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 15: Thrills and Chills!

Franco Alfano

Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
“Die Meistersinger,” by Wagner. 

Thrills! Chills! What are these people so excited about? Sunrise, that's all. And the way things are going with this planet, we should be equally excited every time the sun comes up. From Verdi's "Il Trovatore" ("The Troubadour"), here is the big chorus made famous by "Merrie Melodies" cartoons, "Vedi le fosche notturne / "See! The endless sky casts off her sombre nightly garb...".

Okay, you had thrills, now here are chills! Yes, kiddies, it's all FUN STUFF today on SOL, in a last-ditch attempt to boost ratings. You see, our demographers tell us, "Dumb it down or lose it!" Here is a sure-fire wiener that you all enjoy munching on: yes, it's the gorgeous "Barcarolle" from "Tales of Hoffy Weiners, I mean Hoffman," by Offenbach. (And as Jose the Parrot in the "Tiki Room," says, "You stay offen my bach and I'll stay offen yours.") Did you know that a barcarolle is a traditional song of Venice Gondoliers? (And here I thought it was, "We're Loyal to You, Venice High School.") Here is "Belle nuit, ō nuit d'amour" ("Beautiful Night, O Night of Love.") Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca.

After Wotan, king of the gods, has pretty well botched things up by making a bad deal with the giants, Fasolt and Fafnir---guaranteeing the end of the universe---Donner, god of thunder, clears the air, so to speak. He summons thunder and lightning to banish the clouds and make way for the rainbow bridge to the gods' newly constructed home of Valhalla. Here is the thrilling, "Heda, Heda, Hedo!" from Wagner's "Das Rheingold." Alan Held is the tenor. 
Translation (search for "heda"): 

Back to chills. "Go, thought, on wings of gold!" Here is the sublime "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" from Verdi's "Nabucco," in which the Hebrews lament the period of Babylonian captivity after the loss of the First Temple in Jerusalem in c. 500 BCE. And yet it is more than that, really a universal call for justice. It is thought that this chorus, a huge "hit" in its day (1842), helped to galvanize Italian nationalism and unite the regions into a formal country. Its genesis is storybook, as Wiki notes: "Verdi composed Nabucco at a difficult moment in his life. His wife and small children had all just died of various illnesses. Despite a purported vow to abstain from opera-writing, he had contracted with La Scala to write another opera and the director forced the libretto into his hands. Returning home, Verdi happened to open the libretto at "Va, pensiero" and seeing the phrase, he heard the words singing. It is common for the audience to call for an immediate encore, as happens in this clip.

Thrills! Here's one for the metoo crowd. . .From Puccini's "Tosca." The tyrant and fiend, Scarpia, has extracted a promise of sex from the singer, Floria Tosca, in exchange for sparing the life of her beloved, the artist, Cavaradossi. In the end, however, Tosca can't go through with it, and sticks it to Scarpia, literally and figuratively. I'm giving you two versions, first the "easy" one with subtitles, wonderfully performed by Catherine Malfitano and Ruggiero Raimondi. And then Maria Callas and Tito Gobi, because it's Callas (listen to the timbre of her voice at the end of the scene---chilling!)

You have to understand something about the Duke. That is, he really, really likes ladies. He's technically a "womanizer," yes, but to paraphrase Little Richard, the guy can't help it. And he is genuinely in love with Gilda, daughter of the hunchbacked jester, Rigoletto. Really. Of course, this means nothing to Rigoletto, when he learns that his daughter has fallen for the Duke's notorious charms. Or vice-versa. And Rig essentially goes nuts, vowing to take out the Duke, despite Gilda's protests. It's one of those "caricature opera" moments that gave rise to the question, "What came first, opera or Bugs Bunny," but it's thrilling, if you can divorce that nonsense from your perception. So thrilling that the crowd here called for an encore. The soprano is Inva Mula, and the baritone is the great Leo Nucci. "Si Vendetta, Tremenda Vendetta," from Verdi's "Rigoletto."

Thrills! The last two minutes of Puccini's "Turandot," never mind that this part was written by Franco Alfano after Puccini's death (heavily revised by Toscanini.) I say Alfano did a slam-bang job of it. Yes, love has triumphed, and Calaf will marry the formerly evil Princess Turandot. You needn't concern yourself with the how and why, just turn up the music. The recent Metropolitan Opera production of the Franco Zeffirelli staging.

Okay, there's "Vincerņ!," and there's Vincerņ!" This is so astounding that you wonder if it's been tampered with. Jussi Bjorling, live on stage at the Stockholm Concert Hall with the Swedish Radio Symphony in 1944. This is the inevitable "Nessun Dorma," from Puccini's "Turandot," an aria so tremendous that turning it into a cliche has not damaged or diminished its thrill.
About the aria, translation:

More chills!
Mario del Monaco, "the man who could not sing quietly," putting this "liability" to great effect. Stupendous, mighty. One of the most gut-wrenching arias in all opera, "Vesti La Giubba," from "Il Pagliacci," by Leoncavallo. "Put on the costume."
Setting: The entrance to a village, Calabria, Italy, 1860s
Synopsis: Canio sings that, although his love has betrayed him and his heart is broken, he must go on and show a cheerful face to the world.."

If this is not the most heart-rending moment in opera, I don't know what would be. Brunhilde, the beloved, favorite daughter of the god-king, Wotan, has disobeyed her father. In attempting to protect the couple, Sigmund and Sieglinde---and later protecting the widowed, pregnant Sieglinde---she has done what her father wanted to do, but was talked out of doing by his awful wife, Fricka. Point being: you don't go against the family. Now, valiant Brunhilde must pay. Wotan furious declares he will render her mortal again, leaving her at the mercy of any man who encounters her---quite a comedown from riding flying horses with her sisters, carrying dead warriors to Valhalla. She pleads for mercy, and broken-hearted Wotan amends his sentence: she will be left alone on a mountaintop, surrounded by a magic fire that only the greatest of heroes can cross. Here is "Wotan's Farewell," and the "magic fire music," from Wagner's "Die Walkure." Thrilling and chilling, not necessarily in that order. The "farewell" begins at about 3:40. The music is astonishing. Donald McIntyre and Gwyneth Jones. 
Translation: (search for "Leb'") 


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