SATURDEE OPRY LINKS 48:
Mozart & Wagner Special!
Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
"Apollo et Hyacinthus," by Mozart. (Er, he was uh, eleven. .
.when he wrote this. Eleven!)
A brisk and vigorous "Fuor del Mar," from Mozart's opera, "Idomeneo," to start
the proceedings, with the brisk and vigorous lyric tenor of Juan Diego Florez.
Setting: Idomeneo's apartments
Synopsis: Even though he is no longer on the sea, Idomeneo, king of Crete, still
feels as if he is in as much danger as if he was on the sea. He wonders if he is
as close to disaster as when he was shipwrecked.
And if you want to see how it looks on stage, here is Matthew Polenzani:
Today's Saturdee Opry Links features nothing but Wolf and Rich. Mozart and
Wagner, to you. Quite a contrast, you say? And do you enjoy stating the obvious?
Mozart began working on what would have been another masterpiece opera, "Zaide,"
in 1780, but soon became so interested in "Idomeneo" and "Abduction from the
Seraglio: that "Zaide" slipped through the cracks, unfinished. Too bad, as it is
a morality story that denounces slavery. Here is the best known aria from it, "Ruhe
Sanft, mein holdes Leben," sung warmly and comfortingly by soprano Mojca Erdmann
(in a silly looking production.) With English subtitles.
Synopsis of opera:
Zaide falls in love with Gomatz, a slave, which strikes up jealousy and rage in
the Sultan, who happens to also admire her. After capture she chooses a free
life with Gomatz rather than a good life with the Sultan. Allazim encourages the
sultan to consider Gomatz as a man, not as a slave. The final surviving quartet
suggests Zaide and Gomatz are sentenced to punishment or execution. This is
where Mozart's manuscript breaks off.
Synopsis of scene: Zaide comes upon Gomatz sleeping under a tree. She admires
his good looks and leaves him jewels, money, a portrait of her, and a letter
asking him to meet her later in that same spot. She then sings that he should
sleep until he awakes with happiness. She hopes that her tears will bring her
wishes to reality.
A heldentenor (heroic tenor) is a dark tenor voice with enormous power. I'm not
sure if Jonas Kaufmann is a heldentenor or not, and there seems to be some
debate about this. He has a dark tenor voice, to be sure, but critics
say he lacks a ringing, clarion quality (squillo), and a certain amount of
power. Well, I sure don't know. Still, he sings Wagner beautifully, helden or not.
Role: Lohengrin, a knight
Setting: a plain on the banks of the Schelbt, Antwerp, first half of the 10th
Synopsis: To this point, the Knight has not been allowed to tell his name or his
origin. However, he 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.
Wagner the ecologist? In "Das Rheingold," the first of his four "Ring" operas,
the earth goddess, Erda, rises from the depths to warn the gods that they are
headed for destruction. The metaphor was prescient, and is rather punishing,
don't you think? There is a subtext throughout the "Ring" of earth and nature
being threatened by the folly of the gods, and in the end, after Wotan and Co.
have destroyed everything, one prevalent interpretation has nature reasserting
itself. The mezzo-soprano is Hanna Schwarz, from Munich in 1989. With English subtitles.
Synopsis: Erda rises from the earth to give a warning to Wotan and the rest of
the gods. She cautions that if Wotan continues to have anything to do with the
magic all-powerful Ring of the Nibelungs, the gods will be eventually thrown
SPECIAL: Here is the greatest analysis of Wagner's "Ring" you will ever hear.
And here is Mozart's idea of an angry goddess. . .(I'd prefer Erda's wrath to
this hellion's.) From "The Magic Flute," here, of course, is the Queen of the
Night, wreaking her usual havoc. Run for your lives! (Music starts at 2:15 or
so.) Diana Damrau does the honors.
Synopsis: Giving her a knife, the Queen of the Night tells Pamina to kill
Sarastro in order to get the Shield of the Sun from him.
Pamina is asleep in the garden. Monostatos approaches and gazes upon her with
rapture. (Aria: "Alles fühlt der Liebe Freuden") He is about to kiss the
sleeping Pamina, when the Queen of the Night appears. Monostatos hides. In
response to the Queen's questioning, Pamina explains that he is joining
Sarastro's brotherhood and she is thinking of accompanying him too. The Queen is
not pleased. She explains that her husband was the previous owner of the temple
and on his deathbed, he gives the ownership to Sarastro instead of her,
rendering the Queen powerless (This is in the original libretto, but in modern
productions, it is usually omitted, making the scene with Pamina and her mother
shorter). She gives Pamina a dagger, ordering her to kill Sarastro with it and
threatening to disown her if she does not. (Aria: "Der Hölle Rache kocht in
Voices will fool you (or at least, me.) Jonas Kaufmann, he of the dark tenor,
meet Peter Mattei, he of the bright baritone. Mattei does a lovely job of
conveying the ideas and mood in this aria, rather than merely featuring his
chops. This is "O du mein holder Abenstern," from "Tannhauser," by Wagner.
"There you are, O loveliest star. . ." Here, by the way, is a good article about
the aria, its purpose, context:
Wolfram initially sings in arioso (between speech and song), reflecting on the
darkness of the evening to melancholy, low-pitched music, accompanied by slow
funereal chords in the brass. The aching dissonances as he describes the soul
yearning to escape the world convey his sorrow at Elisabeth’s approaching death.
But as Wolfram catches sight of the Evening Star, he takes comfort in its light,
marked by ethereal high tremolo strings, delicate musical textures and the
quickening, higher vocal line. To rippling harp arpeggios, he prays for
Elisabeth’s safe journey from earth to Heaven.
Just for contrast:
As for a Mozart baritone aria, here is a jolly melody you will recognize. Well,
maybe. Well, if you've seen "Amadeus." (Well, maybe.) Here is the bit of life
advice from Figaro to Cherubino in Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," something
along the lines of "Women and drinkin', lovin' and thinkin', will do it to you
every time." (From "I Want to Testify," by Roger Taylor.) The excellent baritone
is one Luca Pisaroni. With English subtitles.
Role: Figaro, valet to the Count of Almaviva, betrothed to Susanna
Synopsis: After the Count orders Cherubino to leave and join the Seville
regiment for his romantic indiscretions, Figaro tells Cherubino that he must
give up his easy life and his women and become a soldier.
And if you want to hear what the great a cappella group, The Persuasions, did
with Figaro's (and Roger Taylor's) advice, go here:
Here is a spectacularly preposterous, or preposterously spectacular, staging of
the "Ride of the Valkyries," from Wagner's "Die Walkure." This is the Met's
recent "Big Machine" staging. Right, some madman constructed a huge machine that
would morph into all manner of shapes and configurations for each scene in the
four operas. Ambitious idea, and sometimes very effective, though perhaps not so
much here. I mean, just turn the sound down and play The Moody Blues' "Ride My
See-Saw," fer crissakes. But. . .the music, for all its horrific exploitation
and satire, will forever be thrilling and dramatic when taken in proper context:
a depiction of goddesses astride flying horses, retrieving fallen heroes of
battle to take them to Valhalla. Good theme for International Women's Day,
really, though I suspect I would be in the minority in that opinion.
History of Valkyries:
"Ride My See-Saw."
"Ch'io mi scordi di te? ... Non temer, amato bene" (Will I forget you? ... Fear
not, beloved), K. 505, is a poignant farewell aria by Mozart, composed in
December 1786 in Vienna---specifically as a concert aria. It is, Wikipedia
informs, often considered to be one of his greatest compositions in this genre.
Here it is with the Spanish mezzo, Teresa Berganza---who is still with us at 83!
About Ms. Berganza:
After Mozart's moving farewell aria, here is Wagner's, one of the most powerful
and poignant arias in all opera. I don't care for the legendary Chereau Bayreuth
staging of the mid-70's, but it's the only good specimen on Youtube. The singing
is great, at least. What's happened is that Wotan's (king of the gods) favorite
daughter, Brunhilde the Valkyrie, has disobeyed dear old dad. She tried to help
the heroic Siegmund in a duel, only to have Wotan appear and thwart her, and
then she bravely sheltered Siegmund's pregnant lover, Sieglinde, who was
targeted for death by Wotan. Why? Compassion, pure and simple. There are
complicated reasons for Wotan objecting to this, but it all has to do with his
generally doing the wrong thing---at the advice of his awful wife. Yes, a
henpecked god! Brunhilde knows what is in her father's heart, though, and acts
accordingly. Bad move. Wotan strips her of her god status, and is going to put
her into a sleep on a mountaintop, at the mercy of any human who comes along.
Brunhilde pleads with him to allow her to be awakened only by a man of
character, worth, and broken-hearted Wotan relents, in a final gesture of love.
He puts Brunhilde to sleep, and calls Loge, the god of fire, to encircle her
with a magic fire that only the greatest of heroes might enter. This is "Leb
wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind!," or "Farewell, valiant, glorious child!" from
"Die Walkure," the second "Ring" opera of Wagner. Donald McIntyre and Gwyneth
Jones. I suggest starting around the 3:10 mark. The "Leb Wohl" begins at 4:23.
Translation: (search for "Farewell," and start there.)
Back to Opera Links
Back to Home Page