Carmina Burana

Lots of choruses bookend their seasons, either at the beginning in the fall or at the end in spring, with Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.  Although conceived as an opera and first staged as one in 1937 it’s rarely done that way now and little is lost treating it as an oratorio; it’s Orff’s spectacular choruses that pull in the audiences.

Here’s a link to a spectacular performance of Seiji Ozawa conducting the Berlin Philharmonic and the Shin-yu Kai Chorus of Japan with Kathleen Battle, Thomas Allen, and Frank Lopardo.  The chorus is marvelous and yes, they have it all memorized, as does Ozawa.

 This second link is to a posting where the original languages are presented along with translations.

But there’s a every nasty side to Carmina Burana:  it was a favorite concert piece of the Nazi’s, something that shouldn’t surprise us with the pieces’ pagan cynicism, and Orff himself was as duplicitous as the “Fortune” he celebrates in Carmina Burana.  This aspect of the work, which is conveniently skated over in program notes, is the centerpiece of a documentary on Orff by the Brit Tony Palmer.  Here are two reviews from the Telegraph and the Guardian.

Personally, I like the piece but I think it should be always performed with a Nazi flag unfurled as a backdrop; it helps clarify things.


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