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 # 119: Hellovit Edition

 Soprano Erika Sunnegårdh as Salome                                            Jackie Wilson

Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
An a cappella (unaccompanied vocal) rendition of the overture to "The Magic Flute," by Mozart.


              Donald Mcintyre as Wotan

Okay, kiddies, see, the king of the gods, Wotan (VO-tahn), has screwed everything up, as usual. First there were the broken treaties and backstabbing with the Rhine Maidens, and the giants, and Alberich, the king of the Nibelungs. And he's lost the magic ring, of course. But that's yesterday's papers. Now he's really in the soup. Get this: he had a couple of kids by a she-wolf (I think), Siegmund and Sieglinde. But they have apparently never met one another until one day, Siegmund stumbles into Sieglinde's home in the forest. They fall in love, natch, not knowing they are siblings. (Vice is nice, but incest is best.) Well, Sieglinde's hubby shows up and tells Siegmund he can have the hospitality of the house, but in the morning, it's time to die. Interesting etiquette! Wotan confers with his favorite daughter, the Valkyrie, Brunhilde (sired with Erda, the earth goddess), instructing her to protect Siegmund if Hunding (the hubby) tries to kill him. The noble, free-spirited Brunhilde enthusiastically agrees. But. . .Wotan is married to an old battleax, Fricka, and she doesn't like this shit one bit. She rails at Wotan, henpecking and upbraiding his folly. It's perverse, she says! It's against the sanctity of marriage (seeing as she is the goddess of marriage, this means something to her.) Siegmund, in short, must die. Wotan, like most husbands in the face of ragging by a virago, caves, and tells Brunhilde to butt out. But Brunhilde knows her daddy's true heart! She doesn't butt out, she butts in, telling Sieglinde that she will indeed protect Siegmund. So. . .as Hunding goes to run Siegmund through in the morning, Brunhilde appears---but then, so does Wotan, pushing her aside, and letting Hunding do the evil deed. The shocked Brunhilde grabs Sieglinde, and spirits her away. I know you're still with me! Here's where it gets salient to the video clip. Wotan, egged on by Brunhilde's evil stepmommie, Fricka, revokes her goddess card, and tells her he will abandon her on a high rock, where any mortal might have his way with her! In other words, you don't fuck with the king of the gods, even if you are his favorite daughter. Horrified, Brunhilde pleads with Daddy to please only allow the only "greatest of heroes" to find her, and Wotan gradually relents. In the end, he sings a heart-rending farewell to his daughter, puts her into a magic sleep, and summons the god, Loge, ordering him to surround her with a magic fire that only the "greatest of heroes" can dare to enter. (And who does that greatest of heroes turn out to be? Well, that comes later, in another opera, but it's the son of---bingo---Siegmund and Sieglinde, Siegfried!)
Have a ball now. With English subtitles, here is "Wotan's Farewell," from "Die Walkure," by Richard Wagner. Donald McIntyre is Wotan, and Hildegarde Behrens is Brunhilde.
Hey, if this isn't a good time to wallow in German romanticism, I don't know what is.

Or if you prefer:

Well, here is a happier ending to an opera, sort of. Never mind that the poor slave girl, Liu, has taken her own life in a kind of self-sacrifice for her beloved Calaf. Just put that little incident aside. Calaf loves the "ice queen" of China, Turandot, see, and after playing a round of "Truth or Dare" with her, wins the right to not be executed. In the end, the ice queen melts and agrees to---instead of killing him---to marry him. Bit of a difference, there, though perhaps not metaphorically. (It's a fairy tale, folks.) The music will sweep you off your feet. Assuming you are standing up. From Puccini's last opera, "Turandot," with this passage spectacularly completed posthumously by the composer, Franco Alfano, this is the grand finale. Sure to lift the spirit. 
Translation: Go here, scroll allllll the way to the bottom, then back up slightly to "scene two."

Seeing as I'm on a finale kick---well, it is the end of the world, or at least the country, after all---here is the effervescent ending of act 1 of Mozart's "The Magic Flute." Complete with English subtitles, to help you understand the English singing. Yes, it's in English! It ends with a rousing tribute to Sarastro. Who is Sarastro? Well: the Queen of the Night persuades Prince Tamino to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from captivity under the high priest Sarastro; instead, he learns the high ideals of Sarastro's community and seeks to join it. And they all sing:
"When love joins with integrity
And virtue triumphs over vice
Then mankind truly will be free
And Earth become a paradise!"
Hear, hear!
And here is the little known, discarded second verse:
"When Trump is drawn and quartered
And all his creeps thrown out
Then the country might recover
from this fiendish lout."

Mozart operas are so dense with musical ideas, you can slice out any chunk, anywhere, and have a feast. 

Here's another finale, but not for its own sake. There is method to my madness. At the end of act one of "Il Pagliacci," the character, Canio---part of a traveling troupe of entertainers---has discovered that his beloved Nedda is having an affair. (This ends badly in act two.) Crushed, heartbroken, Canio must take the stage---as a clown---and entertain the minions. And so he sings the immortal aria, "Vesti la Giubba" ("put on the costume") in his dressing room. BUT. . .first we are going to hear this sung by a man who loved opera, but pursued pop singing instead: the great Jackie Wilson. What? Yes, Jackie Wilson sang "Vesti La Giubba," in the form of a hit record entitled, "My Empty Arms." You can hear how operatic his voice was.
Here it is:
And here is how it normally sounds, and looks, with the great Mario del Monaco.

Jackie Wilson's affection for opera also came through in another song, "The Night," which was based on the aria, "Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix" ("My heart opens to your voice"), from "Samson and Delilah," by Camille Saint-Saens. "He loved opera," said playwright Jackie Taylor, who wrote "The Jackie Wilson Story." "But," she added, "it was hard enough just being a black singer, let alone being a black opera singer." "The Night" reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960.
Here is that song: 
And here is the original, gorgeous aria. Melody was directly lifted. The soprano is Elīna Garanča, in a concert performance.
Setting: the valley of Soreck, ancient Palestine
Synopsis: In an attempt to close the trap which she has set for Samson, Dalila tells Samson seductively that she will surrender herself entirely to him if he wants her. She begs him to respond to her caresses, hoping that he will finally forget about the Israelite rebellion he is leading against the Philistines. If Samson concentrates completely on her, the High Priest of Dagon may be able to capture him.

Well, while we're dealing with operatic pieces turned into pop songs, there is always Elvis. You must have known this, right? "It's Now or Never" is, of course, lifted from the most beloved Neopolitan song, "O Sole Mio." And yes, like Jackie Wilson, Elvis liked opera, and especially admired Mario Lanza. (Listen to Elvis's later recordings, notably "My Way," and you hear him trying to be a little operatic.) So here is "It's Now or Never," followed by "O Sole Mio" ("This sun! My own sun!"). Have a ball. 
And here is Mario Lanza: 

In today's helluvit editon of Saturdee Opry Links, here, for the helluvit, is the Opera Imaginaire animation for "La Donne e Mobile." Warning: naked ladies! You know "La Donne e Moblie," of course---it's the ultimate Italian tenor cliched aria. But cliches exist for a reason, which is also a cliche. "Women are Fickle!" (Metoo folk, please address complaints to corner of Pork & Beans.) Here is wonderful Nicolai Gedda, quite a story in himself. 
About the aria, translation: 
About Gedda: 

At SOL, we'll do anything to attract viewers, including resorting to sex. Seeing as the last entry featured animated naked ladies, here is the real thing. . .There is a lot of nudity in opera these days. There are all manner of pseudo-intellectual excuses for it, but of course, the basic reason is titillation. The one opera where it is entirely justifiable, however, must be Richard Strauss's "Salome," where it has become customary to resort to the full Monty in the "Dance of the Seven Veils." Here are two such examples. You'll have to sign in to Youtube to see these, in order to prevent corrupting innocents with displays of titties and other segments of the female anatomy. The opera, "Salome," in its day was wildly condemned for perversion, notably the scene where Salome kisses the decapitated head of John the Baptist. Of course, Trump and Kushner do this in the White House every night, around a fire, so what's the big deal?


AND. . .
Contemporary nudie opera insanity. Yes, I’m sure this is just what the composers had in mind! 


Okay, haven't really had any hardcore mainlining of Italian angst today, so here is, at least to my ear, a transcendent, gripping composition. Not too many arias, I dare say, pack so much lyricism and variety of expression as "Ella mi fu rapita... Parmi veder le lagrime," from Verdi's "Rigoletto." It's beautiful, it's moving, it's anguished, it's hopeful, it's despairing. And it is often. . .a waltz! Here is the Mario Lanza, whose recording packs more punch than any rendition I can bring to mind. In this scene, the womanizing Duke laments that Gilda has been taken away from him. Yes, it seems that the old boy has actually fallen in love. He shows outrage, vows revenge, then rhapsodizes about her, singing "I can almost see her tears. . ."
Setting: A room in the Duke's palace
Synopsis: Discovering that someone has abducted Gilda after he seduced her, the Duke sings of his unhappiness that someone has taken his "beloved" away.

As I was saying, seeing as it's the end of the world, or at least the country, here is the consummate end of the world scene in opera, from Wagner's "Gotterdammerung" ("Twilight of the Gods.") Yes, it's that pesky moralist, Brunhilde, up to her own iconoclastic tricks again. (See today's first post.) Having been rescued by the "greatest of heroes" who "knows no fear" (Siegfried), she is swept up in ecstatic human love, having been stripped of her goddess card by her pop, the god-king, Wotan. She and Siggy are just one big blob of bliss, I tell you---until, that is, Siggy goes a-wandering, and is tricked by a seemingly innocent Rhine-side family, The Gibichungs. Seems one of the clan, a half-brother named Hagen, was sired by the late Nibelung king, Alberich, and is hell-bent on carrying out his father's revenge, in order to recapture the ring and RULE THE WORLD! Got it? Anyhow, Hagen gives Siggy a potion to make him fall in love with his sister, and forget Brunhilde. Gad! As you can understand, Brunhilde is utterly crushed when Siggy rejects her. To make a long story longer, Hagen manipulates the proceedings further, to the point where he murders Siggy, and then all the beans are spilled by Gibby's sister about the love potion. Brunhilde is so pissed, and so pissed at the gods, and her bungling father, that she simply ends the entire goddamn world. How's that for resolution? This is not a literal staging---I keep waiting for a good one to show up on Youtube, but it never happens---but it is effective in its way. Gwyneth Jones is super good. With English subtitles, here is the "Immolation" from "Gotterdammerung." Turn out the lights, turn it up. The music at the end is fantastic.           

Or, if you prefer: 

No, "Be My Love" is not an aria, and is not opera. Or is it? It was written for an operatic voice, specifically Mario Lanza, by Sammy Cahn and Nicholas Brodzky. And everything about the song is operatic, right to the astonishing final Lanza note. Schmaltzy? Do horses lay eggs? What? Anyhow, it was a huge hit and is now a standard in pop/opera concerts---but that's not the point. Expecting Lanza, are you? Nope. You're going to get, yet again, the great Jackie Wilson, who loved opera and admired Lanza (as was illustrated earlier.) Yes, here is Jackie Wilson's version of "Be My Love," in which you can clearly hear him aspiring to operatic impact.
What, you also want the original? Sure---but not quite. This is a live performance with a different arrangement done for the Hedda Hopper Radio Show 29 April, 1951.

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