A Nerdy Playlist for New Year's Eve

UPDATE 12-30-09: This post is from two years ago; I have an updated-for-2009 NYE playlist that you may also enjoy!

The end of 2007 is upon us! Hard to believe, isn’t it?

You can find plenty of New Year’s Eve playlists if you search online, and many of them are compilations of the best and/or most popular songs of 2007. (Not necessarily the same thing! 😉 )

I wanted to do something more, shall we say, timeless. That’s a fancy way of saying that I bounce around on the continuum from hipster to old fogy, so I’ll leave the current lists to those who are more up-to-the-minute than I am! Anyway, here are some selections that fit the topic of New Year’s, or related topics like 1) the passing of time and 2) drinking (please do it responsibly!).

Les Classiques:

Here are a couple of operas that are traditionally performed around New Year’s. Neither of them has anything directly to do with the holiday, although one of the plots does center around a raging party.

Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel is based on the familiar fairy tale, which never really seemed like a nice little children’s story to me, but then many of those old fairy tales are kind of dark and twisted if you take a close look at them. An aria from the opera that might be familiar is Gretel’s “Brüderchen, komm tanz’ mit mir” (“Brother, come and dance with me”).

Now, about that party – Die Fledermaus, by Johann Strauss II, features lots of good old-fashioned champagne-soaked fun, including the mistaken identities, extracurricular flirtation, practical jokes and payback for same, and sassy servants-smarter-than-their-masters hijinks that you expect from our venerable operatic/theatrical canon.

Click Mr. Readmore to continue!

I was lucky enough to attend a performance of Fledermaus at the Met in New York while I lived there. It’s traditional to cast a well-known comedian or other celebrity in the non-singing role of Frosch, the jailer. Dom Deluise was the guest star in the performance I saw, and he was given numerous chances for campy comedic improvisation. Opera purists surely cringed, but it was fun to watch.

You can start your countdown during the day with “Dance of the Hours,” a ballet sequence from Amilcare Ponchielli’s opera La Gioconda. If you’ve seen Disney’s Fantasia, you’ll recognize the music, one section of which is impossible to listen to without hearing the goofy song that’s stolen from based on it: Allan Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.”

Finally, there are plenty of rousing drinking songs to choose from in the opera repertory, but not all of them have been made into hip music videos, like “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici” from the modern-dress version of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata, as staged at the 2005 Salzburg Festival.

The opening lines of the text are apropos as well:

Let us drink from the goblets of joy
Adorned with beauty,
And the fleeting hour
Shall be intoxicated with pleasure.

Le Rest:

Here’s my brief and very picky list of favorite songs to dance to that relate to the occasion. Sure, you can also put on any number of general party-time tunes – Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” is a popular choice – but you don’t need me to tell you that! So I’ll just give you my faves.

  • For my money, you just can’t beat Ella Fitzgerald’s version of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” though many others have recorded it. But then, I’m old school!
  • Prince’s “1999” never goes out of style, in my opinion… what can I say? It was a good decade for me…
  • REM’s “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” – any pop song that prominently mentions Leonard Bernstein is okay by me… besides, I’ve never heard the end of the world sound so upbeat before or since!
  • Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” – I know, it’s set on Christmas Eve, but come on, when that sax starts in with “Auld Lang Syne” at the end? Nostalgic perfection! Also, we should pay our respects to Fogelberg, who left us just two weeks ago after a battle with prostate cancer.
  • Donna Summer’s
“Last Dance” brings to mind a wallflower’s frantic rush to find someone to kiss as the minutes remaining til midnight tick away… is that autobiographical on my part? I’ll never tell!
  • And one last one, to listen to in the morning while you nurse your hangover get started on keeping your resolutions: “New Year’s Day” by U2. All is quiet? All-night revelers can only hope… 😉

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