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


Saioa Hernandez

Saturdee Opry Links Overture.

"Idomeneo," by Mozart.

As I often observe, there is no more important a song of any sort, anywhere, today. From Handel's "Xerxes," this is "Ombra Mai Fu." A man sings to a tree, telling it of its wonders, wishing that no harm ever come to it. If only the world would embrace this idea. Wonderful old film of Beniamino Gigli.
“Tender and beautiful fronds
of my beloved plane tree,
let Fate smile upon you.
May thunder, lightning, and storms
never disturb your dear peace,
nor may you by blowing winds be profaned.
Never was a shade
of any plant
dearer and more lovely,
or more sweet.”

From the "incidental music" that Edvard Grieg wrote for Ibsen's play, "Peer Gynt," this is the plaintive, exquisite "Solveig's Song." A song of promise. The soprano is Marita Solberg.
Synopsis: Peer Gynt was a coward, liar, narcissist, man of no moral compass. Wandering aimlessly from place to place while faking multiple identities to cheat people just about sums up his wasted life. Yet, even for a man like Peer there awaited a woman with a faithful heart ready to shower him with love, should he decide to return. Abandoned twice already, Solveig remained hopeful that they might delight in each other’s love one day.

Yes, operas are written in English (though it is often hard to understand the words, anyhow.) The prolific American composer, Carlisle Floyd, wrote twelve operas, including "Wuthering Heights" and "Of Mice and Men." His most popular is "Susannah," the story of a young girl in New Hope, Tennessee. Here is her delicate aria, "The Trees on the Mountain," as sung by Cheryl Studer. Note: it is written and sung in an approximation of dialect.
Synopsis: Floyd adapted the story from the Apocryphal tale of Susannah and the Elders, though the latter story has a more positive ending. The story focuses on 18-year-old Susannah Polk, an innocent girl who is targeted as a sinner in the small mountain town of New Hope Valley, in the Southern American state of Tennessee.

Here is a somewhat rare item, from Richard Strauss's comic opera, "Die Schweigsame Frau," or "The Silent Woman." This is sort of the salient aria, perhaps (have not seen or heard this work), a tribute to the comforts of a "good woman." Now this is an interesting example of an aria that is much more beautiful than what is being sung---a common phenomenon of opera. You hear something without knowing meaning or context, are very moved, or roused, then, when you read the translation, you find it is a turkey recipe. Well, I exaggerate. This also points up the stuff that makes opera important, possibly the reason for its existence: it elevates the peccadillos and trivialities of our lives into grandeur, as well as underscoring and expressing deep emotion that probably can't be expressed as well otherwise. So here is bass-baritone Kurt Moll with the closing monologue from the opera, "Wie Schön Ist Doch Die Musik" ("How beautiful music is. . .")

My ignorance of baroque era operas is about 100 percent, worsened by a lack of patience. At least I do recognize the many, many lovely arias that exist from this era, so I have sort of a rube "greatest hits" appreciation. Here is one such, "Che farň senza Euridice," from "Orfeo ed Euridice," by Gluck. Note: the male role is sung by a mezzo, in this case, Janet Baker.
Synopsis: Orfeo has been allowed to bring back his wife from Hades as long as he does not look upon her face until they are back on earth. However, urged by Euridice, he turns around and looks at her and she immediately dies. Grief-stricken, he wonders what he will ever do without his love.

Jump ahead about 100 years after the previously posted Gluck aria. How does this one, "Ebben! Ne Andro Lontana," from Catalani's "La Wally," differ? Both are sorrowful, even mournful; both are meditations, laments. Yet, obvious to say, the latter is more sophisticated in terms of melody (and harmonies, orchestral composition) and overt expression of emotion. Or do you have a different opinion? Here is a splendid live performance by the soprano, Saioa Hernandez (new to me.)
Synopsis: Wally, a young woman, daughter of Stromminger, is in the main square of Hochstoff, Switzerland, 19th century. She
is in love with Hagenbach. However, her father does not like Hagenbach and wants her to marry his own friend, Gellner. He gives her an ultimatum : marry Gellner or leave the house. When faced with the decision, Wally decides that she must leave. She despairs that she will never see her house again but she knows that she must be firm.
About Hernandez:

Again, here is the estimable Saioa Hernandez of Madrid, Spain, this time with some mainstream Verdi. What does "mainstream Verdi" mean? Why, bread-and-butter Verdi, of course. 100-proof Verdi, if you prefer. Which is to say, heavy on drama, heavy on melody, heavy on emotion. I suggest paying attention to the cello obligatto (accompaniment) in this rendition of "Morró, ma prima in grazia," from "Un Ballo in Maschera." (Not usually my favorite stuff, either, but there is no denying the greatness of it. Really casts a spell, especially live.) Aria starts with the mournful solo cello around 2:10.
Synopsis: Renato threatens Amelia with death so that she will atone for the sins she has committed with Riccardo. She pleads with Renato to see her son one last time before he kills her.

One of the many glittering little gems in Mozart opera, the piquant wish for a safe journey, "Soave sia il vento" from "Cosi Fan Tutte." (With English subtitles.)
In a cafe, Ferrando and Guglielmo (two officers) express certainty that their fiancées (Dorabella and Fiordiligi, respectively) will be eternally faithful. Don Alfonso expresses skepticism and claims that there is no such thing as a faithful woman. He lays a wager with the two officers, claiming he can prove in a day's time that those two, like all women, are fickle. The wager is accepted: the two officers will pretend to have been called off to war; soon thereafter they will return in disguise and each attempt to seduce the other's lover. The scene shifts to the two women, who are praising their men (duet: "Ah guarda sorella"—"Ah look sister"). Alfonso arrives to announce the bad news: the officers have been called off to war. Ferrando and Guglielmo arrive, brokenhearted, and bid farewell (quintet: "Sento, o Dio, che questo piede č restio"—"I feel, oh God, that my foot is reluctant"). As the boat with the men sails off to sea, Alfonso and the sisters wish them safe travel (trio: "Soave sia il vento"—"May the wind be gentle"). 
Soave sia il vento,
Tranquilla sia l'onda,
Ed ogni elemento
Benigno risponda
Ai nostri/vostri desir.

Gentle be the breeze,
Calm be the waves,
And every element
Smile in favour
On their wish.

From hope in the previous post to bliss in this one, and so it is with emotional roller coast that is opera. Here is the exquisite voice of Lucia Popp, a Slovak soprano who, thankfully, recorded many wonderful things before her tragic death from brain cancer at only 54. A light lyric soprano, as is evidenced here, certainly does not mean a dearth of expressiveness, power to move the listener. This is the gossamer, shimmering "Depuis le Jour," from "Louise," by Charpentier.
Setting: a small garden next to the Montmartre, Paris, 1900
Synopsis: Louise describes how her life has changed since moving in with Julien. She revels in his love for her and her life which grows better every day.

FINAL BOW: Started with young Beniamino Gigli this morning, so we will end with old Beniamino Gigli. Twenty years after he sang "Ombra Mai Fu" on film, this son of a shoemaker performed in concert at age 60. His voice was still formidable, though naturally had less strength and more vibrato on the big notes. Yet this performance of the heartbreaking Tosti song, "Ideale," is marked by a kind of perfection of phrasing, and a gorgeous, tender upper register. "Torna, caro ideale. . ." ("Return, dear ideal, for an instant, to smile at me again. . .")

Saturdee Opry Links Encore!
"What a wonderful thing is a sunny day". . .There haven't been many since early May, but it is peeking through right now, so perhaps we will have a summer yet. . .Sing your hearts out, boys. . .
About this magical song, and translation:



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