Scarlatti, ft. Purcell
This opera about a young shepherdess who becomes an unhappy queen really reaches it’s full potential during the bridge, when Purcell pops up to lay down a few rhymes about a wandering sailor who shows up to sweep the queen off of her feet. Sadly, the opera ends in tragedy as Purcell is left rapping “Forget my Fate” over the sounds of Griselda’s love theme as she gets back together with her baby daddy Gualtiero.
The (4) Seasons – Antonio Vivaldi, ft. D.J. Hadyn
When Vivaldi sat down to write “The Four Seasons,” he had no idea that 9 year-old Youtube sensation D. J. (oseph) Haydn would be brought in by the studio to turn the whole thing into an oratorio. Haydn took Vivaldi’s evocative themes and used them to craft a tale of the changing year, based on the slam poetry of one James Thompson. Although Vivaldi was reported to have been unhappy with the final result, audiences have been listening to it for centuries with no complaints!
The Marriage of Fidelio – W.A. Mozart, ft. L. Beethoven
Imagine the surprise when the record label received two operas dealing with trickery, confusion, and disguise at the same time! Their choice – release both of them in competition, or bring the two composers together to combine their works into one single coherent opera. Although many people point to “The Marriage of Fidelio” as the reason opera plots get a bad rap as convoluted and nonsensical, there is no denying that it made a lot of money and spent almost two years at the top of the charts, an achievement unprecedented in their time, or ours.
Götterdämmerigoletto – R. Wagner, ft. Verdi
Like George Lucas before him, Richard Wagner was under intense scrutiny following the success of his original fantasy trilogy, and when it came time to make a fourth installment, the studios got nervous. Fearing another “Phantom Menance” level debacle, they insisted on bringing in Giuseppe “Mean Joe Green” Verdi to take over as producer for what would become the final opera in this quadrilogy. Was it creative differences between the two that led Verdi to kill all of Wagner’s beloved characters from the first three episodes? No one can say for certain, but much of the plot revolved around an angry hunchback getting his revenge on the gods for the death of his daughter. As the curtain closes on Rigoletto, standing over the bodies of everyone else in the cast, and shouting “Ah, la maledizione!” the audience is always in tears, although critics are divided on how it stacks up against its predecessors. But no one can argue that “La Valchirie e mobile” isn’t the most well-known opera aria of all time.
Girl of the Golden West Side Story – G. Puccini, ft. Lenny B.
Opera lovers were shocked when Puccini decided to set one of his operas in America’s wild west, and they were more shocked still when he, at the suggestion of his new muse Lenny B., moved the location again to New York City. This odd tale of cowboys and saloons set amidst an urban gang war tells the love story of Tony and Minnie. Tony of course is captured by the Sharks and is about to be executed, when Minnie throws herself in front of Tony to protect him. This saves the day and everybody sings in English and broken Italian as the lovers are married and ride off through central park on Tony’s horse.