Counterpoint (as we have mentioned before) is the study of composing many melodies that meld together into harmonies while also staying distinct. It can be very complicated and impressive. Here is a book on it to give you an idea. In these recordings, you have an entire orchestra and from two voices to as many as six or more! Could you imagine writing something like that? These recordings will show you not only how beautiful the music is, but also how great the composers were. The first duet here is a special treat from a music movie called, The Toast of New Orleans. You get to see here how opera singers sound incredible in English as well! After that I have included some of the most famous multi-voice parts from different operas. Enjoy the masterfully crafted music!
Open this playlist in spotify, here.
The exact clips I prepared for the recordings I list here are They Didn’t Believe Me – 0:18-1:33 (or longer =)), Bella Figlia Dell’Amore – 1:20-2:35, La Traviata -0:47-2:12, and Madame Butterfly – 4:03-5:26.
This is the duet from The Toast of New Orleans that I spoke about. It always shocks me how beautiful the words to songs from the forties and fifties were. We need more elegant songs and duets like this today!
This recording is really awesome. Listen to Björling’s high note in the section I outlined! It is so bright and thrilling! Also, the four parts of this quartet go together very well. It is so masterfully composed. Other critics have pointed out that the reason it is so incredible is because all four of the characters are representing different emotions, the soprano is shocked and dismayed at the tenor’s infidelity, the mezzo soprano is scoffing at the tenor’s attempts to seduce her, and the father of the soprano is tell her that he warned her of the tenor’s philandering nature all along.
This is one of my favorite duets. It is between a soprano and a baritone. The baritone is asking her to leave his son, the man she loves, to save their family name. She cries in despair as he tries to comfort her. His part of the duet is incredibly moving.
After hearing these two singers in the first recording of this section, listen to this one! The style couldn’t be more different. Isn’t it interesting how their technique allows them to accomplish both of these duets? This duet is one of the most famous from Puccini’s very famous Madama Butterfly. This is the love duet of two people who were just married.