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 22: Rainy Day Edition. . .

Starring Boston Blackie! Sheryl Crow! Frank Sinatra! Sabine Devielhe! And. . .Alfredo Rubino

Sabine Devielhe                                                                                                                             Sheryl Crow

Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
"Abduction from the Seraglio," by Mozart.

A little warm, brisk Mozart for a rainy, windy morning. . .A bit of wisdom from Don Basilio, the music master in "Marriage of Figaro," who relates how Lady Phlegm (ahem!) gave him the following pearl of wisdom: "Death may be avoided with the cloak of an ass." Really. I've found this to be the case many times. What? The Tenor is Luigi Alva, the wonderful Peruvian (!) singer who specialized in Mozart. 
Setting: The garden of Count Almaviva
Synopsis: Figaro has just discovered that Susanna and the Count have planned to meet. The Countess is planning to dress up as Susanna but Figaro does not know this and therefore is angry. He tells Bartolo and Don Basilio about Susanna's infidelity and, after he leaves, Basilio comments that such behavior is typical for the young.
About Luigi Alva: 

Here is a lovely little song adapted by Mozart from an opera, "Armida," by one Josef Myslivecek. But for Mozart's melody, it is unlikely the aria, opera, or possibly Myslivecek, would be remembered today. "Ridente La Calma," or "May a happy calm arise." (Something well worth wishing.) Sung here by soprano Kathleen Battle, who could have done with a bit more calm in her performing career. She was quite the diva drama-queen.

WARNING to "metoo" adherents: the following aria concerns a womanizer. Have smelling salts close at hand.
If there is a more familiar Mozart aria than the seductive, "La Ci Darem La Mano," I don't know what it is. Every kid parked at a piano probably plays it (say it ten times fast.) It has been performed by such unlikely crooners as Frank Sinatra (!). Here is sweaty baritone Rodney Gilfrey, with soprano Liliana Nikiteanu. With English subtitles. (Aria starts at 2:45.)
Synopsis : Don Giovanni attempts to seduce the peasant girl Zerlina. Zerlina almost capitulates but is prevented from going off with him by Donna Elvira, who has already fallen to the wiles of Giovanni. That naughty boy. 

You didn't believe me about Sinatra, did you?

Moving away from Mozart, but keeping things pretty, here is another lovely item well suited for a rainy morning: "The Bell Song," from "Lakme," by Delibes. So beautifully sung by soprano Sabine Devieilhe, who, sad to say, is not joining me for lunch and pleasant conversation. This aria is ethereal, magical, strange, elegant, transporting, mysterious. I'm out of adjectives. Lakme wanders through the town square, singing a legend of Vishnu.
Setting: A public square in a town in India
Synopsis: Ordered by her father, Lakmé sings the legend of the pariah's daughter. The girl was walking through the forest at night and comes upon a stranger who has been set upon by wild animals. She rings a magic bell that is on her wand and saves the man, who is actually Vishnu, the son of Brahma the Creator. Vishnu takes her up to paradise for saving him.
Ms. Devieilhe has a Facebook page, if you wish to compliment her:

I was going to move away from Wolfgang, but who can resist a woman with a moustache? What'd he say? The alluring French soprano, Marianne Crebassa, has adopted a pencil-thin affair ("the Boston Blackie kind," quoting Jimmy Buffett) for her assaying of Cherubino in "Marriage of Figaro." Even without her gorgeous mezzo tripping exiquisitely along Mozart's too-many-notes, Ms. Crebassa is an arresting presence here. Yes, folks, it's a "trouser role," where the mezzo is a playing a man. No gay implications intended; it was just a tradition arising post-Shakespeare, essentially a way to get more and more pretty women on stage. This is "Voi che sapete che cosa è amor," or "You know what love is."
Setting: The Countess's bedroom
Synopsis: After Cherubino arrives in his new military uniform, he sings a plea to women to see how much love he has to give.
About "trouser roles:"

No truth to the rumor that Ms. Crebassa is soon to record this:

Speaking of Boston Blackie: 

For those (sometimes including me) who tend to think of Mozart opera as either frivolity or mere pretty melody, here's a bit of an eye-opener. At least it was for me. Sabine Devielhe invests this with such emotion as to be unusually moving. This is the recitative and aria, "Alcandro lo confesso. . .Non so d'onde viene." Sad to say, it does not appear in an opera, but is a free-standing concert aria (usually sung by bass), words by one Pietro Metastasio. Note that orchestra uses period instruments.

Okay, enough Wolfgang. As Beethoven once wrote, "O freunde nicht diese Töne. . ." (O, friends, not these sounds. . .) Verdi also goes well with rain. Here is the forgotten baritone, Alfredo Rubino, singing his heart out in a very old, popping 78 recording, with "Di Provenza il Mar" from "La Traviata." A father tenderly tries to remind hs son of his roots. 
Setting: Violetta's country house
Synopsis: Alfredo's father has convinced Violetta that it is better for everyone if she leaves Alfredo. She begs him to love her and then sneaks out of the house. Later, a servant brings him her farewell letter and he rushes off to find her. Giorgio stops him though and sings this aria to remind him of their home in Provence and to ask him to return with him.
Some photos of Rubino: 

One the best extended Verdi sequences for bass is "Di due Figli," which, of course, means, "About two figs." Well, not quite. Great melodies here! From "Il Trovatore" (The Troubadour.) The bass is Stefan Kocan.
Setting: A hall in the palace of Aliferia, Aragon, 1409.
Synopsis: Ferrando entertains a group of soldiers with the story of the Count of Luna's brother, Garcia, who was apparently killed as an infant by the daughter of an old gypsy woman who was burned for being a witch by the Count di Luna's father.

Here is favorite clip of Mirella Freni singing Micaela's tender, plaintive aria from Bizet's "Carmen." This is "Je dis que rien ne m'épouvante" ("I say that nothing can frighten me.")
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.
About Ms. Freni, still with us at 83:
Excerpt is from this film:

As the rain really pounds L.A. right now, imbuing it with a wonderful sadness that belies its glinting, sunglasses-and-fake teeth image, here is the gloriously melodic, touching aria, "Casta Diva," from Bellini's "Norma." One might take such music for granted, having been long spoiled by plethora of melody offered by myriad of technology, but when this was written, it was a novel operatic exploration---revolutionary, even---of the long-sustained melodic line (legato.) Here is Maria Callas.
Setting: Night in the Druid's sacred forest, Gaul, around 50 B.C.
Synopsis: The Druids have come to meet with Norma, their high priestess. They want to revolt against their Roman oppressors but Norma convinces them that their time to rise up has not come yet. The Romans will be defeated by their own failings. Norma then invokes the moon and prays for peace. While the chorus of Druids sings their derison for the Romans, Norma sings her cabaletta, privately worrying that that the hatred for the Romans must also translate to hatred for Pollione, her secret Roman lover.

Saturdee Opry Links Encore!
Okay. You've seen Pavarotti duet with James Brown (astoundingly weird), and Sting, and Celine Deion, and Barry White (!), but here's one that might have escaped your attention. And it might be the weirdest of all, because Sheryl Crow actually hits most of the notes and appears to have, somewhere along the line, had some vocal training. Yes, the estimable Ms. Crow has a history with studying music. From Wiki: “She enrolled at the University of Missouri in Columbia and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music composition, performance, and education from the School of Music." Yes, it's back to "La Ci Darem la Mano," this time with Luciano and Sheryl, in 1996, raising money to help children in war-ravaged countries.
Synopsis : Don Giovanni attempts to seduce the peasant girl Zerlina. Zerlina almost capitulates but is prevented from going off with him by Donna Elvira, who has already fallen to the wiles of Giovanni.

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