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 23: Plant-based Meat Product and Root Vegetable Edition

Yin Huang and Richard Troxell in the excellent film version of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly."

Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
"Cosi Fan Tutte," by Mozart. 

Starting today's Saturdee Opry Links is Placido Domingo with that old chestnut, "Questa O Quella," from Verdi's "Rigoletto." Nothing but meat-and-potatoes today, or plant-based pseudo-meat and potatoes, if you prefer. Attention, metoo folk: you might want to look the other way, or at least ignore the translation. 
Setting: A hall in the palace of the Duke of Mantua
Synopsis: After he discloses his wish to woo the Countess Ceprano, the Duke is warned that the Countess has a jealous husband. The Duke replies that he will go after any woman that he wants and that he won't be scared off by any jealous husbands. Wotta guy! "This one or that one---they're all the same to me!"

Should include this in the "addio" edition at the end of the year. Here is "Addio, Mio dolce amor," from Puccini's early opera, "Edgar," as sung by the great Leontyne Price. Yes, I know, "the great" is such a beaten-up, withered cliche---but it sure is warranted here.
Setting: the front of a fortress, Courtray, Flanders, late 19th century
Synopsis: Fidelia believes that Edgar has died as a great hero in battle. At his funeral, she sings farewell to her one true love, asking him to wait for her in Heaven. 
Addio, addio mio dolce amor!
Nell'ombra ove discendi,
Solenne, infinita anch'io verrò...
Dove tu regni dolor,
La gioventù non ha più fior!
Addio ancora, addio, o Edgar,
La tua memoria sarà
Il mio sol pensiero!
Lassù, nella tua gloria,
M'attendi, Edgar!

Goodbye, goodbye my sweet love!
In the shadow where you descend,
Solemn, infinite, I too will come ...
Wait for me!
Where you reign pain,
Youth has no more flowers!
Goodbye again, goodbye, or Edgar,
Your memory will be
My only thought!
Up there, in your glory,
Wait for me, Edgar!

 "Shining in the rosy light of morning. . ." This aria, from Wagner's comic opera, "Die Meistersinger," captures such a feeling of hope, love, nostalgia, wonder. . .there is probably a German word for it! Here intoned in concert by Ben Heppner (now, sorry to say, retired from opera performance.) And the words are lovely, too.
Role: Walter von Stolzing, a young knight from Franconia
Setting: a meadow outside of Nuremburg, Germany, mid-sixteenth century
Synopsis: Walter sings his Prize Song for the song contest. It is a beautiful and magical piece which poetically describes his love for Eva.
(search for "Morgenlich") 

Here, from the film production of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly," is the soaring, astonishing, heart-rending love duet from act one. Note how it seems to climax with an orchestral chord that is nearly, but not completely fulfilling, which is a hint that this love is not destined for a good end. Genius, that Giacomo. "Love me with a little love," sings poor Butterfly, "a child-like love/ the kind that suits me/ Love me, please/ We are a people used to small, modest, quiet things/ to a tenderness gently caressing/ yet vast as the sky and as the waves of the sea."
In 1904, a U.S. naval officer named Pinkerton rents a house on a hill in Nagasaki, Japan, for himself and his soon-to-be wife, "Butterfly". Her real name is Ciocio-san (cio-cio, pronounced "chocho," the Japanese word for "butterfly" (蝶々 chōchō); san is a plain honorific). She is a 15-year-old Japanese girl whom he is marrying for convenience, and he intends to leave her once he finds a proper American wife, since Japanese divorce laws are very lax. The wedding is to take place at the house. Butterfly had been so excited to marry an American that she had earlier secretly converted to Christianity. After the wedding ceremony, her uninvited uncle, a bonze, who has found out about her conversion, comes to the house, curses her and orders all the guests to leave, which they do while renouncing her. Pinkerton, who finds himself captivated by Butterfly despite his ulterior motive, sings of his love in a duet with Cio-Cio San, and they prepare to spend their first night together.
The tenor is Richard Troxell, the soprano is Ying Huang. With English subtitles. 

And here is a short excerpt from the gorgeous, highly original, recent Met production, in this case with Roberto Alagna and Kristine Opalais. 

In another duet of doomed love, Alfredo and Violetta, united at last, sing of their plans to leave Paris and make a new and happy life together---despite their mutual knowledge that Violetta is dying. Opera, you know. This is "Parigi, o cara," from "La Traviata," by Verdi, with Renee Fleming and Joseph Calleja. Note the difference between Puccini's rhapsodic, sweep-you-off-your feet style, and Verdi's stately melodiousness.

Violetta's capricious declaration of independence, "Sempre Libera," from Verdi's "La Traviata," is staged and acted in many ways. Here are three examples, just for fun. Yes, really---fun. You remember fun. First is a very traditional, happy, straightforward rendering with the charismatic Anna Moffo, followed by a sort of willful, semi-drunken declamation by Renee Fleming (in exaggeratedly traditional attire against a modern backdrop), and finally Anna Netrebko in a borderline nervous breakdown interpretation (against a cuckoo modern set.)
1. Moffo: 
2. Fleming: 
3. Netrebko: 
Setting: A salon in the house of Violetta after a big party
Synopsis: In the first part of this aria, Violetta muses over the offer of Alfredo's love and wondering if he is her true love after her numerous flings. In the second part, she decides not to worry about her problems and, instead, live only for pleasure and freedom.

And in further plant-based faux meat and root vegetable selections. . .As I always say, nothing will ever surpass Robert Merrill and Jussi Bjorling's recording of the so-poignant duet of sworn friendship from "The Pearl Fishers" (and I am not alone in that opinion), but this is wonderful, anyhow. Yes, the good will and heart of this duet are written in the music, but the personalities of the singers always infuse it uniquely. As was the case with tenor Jonas Kaufmann and the late, great baritone, Dmitri Hvorostovsky. You can feel their. . .feeling of the music, their commitment to the idea being expressed---which is one of putting aside mutual affection for a woman in order to remain true, fast friends. "I wish to cherish you like a brother. . ." (Please ignore P.C. Wiki and "scholars" who absurdly insist on adding homosexual implications. As if men can't simply be friends.) 

I try not to post this often, because it has been all-but-ruined by car commercials and dumbed-down "classical" radio. These factors, however, do not diminish its stupendous beauty, its delicate, beguiling charm. So there, marketing bastards! There are superior renditions (Joan Sutherland and Huguette Turangeau's popular Youtube item comes to mind), but I love to watch these two Frenchies invest it with such heart. Here is the "flower duet" from "Lakme," by Leo Delibes ("Sous le dôme épais"), as sung by Sabine Devielhe and Marianne Crebassa. May your day be filled with such loveliness. (I know, fat chance.) 
Translation, summary: 

 Lyric tenor Piotr Beczala has also made his Wagnerian debut, along with Anna Netrebko, in "Lohengrin." Opera News' (brilliant) reviewer, Fred Cohn, had much praise for Netrebko, but noted that Beczala could get raw in especially taxing upper register passages. Still, sounds plenty good to these ears. Here he is with "In Fernem Land," an aria very much favored by one of my cats, who falls into a deep sleep whenever she hears it. 
Synopsis : To this point, the Knight has not been allowed to tell his name or his origin. However, he now must leave because he has killed Frederick, the Count of Brabant, and now tells his past. He is a Knight of the Grail from the island of Montsalvat and his father is Parsifal, the leader of all the Knights of Grail who strive to do good in the world as long as no one knows their secret. He finally reveals that his true name is Lohengrin.
Translation: (search for "fernem") 
About the opera:

Ending our plant-based meat product and root vegetable edition (more or less) is a little subversive Verdi. Huh? Here's a toast to all people of good heart, as they are the only feeble hope for this planet. "L'biamo," or the "brindisi" (drinking song) from Verdi's "La Traviata," as sprung on the unsuspecting in a marketplace in Philadelphia. Who says people don't like opera? 
Setting: A late-night party at the house of Violetta Valery
Synopsis: Alfredo is convinced by Gastone and Violetta to show off his voice. He sings (as this title suggests) a drinking song.


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