Giuseppe Verdi


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such as your host.

Thrown together in haste every
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Rip Rense

Giacomo Puccini

Saturdee Opry Links # 80: Precious and Rare

Alexander Kipnis               Rosa Ponselle

Saturdee Opry Links Overture:
Johann Strauss Jr., "The Gypsy Baron." Invigorating!

Today's edition of SOL is "precious and/or rare," meaning arias/selections that are either rare gems, or just gems. Clear enough? Here is Enrico Caruso with "Quando Nascesti Tu" ("When You Were Born"), from the opera, "Lo Schiavo," by the Brazilian composer, Carlos Gomes. Gomes was the first "New World" composer accepted in Europe. This is an SOL debut, by the way. It's chocked full of lyricism and ardor.
Synopsis: Americo, an officer in the Lusitanian army, is in love with his father's Brazilian maid, Ilara. He sings of his love for the girl. "When you were born, the flowers were born, the sun was born."
Translation unavailable.
About the composer:

Not every aria is a knockout punch, an impassioned declamation topped off with an earthshaking high note. Of course, you knew that. Didn't you? Here is a lovely example of an aria that is essentially a lovely, understated song. Of course, it would take a voice as naturally lovely as Tito Schipa's, to underscore this quality. This is from the opera, "Mignon," by Ambroise Thomas. It is the touching, gentle "Elle Ne Croyait Pas," or "She Did Not Believe."
Synopsis: Mignon has been rescued from a fire by Wilhelm and now lies dangerously ill in the Cipriani castle. In her sleep, she is heard to mutter Wilhelm's name, and he, struck by her innocence and beauty, gives tender expression to his growing love. 
Ah! mieux que ma raison le coeur de ce vieillard
Console cet enfant par ses soins ranimée!
J'ai deviné trop tard le secret de Mignon;
Hélas! elle sommeille, et prononce mon nom.
Elle ne croyait pas, dans sa candeur naïve,
Que l'amour innocent qui dormait dans son coeur,
Dut se changer un jour en une ardeur plus vive
Et troubler à jamais son rêve de bonheur.
Pour rendre à la fleur épuisée
Sa fraîcheur, son éclat vermeil,
Ô printemps, donne-lui ta goutte de rosée!
Ô mon coeur, donne-lui ton rayon de soleil!
C'est en vain que j'attends un aveu de sa bouche,
Je veux connaître en vain se secrètes douleurs,
Mon regard l'intimide et ma voix l'effrouche,
Un mot trouble son âme et fait couler ses pleurs!
Sa fraîcheur, son éclat vermeil,
Ô printemps, donne-lui ta goutte de rosée!
Ô mon coeur, donne-lui ton rayon de soleil!

Ah! better than my reason the heart of this old man
Comfort this child with his revived care!
I guessed Mignon's secret too late;
Alas! she sleeps, and pronounces my name.
She did not believe, in her naive candor,
May the innocent love that slept in his heart,
Had to change into a brighter heat one day
And forever disturb his dream of happiness.
To return to the exhausted flower
Its freshness, its ruddy radiance,
O spring, give him your drop of dew!
O my heart, give him your sunshine!
It is in vain that I await an admission from his mouth,
I want to know secret pains in vain,
My look intimidates him and my voice scares him,
A word troubles her soul and makes her tears flow!
Its freshness, its ruddy radiance,
O spring, give him your drop of dew!
O my heart, give him your sunshine!

We all know the opera, "Rigoletto," or if we don't, we should. Sure you know "Questa o Quella" (very un-PC today!) and "La Donne E Mobile" ("Women are fickle!"), but the opera is just loaded with compelling melody (and drama), start to finish. Not for nothing is it probably the most popular of Verdi operas after "La Traviata." We all know the story, right? The hunchbacked court jester, hell-bent on protecting his beautiful daughter from the womanizing Duke, and from the "practical jokes" of courtiers. It's one hell of a dramatic role for a baritone, and this is one hell of a dramatic aria. Right: not every aria is "just" compelling melody---Verdi pioneered arias that were dramatic monologues. One such is "Cortigiani, vil razza dannata," from "Rigoletto." The unique appeal of the noble baritone voice is much realized here. The baritone is the great Tito Gobbi in a wonderful clip from a film version of the opera. You get a sense of the overall drama of the scene before the aria begins at 3:40.
Setting: A room in the Duke's palace
Synopsis: Rigoletto's daughter has been abducted by several courtiers and given to the Duke. When Rigoletto tries to get through them to find his daughter, they will not let him pass and he releases his fury upon them. 

Here is a mainline example of Verdi lyricism as written for baritone. There really is nothing like a Verdi baritone aria in all literature, so imbued with heartache they are. This is the great Ezio Pinza---correct, "Some Enchanted Evening"---way back in 1929, with "Infelice! E tu Credevi" ("Poor Fool---you believed!") from the opera, "Ernani." "What do I see here? In the most private part of my house, with the one who was to be my bride,
two seducers I find!" Right. Not one, but two. Double your displeasure! 
Setting: Elvira's rooms in Don Ruy Gomez de Silva's apartments, Spain, 1519
Synopsis: Silva has entered his niece and fiancee Elvira's room to find both Ernani and Carlo inside. He is shocked at this and expresses his sadness.

I said "precious and/or rare," so here is one that is anything but rare, but as precious as can be. You all know the melody, of course, if for no other reason Groucho Marx turning it into "He Lost his Shirt" in 'The Cocoanuts.'" But there is a rare aspect here, in that the choice of singer is wonderful Rosa Ponselle. She started out with sister Carmela as a Vaudeville act, The Ponzillo Sisters---those Tailored Italian Girls," singing popular tunes and opera duets, before being "discovered" and pitched to the Metropolitan opera by none other than Enrico Caruso.
The late, great Martin Bernheimer wrote: "Ponselle's voice is generally regarded as one of the most beautiful of the century. She was universally lauded for opulence of tone, evenness of scale, breadth of range, perfection of technique and communicative warmth." Here she is, later in her career when her voice was richer and darker, with the habanera (in this case a popular tune stolen by Bizet) from the opera, "Carmen." Also known as "L'amour st un oiseau rebelle" ("Love is a rebellious bird.") This is Ponselle's screen test for "Carmen," done exactly at the point of her retirement in 1937. 
Setting: A square in Seville
Synopsis: After appearing out of the cigarette factory, Carmen seductively sings about love and its unpredictable actions.
About Ponselle:
AND HERE IS. . ."He Lost His Shirt," by The Marx Brothers! 

Here is a gem, and a rarity----sort of. The aria is anything but rare; in fact, it is one of the great works of Puccini, "Visi d'arte," from "Tosca." But. . .this is sung by Rosa Ponselle, who you saw in the immediately preceding post at the end of her career. This recording is from the beginning of her career, in fact---only two months after her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as a green 21-year-old. From Vaudeville to this, in just weeks. You'll have to turn it up a bit to really appreciate her voice.
Synopsis: Tosca has just agreed to Harvey Weinstein's blackmail---I mean Scarpia's blackmail---to have sex with him in exchange for the life of her imprisoned beloved, Cavaradossi. She laments this horrific injustice, imploring God to tell her why this is happening. "I lived for art. I never harmed a living soul."

Back to the grandeur of the baritone voice, in this case, bass-baritone. . .Kipness was too much! And what a righteous, beautiful aria this is by Mozart, who just tossed these things off, apparently. "In Diesen Heil'gen Hallen" is from "The Magic Flute," which is perhaps unduly thought of as a lighter work, especially judging by this moving paean to brotherhood. Here, Sarastro, High Priest of the Temple of Isis and Osiris, assures Prince Tamino that within the temple walls there is no place for hatred and evil---that only love and brotherhood prevails there. You know, like Washington. D.C.. This is a fairly astonishing recording---a real gem---that we are lucky to have, by the great Alexander Kipnis. 

"Cielo e Mar," from "La Gioconda," by Ponchielli (yes, he whose music was wonderfully desecrated with dancing hippos and alligators by Disney) is one of the "great arias," no question about it. Anything but rare---but precious, yes, especially in this recording by tenor Jussi Bjorling. As the operatic tenor and scholar Nigel Douglas explained: "To me, the most characteristic element of Bjorling's singing is that hint of Nordic melancholy. . .which sets him apart from his Mediterranean colleagues, and endows the voice with a beauty all its own." Curious, these regionally based qualities, eh? What a glorious, inspired melodic line. . ."Sky and sea! The airy curtain sparkles like a holy altar!" 
Synopsis: As Enzo stands watch on his ship, he awaits the arrival of his love Laura. He sings of the sea and sky around him and his love.

A precious and rare gem, I say. The lovely, though poignant, song of the goat's struggle with a wolf---from "L'Arlesienne," by Cilea. Sung with restraint and art by the great Tito Gobbi. "Come due tizzi accessi" ('Like two lit embers. . .") This is a great example of one of those arias that, even if you have no idea what it is about, is lovely and affecting.
A kindly old shepherd, Baldassare, has taken his employer's mentally impaired son under his wing. The child loves to listen to him telling stories, even one as sad as this tale of a goat fighting off a wolf throughout the night, only to fade away with morning. (These events presage events in the opera itself.) 
Come due tizzi accesi,
dall'alto del dirupo,
vide su lei sospesi
gli occhi del lupo...
Non diede un gemito,
la disgraziata :
e non tentò fuggire :
capìche il lup l'avrebbe mangiata!
Ah! E il lupo sogghignò
Quasi volesse dire :
tempo a mangiarti avrò!
Il sol tramonta, scende la sera
e con la sera s'annunzia la morte
Ma lei da quella forte capra
ch'ell'era le sue corna abbassò
già esperte in altre lotte,
e il lupo attese, e col luppo lottò
tutta la notte!
Ma quando il sol spuntò
dimise a terra il corpo sanguinoso
e il sol negli occhi la baciò;
poi glieli chiuse all'ultime riposo!

Like two lit embers,
from the top of the cliff,
he saw her suspended
wolf eyes ...
He didn't groan,
the unfortunate:
and did not try to escape:
he understood that the wolf would eat it!
Ah! And the wolf grinned
As if to say:
I'll have time to eat you!
The sun sets, evening falls
and in the evening death is announced
But she gives that strong goat
that he was his horns lowered
already experienced in other struggles,
and the wolf waited, and fought the goat
all night long!
But when the sun came up
the goat put the bloody body to the ground
and the sun in his eyes kissed him;
then closed them to him for the last rest!

I've always felt that the supreme melodist, Tchaikovsky, somehow failed to allow this gift to serve him when it was most warranted: in opera. (Probably my deficiency.) I love his symphonic work, but his operas put me to sleep. Here is an exception, though: "Lensky's aria" from "Eugene Onegin." Here sung in German, on stage, by wonderful Fritz Wunderlich, which is redundant. This is the poignant and rhapsodic, "Wohin bist du entschwundern" ("Where have you gone, golden days of my spring?") This footage is precious and rare, considering poor Wunderlich died in an accident at 35.
Where have you gone, o golden days of my spring?
What does the day coming has in store for me?
It escapes my eyes, it is hidden!
Shall I fall to the deadly arrow, or will it pass by?
All for better, there is a pre-determined time
For life and for sleep
Blessed is a day of simple tasks
And blessed is the day of troubles.
Will the day beam shine in the morning
And the bright day shall reign
And I, well, will I, perhaps, will descent
Into mysterious darkness of my fatal tomb?
And the memory of a strange poet will fall into Abyss
The world shall forget me, but you, you, Olga!
Tell me, will you, the maiden of beauty, come to shed a tear
Over the early urn
And think "he loved me, he devoted to me
The gloomy dawn of a troubled life!"
Ah Olga, I did love you,
To you alone I devoted
The gloomy dawn of my troubled life
Yes Olga, I did love you!

Saturdee Opry Links ENCORE!
Just to cap things off with merriment, after so many sober offerings this morning, here are Juan Diego Florez, Jonas Kaufmann, and (pregnant) Sonia Yontscheva having a great time with the drinking song from Verdi's "La Traviata," also known as "L'biamo ne' lieta calici" ("Let us drink from goblets of joy!"---good idea!) With the great Placido Domingo conducting---until Gustavo Dudamel bumps him aside!
Setting: A late-night party at the house of Violetta Valery
Synopsis: Alfredo is convinced by Gastone and Violetta to show off his voice. He sings (as this title suggests) a drinking song. 

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