Giuseppe Verdi


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Giacomo Puccini

SATURDEE OPRY LINKS 40: Mostly Neapolitan Songs!

Giuseppe Valdengo                                      Franceso Albanese

Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
"La Belle Helene," by Offenbach.(You think you don't know it, but you're wrong.) 

In Offenbach's beloved comic opera, "La Belle Helene," there is a terrific, heroic sounding tenor aria, "Au Mont Ida Trois Desses" ("On Mt. Ida there were three goddesses.") You'd think, to listen, that this was about perserving through hardship, resolving to push on with head held high, but. . .no. It's just a whimsical, lyrical story of three goddesses and "their funny ways." And so it is with opera. It has its funny ways. Still, here is the most thrilling rendition of this aria ever recorded, by Jussi Bjorling. 
Translation (you'll have to copy and paste entire link.) 
About the opera: 

Keeping it light today, here is the beloved Neapolitan song, "Mattinata," by Leoncavallo. Usually this is sung by tenor, but here is a rather glorious rendition by Joan Sutherland. "The dawn, dressed in white, has opened the door to the sun. . ." 
About the great Sutherland: 

Canzone napoletana, or Neapolitan song, is a generic term for a traditional form of music sung in the Neapolitan dialect, ordinarily for the male voice singing solo, although well represented by female soloists as well, and expressed in familiar genres such as the lover's complaint or the serenade.(Wiki.) Here is a rare recording of the wonderful and largely forgotten soprano, Lina Cavalieri, with the lesser known Neapolitan song, "Maria, Mari." 
Everybody has a story. Cavalieria lost her parents at fifteen and became a ward of the state, later sent to live in a Roman Catholic orphanage. The vivacious young girl was unhappy under the strict discipline of the nuns, and at the first opportunity she ran away with a touring theatrical group. More on her astonishing life: 

"Please tell your friend / that I've lost sleep and fantasy too / that I always think of her / that she's all my life / I'd really like to tell her / but I don't know how to tell her. . ."
Sometimes a Neapolitan song---often, really---is impassioned and dramatic enough to match great operatic arias. Perhaps this is one such case. You be the judge! Here is the great baritone, Tito Gobbi, with the gorgeous, thrilling "Dicentello Vuje." 

"When the moon shines in Marechiaro, even the fishes fall in love." This gives you the general tenor of "Marechiare," the great Paolo Tosti Neapolitan song. And here is the specific baritone, again, of Tito Gobbi, simply because this is such a beautiful color clip of the man in action. Funny that his speaking voice is so much higher than his singing voice. 


Well! Everybody's a snob! Seems one must be innately familiar with Naples and its culture to sing a Neapolitan song to greatest effect. So insist various writers, critics, aficianados, and I guess I have no reason to doubt it. Yet one high-handed opera "expert" blogger asserts that The Three Tenors versions of Neapolitan songs are to be avoided. Har! Balderdash! Not at Saturdee Opry Links, where we are all proud rubes! Still, the blogger recommends, among others, the largely forgotten tenor Francesco Albanese for this genre, and I always bow to greater expertise. Here is Albanese---whose singing is surprisingly straightforward and restrained---with "Chella d' 'e rrose." 
And here is the blogger in question: 
About Albanese:

Born in Naples, and schooled at the Naples Conservatory, Franceso De Lucia, a great verismo tenor or the turn of the last century, is considered one of the finer Neapolitan song interpreters. But you have to like vibrato, I warn. Here he is with the lovely waltz, "Serenata a Surriento," not to be confused with "Torna a Surriento." Great moustache! 

Giuseppi de Stefano smoked, drank, "enjoyed the company of women," and as a result blew his voice out early. Still, he remained the favorite singing partner of Maria Callas, which is no small achievement. Here he was still in sufficiently good voice to assay this lovely old Neapolitan chestnut, "Luna Nova."
About de Stefano (who was brutally murdered, late in life, on his estate in Kenya---apparently race-motivated):

Giuseppi Valdengo was not considered to have a "beautiful" baritone, rather a potent, scrupulously musical one. Hell, I think it's beautiful, so what do I know? This is a selection from his recently issued "Italian Songs" album, which I recommend.
"Aprile," by Paolo Tosti. 
"Aprile," by Paolo Tosti. 

FINAL BOW, Neapolitan Song special edition of Saturdee Opry Links.
Mario Lanza did more for opera than can be measured, although he only sang one complete opera on stage. Legendarily seduced by Hollywood and fame, his appearances in films did much to inspire love of opera, the world over. If the only result of Lanza's films was to have inspired Pavarotti, Domingo, and Carreras (true), that would have been enough. Here he is in his penultimate film, "The Seven Hills of Rome," in 1958, a year before his death at 38. The "greatest tenor of the century," as proclaimed by Toscanini, the soprano Licia Albanese, and many others, had lost some of the bright sheen of his voice, but not the allure or power. Here he sings the god-emperor of Neapolitan songs, "O Sole Mio." Although it is quite the cliche, a read of the lyrics reveals why it is so beloved, and endures.
Translation (Neapolitan dialect and English): 

Here he sings "O Sole Mio" in 1949, ten years earlier. 

Saturdee Opry Links Encore!
One guy singing to a lady, pleading that she stay with him in Sorrento might not be enough. But three? Maybe that would do the trick. Here are Jose, Luciano, Placido. 

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