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 54: French Leave Edition

                                 Enrico Caruso and hat                                                                  Teresa Berganza

Saturdee Opry Links Overture
"Romeo et Juliette," by Gounod. 

Romeo has escaped from his companions in search of Juliet's room. He finally spies her on her balcony and sings of her beauty, likening it to the sun. The words are almost exactly translated from Shakespeare. Here is "Ah! Leve-toi, soleil," from Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette," as incomparably sung by Jussi Bjorling. "Ah, rise, sun!" 

And Juliet, for her part. . .sings that she would like to live inside her dream where it is eternally spring, rather than marry. "Je Veux Vivre," from Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette." "I want to live in this dream that intoxicates me." Diana Damrau. 

And just for fun. . . 

Old Gounod wrote twelve operas (and a symphony), but only "Faust" and "Romeo and Juliet" are performed today. Here's another rousing item from "Romeo," the baritone aria, "Allons! jeunes gens!" "Let's go, young men! Let's go, young ladies!" Go where? Listen and find out. Here is baritone Charles Cambon, and chorus. Lord Capulet exhorts his guests to dance and enjoy themselves. Hear, hear. 

Continuing in a Franch mood, here is a lovely aria making its SOL debut: "Ell Ne Croyait Pas," from “Mignon,” by Ambroise Thomas. A melody conveying yearning, in this case, by a young student (Wilhelm) wishing that his beloved, Mignon, be restored to innocence and joy. Sung delicately by tenor Leopold Simoneau. "She did not believe. . ." 


"Mignon" has four or five memorable little arias. "Connais-tu le pays où fleurit l'oranger?" is perhaps the most memorable. "Do you know the country where the orange flowers blossom," Mignon sings gently, after being rescued from gypsies who kidnapped her as a child, by two men: Wilhelm and Lothario. After splitting a bouquet of flowers between the men as a token of her gratitude, she speaks with Wilhelm about her past, telling him about her abduction, poignantly describing what she can remember of her original home. Here is one Lucile Vignon in the title role. 

Call today's edition of SOL "taking French leave" of 2017 (sneaking out when nobody is looking) and saying bon jour to 2018. Here is a noble prayer to gawd from Massenet's "Le Cid," "O Souverain, ô Juge, ô Pere ("Oh Lord, Oh Judge, Oh Father.") In a tent, outside Burgos, Spain, 11th century, the knight, Rodrique, knowing he is likely to die before a battle against an overwhelming army of Moors, prays. This aria is often sung with unbridled heroism, but here, Caruso imbues it with a softness and poetic restraint. 

I prefer love arias that are about places, and nature, instead of people. Hell with people, you know? Here is one such, from Meyerbeer's "Les Huguenots" (Another SOL aria debut.) This is "Ô beau pays de la Touraine," or "O beautiful province of Touraine." Exactly what is going on here, I dunno, other than. . .In the gardens at the Château de Chenonceaux, Queen Marguerite looks into a mirror held by her enamoured page Urbain, and sings. Here performed by the exquisite Montserrat Caballe. (Note: aria ends around 4:20.) 

Here is an obscure little gem from a Gounod opera, "Cinq-Mars," which is about five sopranos stranded on Mars with no tenors or baritones. Just kidding! Not a bad idea, really. Here is an actual summary of the opera, stolen from the Internet:
"The story of the opera revolves round the Marquis de Cinq-Mars and his fellow conspirators, who plot to rid France of the over-powerful Richelieu. Cinq-Mars is spurred on to rebellion when he is informed by Père Joseph that, despite having the king’s blessing on his proposed marriage, he is to yield the princess Marie de Gonzague to the king of Poland. Ignoring the warning of his friend de Thou, Cinq-Mars organises an alliance with Spain and is condemned to death for treason. Père Joseph tricks Marie into accepting the king of Poland in order to obtain a pardon; but Cinq-Mars and de Thou are executed anyway, Marie’s rescue attempt coming too late." Here,soprano Magdalena Kozena tenderly sings "Nuit Resplendissante." Why she sings it, I don't know, but judging by the translation, the princess is alone on a beautiful night, waiting for what she hopes will be good news. 
Translation: (scroll to end of music) 

For those who feel more like drinking now, in early 2018, than they did on New Year's Eve, here is a little ditty for you. "Ah quel diner" from "La Perichole," a comic opera by Offenbach. Here is Teresa Berganza. 
"Ah, what a lunch I had, and such extraordinary wine
I drank so much of it, so much, so much
that I am fairly certain that now
I am a litttttttle tipsy
We must not let anyone know
If my speech is somewhat vague
And while walking I zigzag
If my eye wanders
Do not be surprised, because
I am a littttttttle tipsy
About the opera: 

The extraordinary Nicolai Gedda, who performed operas in French, Russian, German, Italian, English, Czech, Swedish, and Latin, with the ruminative "Salut demeure chaste et pure" ("I greet you, home chaste and pure") from Gounod's "Faust." As I said earlier, I prefer love arias that pay tribute to places, and nature, rather than people. (Even if Faust is thanking nature for having created Marguerite here.) The aria might seem to lack superior lyrical inspiration---until, that is, you get to the high note at the end, which redeems the entire proceedings. In my silly opinion. And on that note. . .welcome to 2018.

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