Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
“Die Meistersinger,” by Wagner.
Thrills! Chills! What are these people so excited about? Sunrise, that's
all. And the way things are going with this planet, we should be equally
excited every time the sun comes up. From Verdi's "Il Trovatore" ("The
Troubadour"), here is the big chorus made famous by "Merrie Melodies"
cartoons, "Vedi le fosche notturne / "See! The endless sky casts off her
sombre nightly garb...".
Okay, you had thrills, now here are chills! Yes, kiddies, it's all FUN STUFF
today on SOL, in a last-ditch attempt to boost ratings. You see, our
demographers tell us, "Dumb it down or lose it!" Here is a sure-fire wiener
that you all enjoy munching on: yes, it's the gorgeous "Barcarolle" from
"Tales of Hoffy Weiners, I mean Hoffman," by Offenbach. (And as Jose the
Parrot in the "Tiki Room," says, "You stay offen my bach and I'll stay offen
yours.") Did you know that a barcarolle is a traditional song of Venice
Gondoliers? (And here I thought it was, "We're Loyal to You, Venice High
School.") Here is "Belle nuit, ō nuit d'amour" ("Beautiful Night, O Night of
Love.") Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca.
After Wotan, king of the gods, has pretty well botched things up by making a
bad deal with the giants, Fasolt and Fafnir---guaranteeing the end of the
universe---Donner, god of thunder, clears the air, so to speak. He summons
thunder and lightning to banish the clouds and make way for the rainbow
bridge to the gods' newly constructed home of Valhalla. Here is the thrilling, "Heda, Heda,
Hedo!" from Wagner's "Das Rheingold." Alan Held is the tenor.
Translation (search for "heda"):
Back to chills. "Go, thought, on wings of gold!" Here is the sublime "Chorus
of the Hebrew Slaves" from Verdi's "Nabucco," in which the Hebrews lament
the period of Babylonian captivity after the loss of the First Temple in
Jerusalem in c. 500 BCE. And yet it is more than that, really a universal
call for justice. It is thought that this chorus, a huge "hit" in its day
(1842), helped to galvanize Italian nationalism and unite the regions into a
formal country. Its genesis is storybook, as Wiki notes: "Verdi composed
Nabucco at a difficult moment in his life. His wife and small children had
all just died of various illnesses. Despite a purported vow to abstain from
opera-writing, he had contracted with La Scala to write another opera and
the director forced the libretto into his hands. Returning home, Verdi
happened to open the libretto at "Va, pensiero" and seeing the phrase, he
heard the words singing. It is common for the audience to call for an
immediate encore, as happens in this clip.
Thrills! Here's one for the metoo crowd. . .From Puccini's "Tosca." The
tyrant and fiend, Scarpia, has extracted a promise of sex from the singer,
Floria Tosca, in exchange for sparing the life of her beloved, the artist,
Cavaradossi. In the end, however, Tosca can't go through with it, and sticks
it to Scarpia, literally and figuratively. I'm giving you two versions,
first the "easy" one with subtitles, wonderfully performed by Catherine
Malfitano and Ruggiero Raimondi. And then Maria Callas and Tito Gobi,
because it's Callas (listen to the timbre of her voice at the end of the
You have to understand something about the Duke. That is, he really, really
likes ladies. He's technically a "womanizer," yes, but to paraphrase Little
Richard, the guy can't help it. And he is genuinely in love with Gilda,
daughter of the hunchbacked jester, Rigoletto. Really. Of course, this means
nothing to Rigoletto, when he learns that his daughter has fallen for the
Duke's notorious charms. Or vice-versa. And Rig essentially goes nuts,
vowing to take out the Duke, despite Gilda's protests. It's one of those
"caricature opera" moments that gave rise to the question, "What came first,
opera or Bugs Bunny," but it's thrilling, if you can divorce that nonsense
from your perception. So thrilling that the crowd here called for an encore.
The soprano is Inva Mula, and the baritone is the great Leo Nucci. "Si
Vendetta, Tremenda Vendetta," from Verdi's "Rigoletto."
Thrills! The last two minutes of Puccini's "Turandot," never mind that this
part was written by Franco Alfano after Puccini's death (heavily revised by
Toscanini.) I say Alfano did a slam-bang job of it. Yes, love has triumphed,
and Calaf will marry the formerly evil Princess Turandot. You needn't
concern yourself with the how and why, just turn up the music. The recent
Metropolitan Opera production of the Franco Zeffirelli staging.
Okay, there's "Vincerņ!," and there's Vincerņ!" This is so astounding that
you wonder if it's been tampered with. Jussi Bjorling, live on stage at the
Stockholm Concert Hall with the Swedish Radio Symphony in 1944. This is the
inevitable "Nessun Dorma," from Puccini's "Turandot," an aria so tremendous
that turning it into a cliche has not damaged or diminished its thrill.
About the aria, translation:
Mario del Monaco, "the man who could not sing quietly," putting this
"liability" to great effect. Stupendous, mighty. One of the most
gut-wrenching arias in all opera, "Vesti La Giubba," from "Il Pagliacci," by
Leoncavallo. "Put on the costume."
Setting: The entrance to a village, Calabria, Italy, 1860s
Synopsis: Canio sings that, although his love has betrayed him and his heart
is broken, he must go on and show a cheerful face to the world.."
If this is not the most heart-rending moment in opera, I don't know what
would be. Brunhilde, the beloved, favorite daughter of the god-king, Wotan,
has disobeyed her father. In attempting to protect the couple, Sigmund and
Sieglinde---and later protecting the widowed, pregnant Sieglinde---she has
done what her father wanted to do, but was talked out of doing by his awful
wife, Fricka. Point being: you don't go against the family. Now, valiant
Brunhilde must pay. Wotan furious declares he will render her mortal again,
leaving her at the mercy of any man who encounters her---quite a comedown
from riding flying horses with her sisters, carrying dead warriors to
Valhalla. She pleads for mercy, and broken-hearted Wotan amends his
sentence: she will be left alone on a mountaintop, surrounded by a magic
fire that only the greatest of heroes can cross. Here is "Wotan's Farewell,"
and the "magic fire music," from Wagner's "Die Walkure." Thrilling and
chilling, not necessarily in that order. The "farewell" begins at about
3:40. The music is astonishing. Donald McIntyre and Gwyneth Jones.
Translation: (search for "Leb'")