Before they canceled everything, I was playing rehearsals for a production of La Traviata. Maybe everyone knew this already, but basically Verdi is working as a songwriter here. Most of the arias have two verses, and it has become common practice to cut the second. Evidently in the original performance situations for these operas, the listening was informal. The audience might be walking around or talking or whatever, and might not start listening until the second verse, when a friend elbowed them to say hey, shut up, this is a good one. Today instead we have the assumption of rapt, continuous, focused listening, and the assumption of familiarity. A listener hearing La Traviata for the first time might benefit from hearing multiple verses of each tune, so they can start to learn the music. But we assume they’ve heard it before, and already know these songs.
An interesting comparison is the jazz-world practice of CD reissues including multiple takes, sequentially, of the same tune. While the direction is opposite—including more material rather than cutting it—the impulse is the same, presuming the listener to be a scholar of the music. Only an informed listener engaging in rapt, continuous, focused listening would be interested in two sequential versions of the same piece. As though we’re all listening to these albums so we can write a dissertation in our heads as they spin.
• Gone Walkabout
• Music as Drama
• Crossroads II
• 10 Best of 2014
• January: Wyoming and the Open
• February: New Mexico and the Holes
• Coming Up
• Notes on The Accounts
• Crossroad Blues