iPad for melo-maniacs

Have you read Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose? It is an extraordinary book, that can be understood by almost any reader, according to his/her cultural level. The first level sends to a detective intrigue, reminding of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Watson, by the characters of William of Baskerville and Adso – and this is the level where Jean-Jacques Annaud’s movie, from 1986, stops, too. In reality, the meanings of the novel are much more profound and, at the same time, very numerous. From the philosophical debate about laughter from the perspectives of Christian dogma but also of Antique philosophy, we get to the inventory of several interpretations of religion, the allusions to other texts of literature or philosophy seem infinite, and a connaisseur lives a real vertigo of an amazing reading which transports him at great speed through human knowledge.

Without any hesitation, I state that opera music is AS COMPLEX AS the above-mentioned. There are several levels in knowing it. There is a long way, that requires a lot of information, from the primary sensation of listening to an aria that you will memorize – at first without knowing anything about it, then trying to find it again and to identify it, maybe even for years, until, one day, you will find it set in an opera about which you know at least the action and the composer, therefore you will enjoy the entire context – and until you become a competent music lover, able to enjoy details that other people ignore completely. As a matter of fact, I consider this is the reason why opera music is not accessible to anyone and why it requires an effort of training in order to be truly understood. As opera is a complex art, actually, a sum of several arts (music, literature, theatre things do not stop here), the intellectual challenge  is truly  formidable. Once you have the music in mind, the most precisely, almost by heart if possible, you have to read the libretto, up to the level where you feel how music  ennobles the words and stresses them with a certain meaning that the composer and, sometimes, even the interpreter gives them. Then, if you have the chance to listen in an opera theatre to a truly invaluable performance, you can say that aesthetic emotion becomes unrivaled. But, in order for all these to happen, one needs information.

For a Romanian music lover, information about music is dramatically little and difficult to access. The books are scarce, there are no publications (or, if they exist, they go bankrupt after the first three issues), musical reviews are almost inexistent, even music shops are very few (outside Bucharest, almost none). What we still have is the Internet,  an important source of information, and this is almost all. Am I mistaken? I do not think so.

Without claiming to reveal a panacea for these “pains”,  I will hereby list what you can do if you have an iPad, the trendy yet extraordinary device that has turned upside down the marketing of technology in the last two years and a half. I have not tried to check if the other tablets have the same facilities regarding opera music, it is possible that some products exist only on iPad. From the very beginning, I want to cut short on the everlasting debate about reading on a screen which is not the same thing as reading a book, about the smell of printed paper, the feeling of leafing over and about all the other arguments brought by snugness and the resistance to novelty. I will just remember the experience of reading some books at the beginning of the ‘90s, published by Humanitas publishing house on recycled toilet paper, with a heavy, terrible smell, with light grey printing on a paper of dirty pink. All those who have lived such an experience should brace up and try the tablet.

iPad Army

A first category of products is the international music press, for which you can get subscriptions. Magazines you cannot even dream about buying in Romania. Here is the offer:

Opera Magazine – one of the most important periodicals, founded and coordinated for many years by Lord Harewood, it presents the opera news in the world and especially in Great Britain. The subscription is 5,49 EUR/month, and the great advantage is that, once you activate it,  you get free access to the entire digital archive of the magazine, since August 2006 until today. Advantages: all the issues are in the same place, in the memory of the iPad, and the application has a search function that allows you to find almost anything. Such as all the reviews about Angela Gheorghiu or about Christian Badea.

Note: If you click on the next images, you will be redirected to the iPad application in the iTunes virtual shop.

Opera Magazine
Opera Magazine

The competition is called Opera Now, available for 4,99 EUR – one issue or for 12,99 EUR – three issues (you save 1,98 EUR). Back issues are not available for free, but you can buy them one by one.

Opera Now
Opera Now

If we stay in the British area, we must necessarily mention the famous Gramophone Magazine – this time we talk also about classical music, not only opera, with lengthy reviews of the latest discs but also of concerts, festivals, etc. The price is, no wonder, also 4,99 EUR and the subscription system, with access to back numbers, is the same as for Opera Magazine, with the only difference that the oldest issue available is from August 2010.

Gramophone Magazine
Gramophone Magazine

Gramophone Magazine publishes annually a voluminous The Gramophone Guide to Classical Music, which contains a compared present discography of the most important symphonic, sacred or opera compositions. A highly useful tool if you want to make a successful purchase in situations like this one: I have La Traviata with Angela Gheorghiu, but I would like to listen to another recording, I am wondering which one is the best and why? I could not find this guide  in an iPad version, but you can very well buy its main competitor, from Penguin BooksThe Penguin Guide to the 1000 Finest Classical Recordings, 20,99 EUR on iTunes. It seems expensive, but we are talking about a book with more than 800 pages, that can clarify your discographical dilemmas.

The Penguin Guide
The Penguin Guide

Musical criticism does not start and does not end in England. French criticism is delicious and I have tried hard to find their publications, too. The press sales available in Romania in the ‘90s opened my appetite for the disc or performance reviews of a certain Andre Tubeuf, to give the closest example. You have never heard of Tubeuf? Well, he has just written a novel about the last days of Dinu Lipatti,  about his concert in Besançon, one that nobody should miss. I can only deplore the fact that, despite the nationalism proclaimed so noisily, the book has not been translated yet. But let me write down the menu in Paris!

First of all, Diapason magazine, similar to Gramophone Magazine, comments on the concert and discographic  news in France and all around the world. It is a model of musical critique, by the refinement of its comments and, many times, by the literary virtues of the opinions expressed in its pages. A music lover should not ignore it. At a certain moment, the publishing team also published a Dictionnaire des disques et des compacts, that can be found today only in  antique book shops, but that still is a reference work, where I found, put in words, the emotions that I had while listening to Maria Callas or Wilhelm Furtwängler, to mention just two names randomly chosen. Well, very recently, more exactly for two months, Diapason is available on iPad, by means of an application named lekiosk, which is, as the title shows it, a virtual newspaper stand. Diapason is a little expensive, 6,99 EUR, but we are talking about a legend here. And the latest issue is dedicated to nobody else but Clara Haskil!


The direct competition for Diapason is Classica, a more recent magazine, but with the same value and covering the same topics. You can buy it from the lekiosk, for 6,99 EUR, but it is part of a promotion – for 9,99 EUR/month, you can buy 10 French publications every month, so the cost can decrease to 1 EUR, which becomes pretty interesting and, moreover, could fill your virtual mail box with Premiere, Le Point, Lire, L’Histoire and many other goodies that you have not read for a long time. Unfortunately, Diapason is not yet included in this promotion.


These are the most interesting aspects of the electronic musical press, but the pleasures are far from being finished. There are still many topics to be covered.

Almost all the big operas in the world have found it useful to create their own application for iPad, through which the artistic marketing reaches the audience in the most direct and personalized way. I do not claim to have exhausted the subject, but this is how I found the applications of the following opera theaters: Metropolitan, Wiener Staatsoper, Hamburg Staatsoper, ENO, Opera National de Paris, Seattle Opera, Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Royal Opera House and I guess the list could continue (unfortunately, without Teatro alla Scala). The same type of applications exist for the music festivals in SpoletoPesaroVerona, even for George Enescu Festival. All these applications are free of charge.

I am sure you have seen at least one broadcast from the series Live From The Met, either on a DVD or in a cinema. There is an application, Met Opera on Demand, that makes the Met subscription (15$/month) available on iPad, therefore you can see the broadcasts but also consult the extraordinary archive of the famous opera directly on your device. The application is free of charge.

Free of charge is also Opera Music Radio, where you can find around 10 radio stations with opera and symphonic music, that you can play in the background, while reading the latest issue of Diapason.

The radio-TV area is covered also by the radio application of Classic FM and by medici.tv and by Arte Live Web for cultural TV stations. It is a pity I found no applications for Mezzo or 3 sat,  but maybe they will appear soon.

An application I liked a lot is Karajan Impressions, with many unpublished photos of the great conductor, made by Erich Lessing.

Melomaniac iPad
Melo-maniac iPad

But the true benefits of an iPad are to be found in some of the Apple services, free or for money, that are worth a visit.  iTunes U is one of them – “U” comes from University and here you can find numerous courses, lectures, seminars in almost any theme that crosses your mind, and music is present too, of course. Royal Opera House – Covent Garden from London has a lot of video and audio podcasts about opera and about the institution itself. It is a good opportunity to see Antonio Pappano backstage, explaining his vision of Puccini’s Il Trittico, and many others (ballet, for example). The Washington National Opera has an impressive list of podcasts, over 50, most of them about different famous operas explained from different points of view. A treat.

Of course, the iPad allows you to buy music through iTunes, the virtual shop has opened for România too, recently. Here you can buy rare recordings, which do not exist in the catalogues of the important recording houses any more. An example: Cavalleria rusticana from 1953, with Jussi Björling și Zinka Milanov, for only 4,99 EUR. I had been looking for it for a long time…

Cavalleria rusticana (1953)
Cavalleria rusticana (1953)

And, in the end, a final detail: opera librettos. What can be more interesting, while listening to an opera, than reading its libretto at the same time? The most complete librettos, in four languages, can be found here: EMI Classics.

They say that opera is a dying art, this subject is passionately discussed on the Internet. If this is true, then its agony is superb. Because, most probably, we will always return to the opera, even in the past time, like in Umberto Eco’s novel: Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus – “Yesterday’s rose endures in its name, we hold empty names”.

And, last but not least, do not miss reading this blog, as it is set to show a special theme for iPad!

This entry was posted in Muzica, Uncategorized and tagged App Store, Apple, Classica, Classical music, Diapason, IOS 6, iPad, iPad 2, iTunes, Mac, Metropolitan Opera, New iPad, Opera, Opera magazine, Opera Now, Pappano, Penguin Guide, retina display, Royal Opera House, Steve Jobs by despredemnitate. Bookmark the permalink. Editare

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