Giuseppe Verdi


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such as your host.

Thrown together in haste every
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Giacomo Puccini

SATURDEE OPRY LINKS 49: Goodbye, Carol; Hello, Sonya

                     Carol Neblett                                                           Sonya Yoncheva

Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
"Tosca," by Puccini. (Nice little orchestra.) 

Carol Neblett died in 2017 at 71. She had a spectacular career before alcoholism cut it short when she was only in her '40's. Yet she rebounded for a distinguished career as a voice teacher at Chapman College in Southern California. Here she is with "Non Piu di Fiori," or "No More Flowers," from Mozart's "La Clemenza di Tito." 
Vitellia, daughter of the former Emperor Vitellius, is in love with Emperor Titus. He loves another, so she induces Sextus, a friend of Emperor Titus who is in love with her, to murder Titus. Sextus does not succeed and is imprisoned, and she realizes that she must tell the emperor that she asked him to commit the crime. Sextus is prepared to die for her if she does not. She realizes that she must abandon her hopes for the throne and marriage to Titus by telling the truth.

Neblett debuted as a singer in the L.A. Master Chorale under Roger Wagner, in 1968. It was the same year when she attended a New York City Opera production in L.A., and decided to become an operatic soprano. Only a year later, at 23, she debuted with NYCO as Musetta in Puccini's "La Boheme." Here is the late soprano, singing "Quando m'en vo," from that opera on "The Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson."
Synopsis: At the Cafe Momus on Christmas Eve, Paris, Musetta sings of how men love to stare at her (and how she doesn't really mind it), mostly to inspire jealousy in her estranged lover, Marcello.

A little more for Johnny (and Dave.)

A life spent singing with the likes of Domingo and Pavarotti, appearing with the country's greatest opera companies (84 appearances at the Met), and what do you get in your obit headline? That you once "bared it all." Right, take off your top in one little opera. . .Well, Carol Neblett did, in Massenet's "Thais," in New Orleans in 1973, and never regretted it. As she once put it:
“I'm a love object and a love subject. Whatever I do on this earth comes from needing to be loved and wanting to return it. I would definitely say I'm sensual.”

Goodbye, Carol Neblett. You lived for art, lived for love, like Tosca.
Synopsis, translation:

Here is Ms. Neblett at the height of her powers, with Placido Domingo, in the love duet from Puccini's "Manon Lescaut," at the Met. Tremendous stuff. 
Synopsis: Returning to meet Des Grieux, Manon says she has kept her word, but maybe it would have been better if they had not met. Manon slips out of the inn to meet des Grieux as promised (Manon: Vedete? Io son fedele alla parola mia – You see? I am faithful to my word). He declares his love for her and advises her of the plot to abduct her, while Edmondo arranges for the carriage Geronte has hired to take the couple to Paris.
Translation: (do a search for "Vedete? Io son," and start there.) 
About the opera:

We have Jascha Heifetz, apparently, to thank for the soprano of the late Carol Neblett. Ms. Neblett said she began playing the violin at 2, taught by a grandmother who had performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and switched to singing at the suggestion of Heifetz, who found her vocal skills more promising than her talent at the fiddle. . .Here is Ms. Neblett's last vocal appearance on stage, as far as I know. I was lucky to be there---at the L.A. revival of the Broadway revival of Sondheim's "Follies," in 2012. (There will never be a better cast assembled for this wonderful musical. Repeat, never.) She played aging opera singer Heidi Schiller. "One more kiss before we part." Note: the principals in the cast are shadowed by their youthful ghosts.

Sonya Yoncheva, who I thought was exceptionally good, in-the-moment realistic in the Met's "Tosca," will sing "Mimi" in Puccini's "La Boheme" in a couple of weeks (it will be telecast live in HD in theaters across the country, if you are interested.) The part was her Met debut in 2014, when she was asked to sub at the last minute. Here she is with "Mi Chiamano Mimi" at the Met's 50th anniversary celebration in 2017. Note how she has a gift for appearing to spontaneously invent the worlds she sings, as if she is thinking them for the first time.
Synopsis : After Rodolfo tells her that he has fallen in love with her, he asks Mimi to tell him something of her. She responds, telling him (among other things) that her name is Lucia, although she is called Mimi.

That spontaneous quality is even more on display at this La Scala performance of the aria:

Here is a profile from 2014. Asked to sub as "Mimi" at the last minute, she learned much of the part on the plane to New York (while nursing her baby.) Really.

Yoncheva trained mainly in the Baroque tradition, until she began to get restless. “In Baroque music, people say, ‘OK, you are a Baroque singer, and you should keep that for all your life,’” she said. “And I didn’t want that for me. I wanted to open to another world.” That other world opened in 2010, when she won Operalia, the world opera competition founded and conducted by Plácido Domingo. “This is how I went into the serious stuff.” Here she is with the baroque aria, "Lascia ch’io pianga," ("Let me weep") by Handel (she has recorded an entire Handel album), which is also pretty serious stuff. 
Setting: A garden in Argante's palace, Jerusalem, Palestine, during the Crusades
Synopsis: Almirena has been abducted by the sorceress Armida and imprisoned in the palace. She laments her fate.


Okay, sopranos, want to expand your voice? Expand your girth---with a pregnancy. Huh? So says Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva:
“They told me there would be some change in my voice and my body and everything. I said, ‘Well, it can’t be so much. It will still be my voice.’ And it is still my voice. But I can really feel that I get to another range of soprano,” she says. “It opened into a completely wide range of color.”
Here she is in a preposterous staging of Verdi's "La Traviata" at the Met, early last year. "Addio del Pasato." "Farewell to the past." Starts at the 2:00 mark.
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.


Sonya Yoncheva sings the mysterious, alluring "Tacea la notte placida" ("the night was still and quiet") from Verdi's "Il Trovatore." No, it won't make you forget Leontyne Price, but it will make you remember Sonya Yoncheva. Listen for the effortless purity of tone, the dark quality that is almost mezzo.
Setting: The gardens of the palace of Aliferia, Aragon, 1409.
Synopsis: Leonora reveals to her servant, Ines, that she heard someone serenading her in the garden. However, when she goes out to see who the troubadour is, she finds that it is, in fact, a knight in black armor who she had once crowned as the champion of a tournament. She quickly fell in love with him.

FINAL BOW: Sonya Yoncheva sings "Casta Diva," from Bellini's "Norma." It won't make you forget Callas, but it might make you remember Yoncheva.
Setting: Night in the Druid's sacred forest, Gaul, around 50 B.C.
Synopsis: The Druids have come to meet with Norma, their high priestess. They want to revolt against their Roman oppressors but Norma convinces them that their time to rise up has not come yet. The Romans will be defeated by their own failings. Norma then invokes the moon and prays for peace. While the chorus of Druids sings their derison for the Romans, Norma sings her cabaletta, privately worrying that that the hatred for the Romans must also translate to hatred for Pollione, her secret Roman lover.

Saturdee Opry Links Encore!
Forgot tenors today. This will make up for it, perhaps.
There is something even nicer than a sunny day. . .

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