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 24: Farewell to Winky Edition

Dedicated to my deeply loved and cherished friend, Winky the Cat, who passed away in November at just thirteen, after a terrible illness.

Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
"La Forza del Destino," by Verdi.

We begin with a perfunctory, less than subtle farewell, in just over a minute. Count the "addios!" in "Addio, Addio," a manic duet from Verdi's "Rigoletto." Background: Gilda has fallen in love with a young student (unaware he’s the cad, the Duke of Mantua) and their tryst is interrupted when Gilda's father, the hunchbacked court jester, Rigoletto, comes home. The Duke’s can't tear himself away. The tenor is Stephen Costello, the soprano, Olga Peretyatko. 
The translation, as you might expect: heart and soul
are set on you alone. love for you
will last for ever.

This scene, which has entirely to do with the complexities, vagaries of "goodbye"---from romantic break-ups to the last goodbye, death---interweaves melody miraculously. I can't think of a better example of melody and theme integrated so compellingly with dialogue in all opera. It all seems so natural, graceful---the conversation, and the music. From Puccini's ever-astonishing "La Boheme," this is the act three sequence where Rodolfo, the poet, tells his friend Marcello of his plans to leave Mimi. At first he lies about the reasons, claiming jealousy over Mimi's habitual flirtatiousness, finally confessing his agony over the fact that she is terminally ill. Mimi overhears, terrified, despairing. The trio (and later quartet including Marcello's coquette, Musetta) is astonishing for its beauty and organic flow. At last Rodolfo discovers Mimi, and they agree to part (because of Rodolfo's jealousy, and Mimi's desire to not be a burden), but then revise it with a bit of a caveat born of their great love: because the winter is so bleak, they will stay together until spring. Meanwhile Marcello and Musetta break up. These two opposing domestic disputes are somehow woven into glorious lyricism. Rolando Villazon, Anna Netrebko, Nicole Cabell (Musetta), the voice of Boaz Daniel (Marcello.)
Watch from 1:02:24 to 1:18:10. Or enjoy the entire act: 53:38 to 1:18:10. WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES. 

What could be more appropriate for a farwell operatic aria than this? "Addio del Passato," or "Farewell to the past," from Verdi's "La Traviata?" Maria Callas. 
Setting: Violetta's bedroom
Synopsis: Violetta is now poor and about to die. She receives a letter from Alfredo's father saying that Alfredo has discovered why she lied about her love for him and is coming to her. She knows that it is too late, though, and sings a farewell to her happiness with Alfredo.

Goodbye! Courage! Do not cry! Noble sentiments, easier counseled than accomplished. . .Here is the poignant, lilting, understated aria, "Adieu, Mignon," from the opera, "Mignon," by Ambroise Thomas. The forgotten tenor, from 1931, is one Andre D'Arkor. 
Setting: Philine's dressing room in a German castle, late 1700s
Synopsis: After Mignon has been following him around for a long time, Wilhelm decides that it is time to tell Mignon that he isn't interested in her. He does this in a kind way, telling her that he must leave her.
But for WWII, D'Arkor would have had a much greater career: 

 It is very helpful to remember that Wagner's opera, "Lohengrin," is a fairy tale, especially while listening to this magnificent aria of boodbye to a faithful friend, "Mein Lieber Schwann." ("My Dear Swan.")
Lohengrin has just arrived in Brabant on the back of an enormous swan, to defend the innocent Elsa who’s being accused of murdering her brother, by one Telramund. He thanks his swan and bids a heartbreaking goodbye. “Leb wohl, leb wohl, mein lieber Schwan!” (Farewell, farewell, my beloved swan!).
I suggest disregarding the setting here, and the lack of swan (and the fact that Elsa's expression suggests she thinks Lohengrin is nutty as a fruitcake) and just listen to Jonas Kaufman's glorious singing. 

I thank you, my dear swan!
Go back across the waters
to whence your boat brought me,
return again only to bring us happiness!
Thus will you have carried out your duty faithfully!
Farewell, farewell, my dear swan!

Nun sei bedankt, mein lieber Schwan!
Zieh durch die weite Flut zurück,
dahin, woher mich trug dein Kahn,
kehr wieder nur zu unsrem Glück!
Drum sei getreu dein Dienst getan!
Leb wohl, leb wohl, mein lieber Schwan!

The ironies, the cruelties, complexities of "Madama Butterfly," by Puccini, are quite appropriate for the tortured feelings of farewell. Is Lt. Pinkerton the most loathsome of villains, or is he a victim of. . . ardor? Is he captivated by Butterfly's beauty, and the exquisiteness of Japan, helpless to control his emotions? Or is he diabolical, a heartless cad, a scoundrel who abandons his foreign plaything when finished with it? Is the aria, "Addio, Fiorito Asil" ("Farewell, flowery refuge") a sincere lament, or shallow, chauvanistic? To listen to Placido Domingo sing it, one would suspect the former, but. . .it's up to you. 
Setting: Butterfly's house
Synopsis: Pinkerton comes to Butterfly's house and, after speaking to Suzuki, decides that it would be too painful to say goodbye to Butterfly directly. He bids adieu to the house in which he and Butterfly spent many happy hours.

 Adieu to a fairy tale swan is perhaps a bit of a stretch, in terms of arousing emotion, but a farewell to a table is really not hard to understand. (Your SOL host still has a blanket given to him when he was effectively an orphan at age eight!) From the opera, "Manon," by Jules Massenet, here is "Adieu, notre petite table." (Goodbye, our little table.") "What will the future be like?," sings Manon. "Will it have the same charms as the wonderful days of the past?" (Hint: not likely!) Beverly Sills sings. 
Setting: Apartment of Chevalier Des Grieux, Paris, France, 18th century
Synopsis: Manon has been told by a nobleman that her love Des Grieux will soon be kidnapped by his father's men in order to get him away from her. She knows that the happy days they have spent in Des Grieux's apartment will soon be at an end and takes the opportunity to bid adieu to the table at which she and her love ate many meals together.

Colline, the philosopher of the Bohemians in Puccini's "La Boheme," sings to his trusty old coat that kept him warm in many a freezing Parisian night. He has decided to sell it in order to buy medicine for the fatally ill Mimi. The baritone is James Morris.
"Dear old coat, listen,
I stay here below,
but you must now
ascend the mount of piety!
Receive my thanks.
You never bent your threadbare
back to the rich and powerful.
You have sheltered in your pockets
like peaceful caves,
philosophers and poets.
Now that happy days
have fled, I bid you farewell,
my faithful friend,
farewell, farewell.

The great poet and champion of the people, enemy of the ruling class, Andrea Chenier, faces execution. As most champions of the people and enemies of the ruling class seem to. In the courtyard of the Prison of St. Lazare, waiting for dawn and the executioner, Chénier has been writing a poem. He recites it to his great friend, Roucher, at his urging---a poem of goodbye. Franco Corelli does the honors with "Come un bel di Maggio," from "Andrea Chenier," by Giordano. "Like a beautiful day in May. . ." 
Chenier was real, by the way: 

This edition of Saturdee Opry Links, as I mentioned, is dedicated to my beloved Winky the Cat, who passed away last month. He and I were very close, though it took a while for us to figure each other out. He was very complicated, and had to live a life very different from what his nature commanded. No one has ever had a more noble friend. (Below is a poem about him, written when he was young, and sick.) We conclude here with a little song by Tosti, "Addio." The singer is Joseph Schmidt, one of several to earn the title, "The Pocket Caruso." Celebrated throughout the '30's as a concert performer because opera halls deemed him too short (4' 11"), Schmidt, a Jew, died of infection and heart failure after being interred in a Swiss refugee camp while fleeing the Nazi invasion of France. Addio, indeed. 
Winky the cat
weaned too soon, full of infection
started life on medication
Stunted his brain
Big and orange and white and gregarious and
Winks when he's nervous
Winky the cat can't keep his food down
gets his teeth pulled
hates his sister who hates him
never went to cat school
Is stuck with this big monkey who is depressed all the time
Winky the cat stopped peeing
Nearly died
But the monkey bailed him out
And now dopes him up with pain killer and "relaxant"
so he can pee
on floors
in slippers
on laps
on carpets
in sinks
on beds
sometimes even in the cat box
Winky the cat doesn't know that the big monkey
will soon give him Prozac
because it relaxes the bladder spasm caused
Doesn't know that otherwise his wang will go the way of his
long lost testicles
leaving him more puzzled as to whowhatwhenwherewhy
than he already is
Relegated to "cat trees" and balconies
pacing and chasing
watching window birds
hiding from the television
he's never gotten used to
But Winky the cat caught a big brown rat
a 2 a.m. balcony rat
a punctured neck writhing shocked ugly rat
last week
And he delivered it to the monkey
as if to say, "See?"
Winky the cat
wanted only rats
not cat trees and balconies
not drugs to make him pee
wanted only
hunting, fornicating, reproducing
scratching fleas
healing fight abcess
rats and gophers and birds
being hit by a car before he turned three

(copyright 2019 Rip Rense, all rights reserved.)


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