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

SATURDEE OPRY LINKS 30: All-Beauty Edition!

Florence Easton                       Tomiko Kanazawa with Mario Lanza, conductor Walter Herbert                                           Anita Cerquetti

Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
Saturdee Opry Links Overture.
"La Traviata," by Verdi.

Okay, kids. It's the All Beauty, All the Time edition of Saturdee Opry Links, beauty being something so badly needed at present. And you know that has to mean Puccini, Puccini, and also Puccini. I apologize for all humanity that this astonishing melody has been exploited for car commercials and cat food. Here is "O Mio Babbino Caro" from the opera, "Gianni Schicchi." And here is the woman who sang the aria on stage for the first time, ever, Florence Easton, back in 1918, when the opera was brand-new! What father could resist such a plea from a daughter? 
Setting: The bedroom of Buoso Donati, Florence, Italy, 1299
Synopsis: Buoso Donati has died and his relatives have found his will and discoverd that he has left all his money to the church. Furious, they do not know what to do. Rinuccio, who is in love with Lauretta but is forbidden to marry her unless he was left some of the inheritance, sends for Gianni Schicchi and Lauretta to see if they can help them. When the relatives find this out, they are furious and argue with Gianni Schicchi. Fed up, he starts to leave, but Lauretta stops him with this aria, singing that she loves Rinuccio and if doesn't help them, she will throw herself in the river and die.
About Ms. Easton, the "Nightingale of the South Bank":

I regret there is no footage of Anna Netrebko singing this aria. She is so expressive, without hamming it up, and her high notes are heroic. This is the moving, "In Quelle Trine Morbide," from the early Puccini opera, Manon Lescaut. Notice how it begins piquantly, with a gorgeous, high, floating note.
Setting : Geronte’s house, Paris, France, 18th century
Synopsis : Remembering Des Grieux’s love, Manon is not sure she made the right decision to live with Geronte. Even with the luxury she has, there is something that chills her soul. 

Puccini's "La Rondine" (The Swallow) is almost an operetta, yet it boasts a soprano aria that is as beguiling as his greatest. Here is Angela Gheorghiu in a live rendition at the Met. "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta," or "Doretta's Glorious Dream." "What does wealth matter compared with blissful happiness?"
Role: Magda, a demimondaine (a woman supported by a wealthy man), Rambaldo's mistress
Setting: Magda's house in Paris
Synopsis: Magda sings the story of a woman named Doretta and what she dreamed about.

Every time I see or hear "Turandot," I hope it will end differently. I hope that Calaf runs off with Liu, and Turandot is left alone with her fiendishness. I can never quite buy her "heart melting" as Turandot discovers love, even though it is a fairy tale. Here is poor Liu's noble aria, in which she lectures Turandot, "Tu,Che Di Gel Sei Cinta," before committing suicide. Puccini insisted on writing the words to this aria, himself. Sung here by wonderful Leona Mitchell.
Role: Liú, a slave girl
Setting: The gardens before the walls of Peking
Synopsis: After being captured and tortured because she knows Calaf's name, Liú is asked by Turandot why she resists the torture so well. She replies that her love for the "Unknown Prince" keeps her from telling his name. She sings that Turandot's icy heart will one day be melted by Calaf and that Turandot will love him as Liú does now.
About Leona Mitchell:

"Over land and sea there floats a joyous breath of spring," sings Cio-Cio San as she makes her magical, ethereal entrance in Puccini's "Madama Butterfly." Here is "Spira sul mare e sulla terra," from the wonderful, heart-rending film version of the opera, starring soprano Ying Huang. 
Translation: (search for "mare") 
Review of the film: 

Mario Lanza only sang one opera on stage, tragically succumbing to the lure of Hollywood instead of a career in opera. That one appearance was "Madama Butterfly," with the New Orleans Opera (and a Japanese soprano, Tomiko Kanazawa, in 1948.) The love duet from "Butterfly" was shot for the Lanza movie, "The Toast of New Orleans," in 1950, with Kathryn Grayson. Grayson's voice was fine for operetta and musicals, but really not so suitable for this role. Still, this is the only hint of what Lanza's stage performance was like. David Niven appears to have been quite moved, as was Mario, who indulged in a little metoo action at the conclusion. 
Translation: (search for "Vogliateme") 

About Tomiko Kanazawa:!topic/mariolanza/nh_FW5obvnk
Ms. Kanazawa sang “Butterfly” in Lanza’s only performance of a full opera, in 1948. She is in her 90’s today, but no one has tracked her down for an interview. She seems to have had a very short career.

Unlike "Gianni Schicchi," we do not have a recording of the original soprano singing "Vissi d'arte" in "Tosca," one Hariclea Darclée, in 1900. Ms. Darclée was a celebrated Romanian soprano of Greek origin, who enjoyed a three-decade career. We do, however, have a rather astonishing rendition of "Vissi d'arte," from 1956, by one Anita Cerquetti. I mean, my oh my. Cerquetti had a duly meteoric rise to fame, short-circuited by a fragile personality that led to her retiring---disappearing abruptly, really---at age 30. Luckily recordings endure.
Synopsis: Tosca, having been blackmailed into a promise of sex by Scarpia, in exchange for Cavaradossi's life, ponders the cruelty of existence.
About Anita Cerquetti:

The great Leontyne Price sings "Se Come Voi Piccina," from Puccini's "Le Villi." "If I were tiny, like you, pretty flower. . ."
Role: Anna, daughter of Guglielmo, engaged to Roberto
Setting: A town in the Black Forest during spring
Synopsis: Anna puts her bouquet from her engagement celebration in Roberto's luggage. He is about to leave to go to Mainz where he has been left a fortune. She hopes that he will think of her when he looks at the flowers.

I did say "Puccini, Puccini, and also Puccini," but never trust a Prankster. If I'd heard this aria and was told it was Puccini, I wouldn't have blinked. Alfredo Catalani? Who's that? Well, he's the guy who wrote six mostly forgotten operas, and would have written more had TB not cut him down at age 39. Here is Anna Netrebko with "Ebben? Ne andro lontana" from "La Wally." "I shall go far away. . ." (Good idea.) Possibly the most beautiful selection of the day.
Role: Wally, a young woman, daughter of Stromminger
Setting: The main square of Hochstoff, Switzerland, 19th century
Synopsis: Wally is in love with Hagenbach. However, her father does not like Hagenbach and wants her to marry his own friend Gellner. He gives her an ultimatum : marry Gellner or leave the house. When faced with the decision, Wally decides that she must leave. She despairs that she will never see her house again but she knows that she must be firm.

One fine day. . .guns will be destroyed. . .One fine day. . .there will be mandatory national service for young people---to build bridges, care for forests, tutor the poor, build houses, fix roads, paint murals, etc., to engender empathy and civility. One fine day. . .corporations will not run and rape the world. . .And if you believe all that, you are as naive as Cio-Cio San, who believed that Pinkerton would return and they would live happily ever after. Here is Ying Huang.
Or the great Anna Netrebko, if you prefer:
Setting: Butterfly's house
Synopsis: Three years have passed since Butterfly's American husband left her. Her servant Suzuki, tries to convince her that he isn't coming back, but Butterfly is convinced that he will. She sings of the day that he will return. She dreams of him sailing into the harbor and climbing up the hill to meet her.

Back to Opera Links

Back to Home Page