Handel for Headbangers
The East Village Opera Company combines classic opera with classic rock, and they're up for a Grammy award this Sunday.
The following is not a full transcript; for full story, listen to audio.
"The Ride" is the opening track of "Olde School" and channels what Richard Wagner's "The Ride of the Valkyries" might sound like if he were writing and performing today. The East Village Opera Company puts classics from Wagner, Handel, Puccini, Mozart, Verde and Bach through rock's classic prism, and "Olde School" is up for a Best Classical Crossover Grammy.
"Here and Now's" Robin Young talks to Peter Kiesewalter, the band's arranger; and Tyley Ross, lead vocals, about their music.
Kiesewalter on arranging a song like "The Ride," which mixes Wagner's "Valkyries" with Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog": "Take a score from the composer, just set it aside, don't look at it, and start with the lyric and melody and take it from there. We're just playing old music on new instruments.
"In the Valkyries, Wagner's writing about Norse mythology -- that opera premiered in 1871 -- and exactly 100 years later, Led Zeppelin ... on their second or third record, are using Norse mythology as their main thematic material. They're also overblown, massive spectacles -- there's really a lot of similarities between ... the arena rock of the late 60s, early 70s and opera as we know it."
Ross explains how they came to do this particular brand of music: "When we first started the goal wasn't to take opera songs and turn them into rock songs; our launching off point was to ask ourselves how might these composers treat these if they had the instruments that we have, and the musical awareness that we have of world music and all the different styles of music that came along since the era of classical."
And how people usually react at their shows: "If someone dragged me to see a band that combined rock and opera, I probably wouldn't go ... so there's a bit of winning over that we have to do, and usually by the middle of the set, it certainly feels that we've done that -- to an audience that is demographically the most diverse I have ever experienced."
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