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


Kristine Opalais in "Rusalka" by Dvorak.

Saturdee Opry Links Overture
"Rusalka," by Dvorak

Here is "Jenufa's Prayer," from the Czech tragedy, "Jenufa," by Janacek. Renee Fleming, with English captions.

Summary: Janacek's Jenufa revolves around one of the worst crimes portrayed in any opera, the drowning of a newborn infant in an icy river. It's an act driven by narrowmindedness and cowardice — but also by love. And remarkably, the overall theme of the opera is forgiveness. When the title character's child is murdered by her own stepmother, Jenufa reacts not with calls for vengeance, but with tender absolution — set to some of Janacek's most radiant music.

Another glorious Czech aria that has so much in common with Puccini that I strongly suspect the composer, Dvorak, took his cue from Puccini's magical, transporting melodies. The mysterious and lovely "Song to the Moon," from "Rusalka." Here in a beautifully staged production, with soprano Kristine Opalais.
And a more complete clip with Renee Fleming:
Summary: A meadow by a lake, in fairy-tale times. The water nymph Rusalka sits sadly by the water as wood nymphs sing and dance. When the water gnome Vodník asks why she is unhappy she tells him that she has fallen in love with a human—the prince—when he came to swim in the lake. Now she wants to become human herself and live on land to be with him. Horrified, Vodník tells her that humans are evil and full of sin. When Rusalka insists, claiming they are full of love, he says she will have to get help from the witch Jezibaba, then sinks back into the lake in despair. Rusalka calls on the moon to tell the prince of her love (“Mesícku na nebi hlubokém”).

Czech this out. From Smetana's "Hubicka" ("The Kiss"), here is "Vendulka's Lullabye." Poor Smetana went deaf, yet still managed to write this! The soprano is Milada Šubrtová.
EXCERPT: in 1876, he was given a new libretto, called Hubička, or The Kiss. It tells an awkward
story of rekindled romance — some might even call it silly. But Smetana, who was dealing with a new and surely frightening time in his life, took the libretto's tale of renewed love — and hope — to heart. In the process, he created an opera with a touching, folk-like charm, and a depth of feeling that somehow goes beyond its outwardly simple story.
Synopsis: Left alone and confused after Lukas storms out of the house in Act One, Vendulka (soprano Pumeza Matshikiza) sings a thoughtful lullaby to Lukas's young child.
About the soprano:
Renee Fleming talks about the aria:

Yet another lovely Czech soprano aria, this one from "Libuse," by poor, deafened Smetana. Apparently this is the most loved opera in the culture. Regret that am unable to find translation. Easy to hear the Wagner "Ring" influence. The soprano is Gabriela Beňačková.
Not performed in the USA until 1986:
About the soprano:

There are many Russian arias on Youtube, but not too many translations available, sorry to say. Here is one from Tchaikovsky's "Queen of Spades." This is "Ya vas Lyublyu." And by god, there is a translation! The baritone is the great Pavel Lisitsian.
Synopsis: ACT I. During the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-96), children are at play in a St. Petersburg summer park. Two soldiers — Tsurin and Chekalinsky — enter, the former complaining about his bad luck at gambling. They remark that another soldier, Gherman, seems obsessed with the gaming table but never bets, since he is frugal and methodical. Gherman appears with Tomsky, who says his friend hardly seems like his old self: is anything bothering him? Gherman admits he is in love with a girl above his station, whose name he does not even know.
About Pavel Lisitsian:

Seeing as it's too time-consuming (for me) to look up Russian arias, here's the next best thing: a Russian singing an Italian aria---well, in this case, a classic Neopolitan song. "Core 'ngrato" ("Ungrateful Heart.") Continuing with the great barit
one, Pavel Lisitsian.
About Lisitsian:
About the song:

More Pavel doing Italian! I can't resist his mellifluent tones. Here he is with "Il Balen" from Verdi's "Il Trovatore." Somehow sounds a little Russian, anyway, doesn't it? Wait a second. I know why it sounds a little Russian---he’s singing in Russian. (Duh.)
About, translation:
Compare and contrast:

 "Song of the Flea," by Modest Mussorgsky. The great Paul Robeson sings Mussorgksy's whimsical Russian tune.

And for the penultimate Opry Link, we turn to Tchaikovsky again, and Anna Netrebko. This is the "letter scene" from "Eugene Onegin," also known as "Puskai pogibnu ya," if you're keeping score at home. Characteristic Tchaikovsky welling is unmistakable. With English subtitles!
About this scene:

The great baritone, Feodor Chalipin, tenderly sings Massenet's deeply sad, "Elegie." "O sweet Spring of yesteryear, green seasons, you have fled forever!" In Russian, for that extra dimension of despair!

Saturdee Opry Links Encore!
Chaliapin sings---yes!---"Ochi Chernye!" Complete with very alluring dancer!


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