This opera takes place in ancient China and tells the story of a nightingale (soprano lead) whose song it so beautiful that it brings people to tears and makes them forget all their troubles. The nightingale is eventually brought to the attention of the emperor (bass-baritone), who is moved by the bird's singing. Everything's going pretty well until some Japanese emissaries bring the emperor a mechanical nightingale, which causes the original bird to fly away, angering the emperor. Eventually, the emperor grows ill and his haunted by his past deeds until Death (contralto) arrives. Just as Death is about to take him, the Nightingale reappears and sings, which charms Death, who leaves the scene. The emperor recovers from his ailment and rewards the Nightingale by making her his court singer. This work is full of great stuff ranging from Stravinsky's signature robust orchestral themes, to dissonant and haunting harmonies, to traditional Chinese influences. On top of that, it's a great story, one with an interesting and unpredictable plot and exotic setting. For me, that's what sets this apart from his other works, which is why it's my favorite of his.
Got any favorite neoclassical works?
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