Sax in Opera

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Sax in Opera

Just turned on R3 to hear an alto sax accompanying Salome in the last act of Massenet's 'Herodiade'; got me thinking - is that the first time [1881] a saxophone was used in an opera?  I know Bizet used one in 'L'Arlesienne' but that's incidental music to a play. Other than that, can't think of anything else off the top of my head - any suggestions?!

RE: Sax in Opera

Damn, I misread the title. Thought this was going to be a really fun thread.

Without trolling through my whole collection, I would have thought fertile ground for investigation would be the operas of Ravel, Magnard and Shostakovich. VW was partial to a bit of sax but I just checked Pilgrim's Progress and there isn't one there. Certainly Britten used it in Billy Budd - Act 1 after the novice has been flogged.

RE: Sax in Opera

tagalie wrote:
 Certainly Britten used it in Billy Budd - Act 1 after the novice has been flogged.

 

Flogging the novice in a Britten Opera probably does count as Sax in Opera. A bit like pressing an over ripe strawberry to your lips and tasting the juice as it gushes out and thrills your taste buds .... Death in Venice.

RE: Sax in Opera

Also some Tippett. But I think the OP only wanted to know if there was anything earlier than the example he found.  

Ted

RE: Sax in Opera
RE: Sax in Opera

I was looking for the earliest use in an opera; don't suppose Berlioz did - tho it's the sort of thing I would expect him to be trying out!

RE: Sax in Opera

If you care about the first time the Saxophone was used, as part of the orchestration, in an Opera (or any orchestral work), it's a quite a difficult task. You have to examine quite a few scores of the period of the invention of the instrument.

However, if you are interested in where the saxophone has a more prominent role in the orchestration, then, as far I can tell, there is a quite limited number of works, most of them already mentioned.

Parla

RE: Sax in Opera

Matthew McGlennon wrote:

I was looking for the earliest use in an opera; don't suppose Berlioz did - tho it's the sort of thing I would expect him to be trying out!

He did. There's a soprano sax in Les Troyens.

RE: Sax in Opera

Thomas used one in 'Hamlet.'

RE: Sax in Opera

Not an answer to first-time use, but a memorable one not on Adrian's wiki-link: opening of Hindemith's Cardillac, Act 2 (1926).

RE: Sax in Opera

Apparently the first known use of the saxophone (the bass saxophone to be exact) is in Berlioz's Chant Sacré, a now lost arrangement for six Sax (!) instruments (1844) of the Hymne from B's Prix de Rome cantata Herminie. Its first appearance operatically and - I believe - orchestrally was in the opera Le dernier roi de Juda, by Jean-Georges Kastner in December 1844. 

Of operas that haven't yet been mentioned, the sax turns up in Meyerbeer's L'Africaine (1864) and Halévy's Le juif errant (1852). When they couldn't find enough horn players to cover the 12 horn parts in the Paris premiere of Tannhäuser (1861), saxhorns and saxophones were brought in instead. 

Just to be clear: I do not claim for this post the status of "research" or "studies." It's the result of five minutes of bookshelf and online browsing after Matthew's question began to nag me unmercifully over my second cup of coffee; my sources are David Cairns's Berlioz bio, which I have, and Jay C. Easton's Writing for Saxophones. I know Herminie and the Meyerbeer as well as Wagner, but not this Halévy opera, and hadn't thought in terms of the historical evolution of the saxophone. But I hope this is of interest to someone, and other facts would be nice to hear.

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