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


                                            James King                                                                              Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
"Idomeneo," by Mozart. 

"See how the clouds melt away from the face of the sky when the sun shines, its brightness beaming," so sing the gypsies in the so-called "anvil chorus" from Verdi's "Il Trovatore." Not a bad sentiment for starting the day, and Saturdee Opry Links.
Here is the chorus of the Hungarian State Opera. 
Act 2: The gypsies sing the Anvil Chorus: "Vedi le fosche notturne" / "See! The endless sky casts off her sombre nightly garb...". Azucena, the daughter of the Gypsy burnt by the count, is still haunted by her duty to avenge her mother.

There is another anvil chorus in opera, aside from "Il Trovatore." Rather, it's a chorus of anvils---in "Das Rheingold," by Wagner. This is part of one of the most beautiful and dramatic instrumental interludes in all opera, the "Descent into Niebelheim," in which the gods, Wotan and Loge, creep into a rocky passageway go down, down, down into a netherworld of enslaved dwarves lorded over by the evil Alberich. Alberich, of course, has stolen the Rheingold---the precious horde of gold once protected and loved by the Rhine maidens---an act that could only have been carried out by one who renounced love. Wotan, the king of the gods, and the cunning Loge, intend to trick Alberich out of the gold, as it holds the power to rule the universe. Upon entering Niebelheim, the orchestra stops entirely, and all you hear are anvils being struck. Quite a chilling moment. This strange production from Valencia is positively psychedelic. (The anvils come in after the two-minute mark, but don't skip ahead---the music is too good.) 

You sort of wonder if soprano Anna Netrebko's recent weight gain has something to do with her starting to sing Wagner. She just made her Wagner debut in "Lohengrin" with the Dresden Opera. Here she is with (part of) "Elsa's Dream" (or "Einsam in trüben Tagen.") 
Translation: (search for "Einsam")
Synopsis : Elsa relates a dream she had where a Knight in white was sent to her by God to defend her.

Review of Netrebko in "Lohengrin"

Lyric tenor Piotr Beczala has also made his Wagnerian debut, along with Anna Netrebko, in "Lohengrin." Opera News' (brilliant) reviewer, Fred Cohn, had much praise for Netrebko, but noted that Beczala could get raw in especially taxing upper register passages. Still, sounds plenty good to these ears. Here he is with "In Fernem Land," an aria very much favored by one of my cats, who falls into a deep sleep whenever she hears it. 
Synopsis : To this point, the Knight has not been allowed to tell his name or his origin. However, he now 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.
Translation: (search for "fernem") 
About the opera:

After all that Verdi-an and Wagnerian bombast, here is a palate cleanse in the form of Puccini's tender "Humming Chorus" from "Madama Butterfly." This music accompanies the scene where poor Butterfly waits through the night, with her maid, Suzuki, and her little son, for the return of her beloved American numbskull scoundrel, Pinkerton.
About the opera: 

Humming Chorus. . .let's see. . .segue. . .uh. . .Humming makes you think of hummingbirds, birds and opera make you think of. . .Papageno, of course. But here is an extraordinary illustration of "Papageno's Song" from Mozart's "The Magic Flute," coupled with the Papageno/Papagena duet--animated silhouette art by Lotte Reininger, from 1935! 
Synopsis : Papageno introduces himself to Prince Tamino and also mentions that he probably could catch women like he can birds. "Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja," or "The Birdcatcher am I!"
AND the duet: Synopsis : Papageno has been searching everywhere for a mate for himself. However, he has found no one like him. About to commit suicide, he is reminded by three spirits that he has magic bells that may help him find his mate. He rings them and Papagena appears. They strut around each other, making bird-like sounds before finally getting down the business of discussing their plans for family.
I regret that I do not know the name of the baritone or soprano here.

Papageno. . .segue. . .let's see. . .well, short leap to Papa. Here is the most famous father-to-son aria in opera (I think), from Verdi's "La Traviata." Now, I've posted this on many SOL's, but never with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Dieskau only dabbled in opera, instead becoming the foremost interpreter of lieder (Schumann, Schubert) in history. So not only is this somewhat of a rarity, but his approach is very, uh, "interpretive," like his approach to lieder. This is not merely sung well, but heavily, even heroically, expressed. I've never heard anyone else sing it this way. "Di Provenza il mar."
Synopsis: Alfredo's father has convinced Violetta that it is better for everyone if she leaves Alfredo. She begs him to love her and then sneaks out of the house. Later, a servant brings him her farewell letter and he rushes off to find her. Giorgio stops him though and sings this aria to remind him of their home in Provence and to ask him to return with him. 

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's operatic contributions were few and far between, but here is a memorable clip of the duet from Verdi's "Don Carlo," with tenor James King (too forgotten.) The plot is Byzantine (surprise), but Rodrique (Marquis of Posa) and Don Carlo, the son of the king of Spain, are great friends. Which, of course, means they wind up killing each other. Still, they sing a noble, rousing, duet swearing friendship. "Dieu, tu semas dans nos âmes." (Starts about 2:11) Here's more:
Posa asks for the Infante's aid on behalf of the suffering people there. Carlos reveals that he loves his stepmother. Posa is first shocked, but then sympathetic. He encourages Carlos to leave Spain and go to Flanders, and to forget his pain by focusing on political activity there. The two men swear eternal friendship (Duet: "Dieu, tu semas dans nos âmes" / "Dio, che nell'alma infondere"). 

As I was saying, the great heldentenor James King is too much eclipsed. Strange that there is so little of him available on youtube. Here is one stupendous item from Richard Strauss's one-act opera, "Daphne." No translation available, but none is really needed.
Synopsis : Role: Apollo, the God of Light
Setting: near the hut of Penios, ancient Greece
Synopsis: Leukippos has accused Apollo of lying about his godhood and, to prove that he truly is a god, Apollo kills him. However, Daphne then swears to remain at the grave of her beloved Leukippos until she joins him in death. Realizing that he might have made a mistake, Apollo asks Dionysius, the god of wine, for forgiveness. To make up for his mistake, Apollo begs that Leukippos be raised to Olympus, home of the gods, in order to forevermore play the flute for Dionysius. He then begs the father of the gods, Zeus, to have similar mercy upon Daphne and change her into alone of her beloved laurel trees.

The somewhat forgotten James King was born in Dodge City, Kan., to an Irish father and a mother of German descent. As a boy he learned to play the violin and sang in church choirs, and was very fast on the draw. Just kidding. He studied music at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, earning a master's degree, and started out as a baritone before training as a tenor with Martial Singher in New York, and with Max Lorenz. Here is a poor recording of a terrific performance of "Nessun Dorma," live in 1969. The ending affords chills. (The beginning, if you listen carefully, elicited at least one blown nose.) 
Role: Calaf, the "Unknown Prince", son of Timur
Setting: The gardens before the walls of Peking
Synopsis: A herald has just announced that no one will sleep in the city of Peking until the Calaf's name is known to the Princess. Calaf, who knows that he has agreed to be killed if Turandot learns his name before the morning, is not worried. He is sure that he will be the only one to reveal his name to the Princess and he will only do that once morning has come and the Princess has consented to be his wife.

Even his obit is strangely short.  

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