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 11: Waltz Edition!

Adriana Martino

Saturdee Opry Links Overture.
Waltz from "Der Rosenkavalier," by Richard Strauss. 

ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three. . .Yes, there is an opera of "Robinson Crusoe," and a comic opera, at that, by Jacques Offenbach. One aria remains a kind of standard of the soprano repertory, "Conduisez-moi vers celui que j'adore" ("Take me to the one I adore"), or "Edwige's Waltz." Here is delightful Sumi Jo with this delightful song. The scene is quite amazing, as this synopsis suggests:
SUMMARY: In another part of the island, Edwige, Suzanne and Toby have arrived to look for Robinson. They too have been attacked by and escaped from pirates. Toby and Suzanne are captured by the cannibals, and meet their old Bristol neighbout Jim Cocks. He had run away to sea ten years earlier, and, captured by the cannibals, has become their cook. He cheerfully informs Suzanne and Toby that they will be the cannibals' dinner that evening. At sunset, Edwige is brought in by natives, who believe that she is a white goddess. She is to be sacrificed to their god, Saranha, and sings this merry tune!
(No translation available, but the title gives you the general idea.) 
Here's how it can look on stage: 

Waltzes abound in opera and operetta (Offenbach seems to have been the operatic waltz-king) but Puccini bordered on obsessing with the form in his operetta-like opera, "La Rondine." Much of act two is in waltz time, and the big duet in act three is, as well. Here is the opening of act two. The waltz portion is roughly the first thirteen minutes.
Crowds of people are enjoying themselves at Bullier's (Fiori freschi!). Women sell flowers, couples dance, students drink and pick up girls, lovers are kissing. The champagne is flowing, as a group of grisettes discuss men and love. A group of students notice a hesitant figure approaching. It is Magda. They declare her to be shabby, but utterly charming. One offers Magda his arm, which she declines. The students cluster around, prompting Magda to agree that she already has a date. They see her look at Ruggero as he enters the restaurant. Assuming the young man is whom she was waiting for, they bring her to him. Magda begs his pardon for her intrusion (Scusatemi, scusate). Ruggero asks her not to leave. He tells her that she seems different from the other girls here. This pleases her. She sits down. Ruggero asks her why she is so shy and lonely. She reminds him, he tells her, of the girls from Montauban, who are all smiles and youth when they dance to an old song. When she seems to not fully understand his comment, he tells her that the girls of Montauban are very beautiful, but simple and modest. "Unlike the girls here, in Paris, they need only a simple flower in their hair as adornment. Like you." When Magda wishes she could dance like the girls of Montauban, Ruggero asks her if she would like to dance with him. Once in his arms, she recalls to herself how this is like her experience of youth. The two join the crowd of dancers, lost in a dream of intoxicating love (Nella doce carezza della danza). 

"The piano has been drinking," Tom Waits once sang, and that is the gist of this little waltz, "Ah! quel diner!" from Offenbach's "La Perichole." (Also known as "Je suis grise," or "I am gray.") If the tempo is a little unsteady, so is the soprano. Here is Anne Sofie von Otter.
The Viceroy, enchanted with her beauty, offers her a position as Lady in Waiting at the court as soon as she awakes. Despite her suspicions about what he has in mind, she is persuaded by his offer of banquets and accepts, writing a loving farewell letter to Piquillo. Since all Ladies in Waiting must be married, Don Pedro and Panatellas leave to search for a husband for Périchole. They find Piquillo, who is about to hang himself after reading Périchole's farewell letter. After plenty to drink, Piquillo reluctantly agrees to marry the Viceroy's new favorite, although he does not know who it is. Périchole has also been plied with drink by the Viceroy ("Ah, quel diner"), but she agrees to the marriage when she recognizes Piquillo.
Ah! quel dîner je viens de faire!
Et quel vin extraordinaire!
J'en ai tant bu, mais tant tant tant,
Que je crois bien que maintenant
Je suis un peu grise. Mais chut!
Faut pas qu'on le dise! Chut!

Si ma parole est un peu vague.
Si tout en marchant je zigzague,
Et si mon oeil est égrillard.
Il ne faut s'en étonner, car...
Je suis un peu grise, mais chut!
Faut pas qu'on le dise! Chut!

Ah! what a dinner I have just made!
And what an extraordinary wine!
I have drunk so much, but so many,
That I believe that now
I am a little gray. Quiet!
Do not be told! Hush!

If my word is a bit vague.
If while walking I zigzag,
And if my eye is égrillard.
Do not be surprised, because ...
I'm a little gray, but hush!
Do not be told! Hush!

The most famous waltz in opera? Either "Quando me'n vo" from Puccini's "La Boheme" or this one, "Libiamo, ne’ lieti calici," from, of course, "La Traviata," by Verdi. It's the song that La Perichole might have sung before "Ah, quel diner!" Yes, "let's enjoy this moment fervently, while it lasts." Words to live by. Here, Alfredo and Violetta meet and raise a toast. Juan Diego Florez and Diana Damrau in a beautiful Met production. With subtitles. 

There are many waltz interludes in opera, some all instrumental, some with choruses. Here is one with chorus from "Faust," by the underrated Charles Gounod. With English subtitles. Here is the synopsis of the entire act two. The waltz comes toward the end. With English subtitles.
At the city gates, a chorus of students, soldiers and villagers sings a drinking song (Vin ou Bière). Valentin, leaving for war with his friend Wagner, entrusts the care of his sister Marguerite to his youthful friend Siébel (O sainte médaille ... Avant de quitter ces lieux). Méphistophélès appears, provides the crowd with wine, and sings a rousing, irreverent song about the Golden Calf (Le veau d'or). Méphistophélès maligns Marguerite, and Valentin tries to strike him with his sword, which shatters in the air. Valentin and friends use the cross-shaped hilts of their swords to fend off what they now know is an infernal power (chorus: De l'enfer). Méphistophélès is joined by Faust and the villagers in a waltz (Ainsi que la brise légère). Marguerite appears and Faust declares his admiration, but she refuses Faust's arm out of modesty, a quality that makes him love her even more. 

Wonderful Adriana Martino sang in the gorgeous "La Boheme" movie as realized by Franco Zeffirelli, and one or two other filmed productions, and then. . .zip. She is apparently still living, but how and why her operatic career died is not known. Here she is with "Quando m'en vo," or Musetta's waltz, from the great filmed "Boheme" of 1965. With English subtitles. Such a great, great scene. 

Can he make it? It's getting close to the finish, and his limited opera knowledge is failing! Can he manage to post TEN waltzes from opera? He can only think of one more! But wait---it's in 6/8! Is that a waltz? Hmmm. . .Well, you can waltz to it, even if it's technically a. . .barcarolle, from Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffmann." You knew it was coming. . ."Belle nuit, ô nuit d'amour." It's just a rhapsodic, practically ecstatic, declaration. 
And here is how it can look on stage: 

Gee, what a surprise to find a waltz in an opera (operetta, to be correct) by. . .Johann Strauss II. Of course, it is from "Die Fledermaus," an ever-endearing farcical tribute to love. If you go to about 1:32:00 of this full performance, and wait a minute or two, you will recognize the hit tune that follows. In English.
In a rousing finale, Orlofsky makes a toast to champagne, and the company celebrates (The Champagne song: "Im Feuerstrom der Reben"/"In the fire stream of the grape"; followed by the canon: "Brüderlein, Brüderlein und Schwesterlein"/"Brothers, brothers and sisters" and the waltz finale, "Ha, welch ein Fest, welche Nacht voll Freud'!"/"Ha, what joy, what a night of delight.") Eisenstein and Frank dash off as the clock strikes six in the morning. 

Of course, you knew it all along: there is a waltz in Tchaikovsky's opera, "Eugene Onegin." Well, you knew it, but I didn't. I did attend a performance of this opera, and slept extremely well, thanks. So I missed this waltz, which, yes, you will recognize!
This is the reception room of the house of Larins, where a ball is in progress. The room is brightly lit by a central chandelier and candles in sconces along the wall. Uniformed officers are among the guests. As the curtain rises, the younger people are dancing a waltz while the older ones watch admiringly. Eugene Onegin is dancing with Tatyana and Lensky with Olga. Mme Larina bustles about with the air of an anxious hostess. 
And here is a better-recorded concert performance: 
Go here and search for, yes, "waltz." 

Does this count? There is an opera choreographer named Sascha Waltz. No, I guess not. Hmm. . .Well, our all-waltz edition of Saturdee Opry Links is teetering on the brink of unfulfillment! But wait. What's that I hear? Yes, yes, I think it's. . .oom-pah-pah. . .Why, it's "Die Lustige Witwe," by Franz Lehar. You know it better as "The Merry Widow." Go to about 35:00 into this wonderful performance. And if you don't recognize it, tch tch. 
By the way, the dance was considered scandalous in its time: 
And I wasn't kidding about Sascha Waltz:


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