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


Sumi Jo

Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
"La Favorite"

Reaching into the bag, dig dig dig, we pull out. . .

All beauty, all the time. Anna Netrebko is beautiful. Her charitable foundation does beautiful work. Her voice is beautiful. This aria, from "Adriana Lecouvreur," by Cilea, is beautiful.
"Io son l’umile ancella" ("I’m but the humble servant.")
Setting: backstage at the Comédie-Française, Paris, 1730
Synopsis: The Prince de Boullion and the Abbe de Chazeuil meet the company at the Comédie-Française before the show. Although the Prince is the patron of Adriana's main competition as an actress, Duclos, he compliments Adriana. She replies to the compliments by saying that she is only the vessel through which the muses work. You know, like Saturdee Opry Links. 

Netrebko and bass-baritone Erwin Schrott have created a charitable foundation to support disabled and disadvantaged children. On 18 May in Munich the couple established the Anna and Erwin Foundation – Anna Netrebko and Erwin Schrott for Kids. One wonders if it endures beyond their subsequent split.

Here is the other half of the Anna Netrebko Charitable Foundation for disabled children, baritone Erwin Schrott. In this aria, Faust has a little impertinent conversation---a complaint, really---with Gawd Awmightee. And who doesn't? From "Mefistofele," by Boito, this is "Ave Signor" (roughly, "Hey, you!") 
"Arrogant dust! Haughty atom!
The phantom of man
Which makes
That inebriated illusion
That he calls: Reason, Reason
Setting: The Heavens
Synopsis: Mefistofele speaks to God and offers to wager that he can win the soul of Doctor Faust, a respected philosopher, by enticing him to sin.

Live in '45, it's the great Jussi Bjorling as the Duke, on stage at the Met. "This one or that one" (if they're female, they're fine), sings the great exploiter, er, admirer, of the ladies. "Questa o Quella," from Verdi's "Rigoletto." Yes, of course you know it, but how many chances do you have to time-travel to the Met in '45? (Aria starts around the 1:40 mark, the high note is icing on the cake, and you get some wonderful stuff afterward, too.) 
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.

"Adriana Lecouvreur," by Cilea, is not performed so often (though the Met is doing it this season), which is curious, given the several wonderful arias it contains. Here is another: "Poveri Fiori," (“Poor Flowers”) sung by the wondrous Mirella Freni. Why wondrous? Not only vocal beauty, but an amazingly long career of about 40 years. Here she is in 1989, still in fine fettle. The aria begins around the two minute mark.
Setting: a room in Adriana's house, Paris, 1730
Synopsis: On her birthday, Adriana is sent a package which she believes is from Maurizio. Depressed and suicidal because of Maurizio's betrayal of their love, her mood is made worse when she opens the package and finds that it contains the decrepit remains of the violets that she gave Maurizio some time ago as a sign of their love. She sings to them of her sorrow. Little does she know, however, that the package is from Maurizio's other love, the Princesse de Bouillon, who has soaked the flowers in poison. 
Google Translation:
Poor flowers, gems
even yesterday born, today dying,
what oaths of treachery!
The last kiss, or the first kiss,
here is the first,
sweet and strong kiss of death,
kiss of love.
Tottu is finished!
With your fragrance the contempt dies:
with you one day
Everything is finished!

Poveri fiori, gemme de'prati,
pur ieri nati, oggi morenti,
quai giuramenti d'infido cor!
L'ultimo bacio, o il bacio primo,
ecco v'imprimo,
soave e forte bacio di morte,
bacio d'amor.
Tottu è finito!
Col vostro olezzo muoia il disprezzo :
con voi d'un giorno senza ritorno cessi l'error!
Tutto è finito!

Here is our second plea to the Awmightee Gawd of the morning. (Not to worry, He/She never listens.) There aren't many more noble moments, perhaps, in all opera, than when Rienzi (distant relative of mine) calls upon the Lard and Savoir Faire to give him the power to lead the common people to victory over the filthy mountebanks. Hear, hear! And here is the glorious "Allmächt'ger Vater," or "Almighty Father," from Wagner's "Rienzi." Jonas Kaufmann.
Setting: a hall in the Capitol of Rome, Italy, middle of the 14th century
Synopsis: Rienzi has been excommunicated for leading a force of Roman citizens against the treacherous Roman nobles, prompting everyone to abandon their support of him. On the brink of disaster, Rienzi prays to God that he might be given strength to weather the crisis. He feels that he is doing God's work by empowering the common citizen.

In 1945, young Mario Lanza stepped on to the stage of the Hollywood Bowl and astonished---as this recording still does. Yes, poor "Nessun Dorma" ("None shall sleep") has been beaten to death, with a stake driven through its heart by the likes of Michael Bolton and the late Aretha Franklin (whydja do it?), but hearing this recording of Lanza---with its soaring, ardent phrases, and stupendous high note at the end---might restore its wonder to you. From Puccini's "Turandot."
Setting: The gardens before the walls of Peking
Synopsis: A herald has just announced that no one will sleep in the city of Peking until the Calaf's name is known to the Princess. Calaf, who knows that he has agreed to be killed if Turandot learns his name before the morning, is not worried. He is sure that he will be the only one to reveal his name to the Princess and he will only do that once morning has come and the Princess has consented to be his wife.

SOL could do with a little pick-me-up at this point, eh? Here is the luminescent, effervescent Sumi Jo, a genius who speaks about 78 languages, this time in Italian. "Sempre Libera," from Verdi's "La Traviata." This will put a spring in your stoop. I recommend tuning in around the 4:50 mark. 
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.

One cuppa Jo deserves another. Here is the antic, ticklish, and otherwise tricked out coloratura hilarity, "The Doll Song," from "Tales of Hoffman," by Offenbach. Talk about an amazing high note at the end---gadzooks. If this does not delight you, just go. . .ride a Bird. Quick, somebody wind her up! This is "Les oiseaux dans la charmille" ("The birds in the hedges.") 
Setting: The parlor room of Spalanzani the scientist, 19th century
Synopsis: Spalanzani the inventor winds up Olympia the doll to sing for his guests. She sings this song about the birds and how they sing of the young girl of love.

What? You didn't get enough birds in the last SOL selection? Well, here, a fellow named Des Grieux recounts a dream of living in a house surrounded by flowers and birds. You know, like The Tiki Room. This is "La Reve," also known as "En fermant les yeux" ("Closing his eyes. . ."), from "Manon, by Massenet. Note how the music so suits the topic at hand: a dreamy, transporting melody for the story of a dream. Is that sort of a musical onomatopoeia? Now, I'm going to punish you rubes with two versions: first, by the terrific (phenomenon, really) Roberto Alagna, going strong in his '50's. This is a live performance, sung with great skill. No, he is not Bjorling, but no one is. (Quite a diminuendo, said the actress to the archbishop.) The second is by the great French lyric tenor, Georges Thill, from long ago---which brings a kind of French verisimilitude to the proceedings. 
Setting: Apartment of Chevalier Des Grieux, Paris, France, 18th century
Synopsis: In order to cheer Manon up, Des Grieux relates to her a dream that he has had. He has dreamed that someday he will own a house surrounded by beautiful flowers and singing birds. However, he realizes that his dream was still drear because it lacks one thing : Manon.
And here is the Georges Thill version: 

Three Sumi Jo's in one grab bag? So Sumi. Let's go out with a waltz, eh? Anyone who needs an explanation of the plot of "Romeo and Juliet," in this case, the opera by Gounod, should just leave now. "Je veux vivre" ("I want to live.")
Setting: The Capulet's ballroom, Verona, Italy, 14th century
Synopsis: When others speak of marriage to her, Juliet sings that she would like to live inside her dream where it is eternally spring. (Me, too!) 
And for those who wonder what it looks like in the opera: 

Saturdee Opry Links Encore!
What a wonderful thing is a sunny day!


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