Giuseppe Verdi


A weekly Quixotic pursuit for appreciators of opera who don't expect too much, would-be appreciators of opera who don't know what to expect, and those somewhere in-between,
such as your host.

Thrown together in haste every
Saturdee morning by
Rip Rense

Giacomo Puccini

OPRY LINKS 5: Bizet and Puccini: melodists extraordinaire


Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
"Semiramide," by Rossini

 There might be more haunting, almost eerie, arias in opera, but I can't think of any, offhand. The ethereally, astonishingly beautiful, "Je Crois Entendre Encore" ("I Still Believe I Hear"), a yearning for a mysterious love, from "The Pearl Fishers," by Bizet. Translation below.
Synopsis: In the past, Nadir had fallen in love with a beautiful Brahman priestess named Léďla at a Brahman temple. Now, a veiled priestess has come to his village and he recognizes her as Léďla. He sings of his love for her which has not been diminished by the time they have spent apart.
About "The Pearl Fishers," plot summary:
The words and their English translation:
Je crois entendre encore,
Caché sous les palmiers,
Sa voix tendre et sonore
Comme un chant de ramier!
O nuit enchanteresse!
Divin ravissement!
O souvenir charmant!
Folle ivresse! doux rêve!
Aux clartés des étoiles,
Je crois encore la voir,
Entr’ouvrir ses longs voiles
Aux vents tièdes du soir!
O nuit enchanteresse!
Divin ravissement!
O souvenir charmant!
Folle ivresse! doux rêve!
Charmant souvenir!

I still believe I hear
hidden beneath the palm trees
her voice, tender and deep
like the song of a dove
oh enchanting night
divine rapture
delightful memory
mad intoxication, sweet dream.
In the clear starlight
I still believe I see her
half drawing her long veil
to the warm night breeze.
Oh enchanting night
divine rapture
delightful memory
mad intoxication, sweet dream.
Charming memory.

- See more at:
Also from "Bizet's other opera," "The Pearl Fishers," this is the opulent, touching aria, “Comme Autrefois.”
Setting: The ruins of a Hindu temple in Ceylon in ancient times
Synopsis: Léïla realizes that she loves Nadir. She sings of this newfound love and the care with which Nadir guards her from harm.
The soprano is the fabulous Mirella Freni.
About, translation:
Ms. Freni's New York Times obituary:

EXTRA: NPR: "The Pearl Fishers: Bizet's Other Opera."

How often do two guys in love with the same woman bury the hatchet? Perhaps as often as Oprah Winfrey expresses humility. This is what makes "Au Fond Du Temple Saint" especially touching, unusual. (The only other similar aria that comes to mind is from Verdi's "Don Carlo.") In this duet, Zurga and Nadir remember rapturously about falling in love at first sight with a beautiful woman seen inside the dim, incense-clouded temple. For each it was an almost mystical experience. Yet when they realize they were in love with the same woman, they instead nobly swear eternal friendship. This is the classic, some say unbeatable, version with Jussi Bjorling and Robert Merrill.
About the aria:

4. We'll be back after this important word.

5. From the sublime to the. . .sublime. . .Here, from Puccini's lesser known, early opera, "Edgar," this is the lesser known aria, "Addio, mio dolce amor"---splendid, at least, in its gentleness, poignancy.
Synopsis: Fidelia believes that Edgar has died as a great hero in battle. At his funeral, she sings farewell to her one true love, asking him to wait for her in Heaven.
The soprano is wonderful Angela Gheorghiu, in an especially tender reading.
Addio, addio mio dolce amor!
Nell'ombra ove discendi,
Solenne, infinita anch'io verrò...
Dove tu regni dolor,
La gioventù non ha più fior!
Addio ancora, addio, o Edgar,
La tua memoria sarà
Il mio sol pensiero!
Lassù, nella tua gloria,
M'attendi, Edgar!
Goodbye, goodbye my sweet love!
In the shadow where you descend,
Solemn, infinite I too will come ...
Wait for me!
Where you reign pain,
Youth no longer flourishes!
Goodbye again, goodbye, o Edgar,
Your memory will be
My only thought!
Up there, in your glory,
Wait for me, Edgar!
About Ms. Gheorghiu:

Also from "Edgar," a much-struggled-with early Puccini opera, here is the tenor aria, "Questo Amor." It is so dwarfed by other Puccini arias that there are no tenors of substantial repute singing it on Youtube. No slight to Ilya Silkuchov, who does the honors here. 
Synopsis: Frank looks at Tigrana from afar and sings of his love for her. He has grown up with her and loves her very much, but she does not return the love and, in fact, thinks that being Frank's lover would be sinful since they are almost like brother and sister.
Who said to me would never have that one day
Costei would have been
The cruelest breath of my life? ...
Fifteen years of Hungarians and Morischi
A terraced host
A girl passed by in the village
Leaving ... It was Tigrana! ... It grew
Daughter of all ... Aimè, on our breasts
The viper we warmed up!

This love, my shame,
I would break, forget I would like;
But of a hideous spell
My senses are slaves ...
A thousand times in heaven I swore
To escape her! ... And I returned to her!
She laughs at my tears,
My ridicule is mocked;
And I, vil, with a broken heart,
At his feet I will continue ...
And she alone I dream, I yearn!
Ah misfortune! ... I love her! ... I love her!
Chi detto a me l'avrebbe mai che un giorno
Costei sarebbe stata
L'affanno più crudel della mia vita?...
Son quindici anni d'Ungari e Morischi
Un'errabonda schiera
Nel villaggio passò, qui una bambina
Abbandonando... Era Tigrana!... Crebbe
Figlia di tutti... Aimè, sul nostro seno
La vipera scaldammo!

Questo amor, vergogna mia,
Io spezzar, scordar vorrei;
Ma d'un' orrida malìa
Sono schiavi i sensi miei...
Mille volte al ciel giurai
Di fuggirla!... E a lei tornai!
Ella ride del mio pianto,
Del mio sdegno si fa scherno;
Ed io, vil, col cuore infranto,
Ai suoi piedi mi prosterno...
E lei sola io sogno, io bramo!
Ah sventura!... Io l'amo!... Io l'amo!

EXTRA: "Edgar" bears similarities to Bizet's "Carmen."
Excerpt: Parallels to Bizet's Carmen are numerous. Both operas feature a confused young man (tenor: Edgar, Don José) who is struggling to choose between the pure chaste love of his home town girl (soprano: Fidelia, Micaëla) and the consuming passion of an exotic gypsy (mezzo-soprano: Tigrana, Carmen).

7. One of the greatest things about opera, especially Puccini opera, is how universal are the sentiments expressed. Here is the early gem. "Torna ai Felici Di," from his opera, "Le Villi" ("The Fairies.") "Bring Back the Happy Days." Hell, yes, I'll drink to that. The tenor is Jonas Kaufmann, in an arresting performance. (Aria begins at roughly 2:20.) 
Synopsis : Anna has been killed by fairies that were conjured by a witch that seduced Roberto when he was away in Mainz. However, he does not find this out until after it happens. Roberto is filled with remorse at letting himself be seduced by another woman and is shocked to find out then that his true love is now dead at the hand of the same witch.
About the opera:
Return to those happy days
When May was gay with flowers
And love blossomed for me!
Then everything was blackened
By lugubrious mysteries,
And now in my heart there is
Naught but sadness and terror!
Perhaps she still lives!
(he looks at Anna's house, hesitates, then walks towards it)
I shall knock!
(about to knock, he steps back as though restrained by some mysterious force)
What a shudder ran through me!
I could not lift
My hand to her door!

And how it can look on stage, with tenor Yoshihisa Yamaji.

8. If there was a "hit aria" from Puccini's "Le Villi," it was "Se come voi piccina," ("If I were tiny, like you"), here sung by Kiri Te Kanawa.
Synopsis : Anna puts her bouquet from her engagement celebration in Roberto's luggage. He is about to leave to go to Mainz where he has been left a fortune. She hopes that he will think of her when he looks at the flowers. 
Se come voi piccina io fossi, o vaghi fior,
If I were tiny like you, or a wild flower
sempre sempre vicina potrei stare al mio amor.
I could always be close to my love
Allor dirgli vorrei: "Io penso sempre a te!"
Then I would like to tell him: "I'm thinking of you!"
Ripetergli potrei: "Non to scordar di me!"
I could be able to repeat to him: "Don't forget about me!"

Voi, di me... piu felici, lo seguirete, o fior;
You, who are happier than me, will follow him, or flowers,
per valli e per pendici seguirete il mio amor.
in the vallyes and on the slopes, you will follow my love
Ah, se il nome che avete menzognero non e,
Oh, if the name you have is not lying,
deh! al mio amor ripetete: "Non ti scordar di me!"
then repeat to my love: "Don't forget about me!"


A Puccini rarity!  The song,  "Morire," ("To Die"), written by Puccini's sometime librettist ("La Rondine," "Il Tabarro," "Turandot.")  From a great album of Puccini rarities, "The Unknown Puccini," by Placido Domingo (who sings here.)  You heard it here first! Maybe.
"The Unknown Puccini:"

Back to Bizet. "Micaela's aria" from "Carmen" always strikes me as being very competitive with, if not the equal of, Puccini, in terms of rhapsodic melody. Live on stage, with English subtitles, is Angela Gheorghiu.
Or, if you prefer (and I do), here is a more nuanced and affecting studio recording with Anna Moffo.

Setting: A mountain pass
Synopsis: Searching for Don José, who she still loves in spite of the smugglers, Micaëla finds herself alone in the mountains. Frightened, she prays for courage.

Saturdee Opry Links Encore!
“Vivere,” (“To Live”), as sung by the great Tito Schipa.
To Live (Vivere)

What a magnificent day
what a day to celebrate
my girl has left me
I'm free at last!

I've got my life back
and I intend to enjoy it.
when she left she said she wouldn't come back

Now I can live without misery
live without jealousy
with no regrets
with no concerns about love

I can enjoy the flowers, enjoy life
and still my feelings

I can laugh and be happy
I can laugh at a foolish world
I can live while I am still young
because life is beautiful
and I want to live more of it

Women want you to act in
in the comedy of love
they want you to play the
romantic lead
but when the curtain comes down in act 3
your faced with reality
Her romantic drama is a farce

Live! even if you feel a little nostalgic
I'm not bitter any more
I'm happy for the guy who took her away
To live while I'm young
Because life is beautiful

Original Italian here (and great photographic history of the song.)

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