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 50: Don't Forget Me Edition

Remembering. . .

            Aureliano Pertile                              Margaret Burke-Sheridan                          Ezio Pinza                                              Burke-Sheridan Irish stamp

Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
"Torquato Tasso," by Donizetti.  

Some, perhaps many, moments in opera are best left untranslated. This might be one, as the singing and music transcend the heavy, maudlin poetry of the libretto. From "Andrea Chenier," by Umberto Giordano, this is the pre-guillotine duet, "Vicino a te." The noble poet, Chenier, is being executed, mostly for his hatred of the ruling class and his championing of those in need. At St. Lazare Prison, his beloved, Maddalena, bribes the jailer to let her change places with a condemned noblewoman, in order that she might die with Chenier. The lovers sing about their love and their deliverance from this world after death. As dawn approaches, Schmidt calls their names. They go to face the guillotine joined in love. Nice little Valentine's Day scene!
Here is the great forgotten tenor, Aureliano Pertile, and forgotten Irish soprano Margaret Burke Sheridan, in a terrific recording made 80 years ago. 
About Pertile:
About Sheridan: 
Next to you, my restless spirit becomes calm
You are the goal of every desire, of every dream,
of every poem
Within your glance
I see the iridescence of infinite spaces
I look at you,
In the green wave of your wide pupils
my soul wanders
So as not to leave you, I am here
This is not a goodbye!
I have come to die with you!
Suffering is ended!
Death in loving you!
Ah, the one who gathers the last word from
my lips is he---love!
You are the goal of my existence!
Ours is the love of twin souls
I am saving a mother
At dawn Maddalena will have the name
for death of Idia Legray. . .
Do you see? The uncertain light of twilight
already lowly lightens the squalid corridors
Embrace me! Kiss me, beloved!
You are the triumph of the soul
Your love, sublime beloved
is the sea, the sky, the light of the sun
and of the stars
It is the world
Our death is a triumph of love
Ah, I bless, I bless fate!
In the hour of our death we become immortal!
Death comes with the sun, with the morning
Come like the dawn!
With the sun that gilds it!
It comes to us from the sky!
Long live death together!

Margaret Burke Sheridan. . .She was "Maggie from Mayo," once one of the great sopranos in the world, noted for Puccini roles at La Scala (under Toscanini, close friend of Puccini) and Covent Garden, in the 19-teens. Vocal troubles stopped her career short, and she retired in 1930. Or was it vocal troubles? Sometimes they are closely tied to other matters. Brid McMahon's 1998 book, "While Green Grass Grows," reports that "it was rumoured that an Italian whose overtures she had rejected had blown his brains out in a box in La Scala, while she was on stage, and that after the tragedy she never sang in public again." Ms. Sheridan died in relative obscurity, having lived in Dublin for many years, and her remains were buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. Story worthy of, yes, an opera. Here she is with the setting of a Thomas Moore verse, "When He Who Adores Thee." Words are below the video. 

Puccini called Margaret Burke Sheridan the greatest "Madame Butterfly" to grace the stage. Here she is with "Un Bel di Vedremo" or "One Fine Day," from the opera.
Synopsis: Three years have passed since Butterfly's American husband left her to return to the States. Her servant, Suzuki, tries to convince her that he isn't coming back, but Butterfly won't have it. She sings of the day that her young lieutenant will return. In this aria, she dreams of him sailing into the harbor and climbing up the hill to meet her. 

Of all the tenors available to be signed by the Met after Caruso was stricken by illness, Met GM Giulio Gatti-Casazza chose Aureliano Pertile. Not because Pertile had the most beautiful tone, or the greatest power (no slouch, though he was, in that area), but because, perhaps, he was simply unusual. As one critic wrote, "His voice has a tendency toward whiteness, but in its fullest volume it is warmer and resonant. He sang his music, He did not shout it, but delivered it with free tones and smoothness." Someone else wrote that it was not a "golden voice," but "firm and manly." "Whiteness" (as in tone color, not ethnic background!). . ."golden voice". . .whatever the color, suffice to say that Pertile was one of a kind. Here he is with the transporting, "Spirto Gentil," from Donizetti's "La Favorite" (today's SOL overture.)
Synopsis: Not knowing that Léonore is the "favorite" of King Alphonse, young Fernand asks the king for her hand in marriage and receives it---only because he has led Castile to victory in battle over the Moors. Thinking that his bride is pure, he prepares to marry her. However, before she appears, he finds out that she has been the lover of the King! With his heart broken, he returns to the monastery and mourns for the betrayal of his love and the loss of Léonore. Happy Valentine's Day! 

The story of Pertile at the Met: 

Pertile had a tremendous facility for dramatic singing. To hear him in this agonizing scene from "Manon Lescaut" by Puccini makes that plenty clear. Yes, it is a scene of pleading, but the pain of the character (Des Grieux), as evoked by Pertile, is startling. 
Synopsis: Le Havre, France, 18th century. Manon is to be deported to a prison in Louisiana---as revenge by her spurned lover, Geronte. As she marches past with other prisoners, on her way to board a ship, Des Grieux grabs her and says that no one can take Manon away from him. When the captain of the ship comes to see what the commotion is, Des Grieux begs for mercy and the captain agrees to take him on the ship along with Manon. (Happy Valentine's Day!)

Pertile had a kind of baritone-y tenor, which puts me in the mind of Jonas Kaufmann. Let's compare them a little. I think you will find that while the tonal quality of the voices is similar, that Kaufmann has a more contoured, rich, resonant---and even darker---sound. While Pertile tends toward the muscular, steely. Both are superb, in their way, though I find Pertile's more affecting. You? Perhaps you disagree with my assessment. . .Here, first, is Pertile with "Donna non vidi mai," a paean to a beautiful woman, from Puccini's "Manon Lescaut." 
And here is Jonas Kaufmann in a concert performance, with the same aria: 
Setting: a square near the Paris gate, Amiens, France, 18th century
Synopsis: Des Grieux has just met Manon and fallen in love with her. Manon leaves when called by her brother, but promises to return. Alone, Des Grieux sings about his feelings for Manon.

Well, baritone-y tenors puts me in the mind of tenor-y baritones---that is, baritones with great expressiveness, lyricism. This puts me in the mind of Ezio Pinza. Right, "Mr. Some Enchanted Evening," who had a stellar operatic career before he tongue-kissed Mary Martin in "South Pacific." (Really.) Here he is, late in his opera days, pushing 60, with the bouncy rumination of planned cunning, "La Calunnia," from Rossini's "Barber of Seville." 
Synopsis: Don Basilio, a music teacher, informs Dr. Bartolo that Almaviva is Rosina's new lover. He suggests a plan to discredit him by calumny - vicious gossip. Basilio describes the vast array of gossip that he can drag up and amplify.
Translation of this wonderful passage: 

And here is Mr. Pinza in his prime, with one you can hum to. (Well, got to include at least one familiar item each Saturdee, eh?) Hum, yes, but don't spit on the floor-ay. Here is Pinza in 1936, live on stage at the Met, with "Chanson du Toreador" from "Carmen," by Bizet. Notice how he can be tempestuous, over the top, nonchalant, lilting, all in one aria. Here is "Votre toast je peux vous le rendre." 
Synopsis: Escamillo, a great bullfighter, sings of his adventures in the bullring.

Pinza on "What's My Line?" 

One more Pinza, plenty of pepperoni. Which is to say, here is a German Mozart aria sung in Italian. This is a diabolical delight somewhat akin to "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal You!" Here is "O wie will ich triumphieren," from Mozart's "Abduction From the Seraglio," in which Osmin sings of the joy he will feel when all his enemies are hanged. (You will hear the Italiano "strangular" sobe repeatedly.) I think we can all relate, especially in the era of Trump. 

Annnnnnnnd. . .Louis Prima: 

We return to Maggie of Mayo, Margaret Burke Sheridan, singing "Danny Boy," based on The Londonderry Aire. Get out the Kleenex. 
About the song:  

Saturdee Opry Links Encore!
Aureliano Pertile, the man who the Met chose when Caruso fell ill, sings "E Lucevan le Stelle," ("And the stars were shining"), from Puccini's "Tosca." Again, note how Pertile imbues every note with such drama. 
Setting: The ramparts of a fortress
Synopsis: Cavaradossi trades his last possession, a ring, to get a guard to take a letter to the imprisoned Tosca. As he writes the letter, he sings of his love for Tosca and for life.

Saturdee Opry Links Second Encore!
It's overcast in L.A., a rare thing, but spring is just weeks away.
The great Aureliano Pertile. "What a wonderful thing is a sunny day!" 

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