SATURDEE OPRY LINKS 31: Grab
Saturdee Opry Links Overture!
Reaching into the bag, dig
dig dig, we pull out. . .
All beauty, all the time. Anna Netrebko is beautiful. Her charitable foundation
does beautiful work. Her voice is beautiful. This aria, from "Adriana Lecouvreur,"
by Cilea, is beautiful.
"Io son l’umile ancella" ("I’m but the humble servant.")
Setting: backstage at the Comédie-Française, Paris, 1730
Synopsis: The Prince de Boullion and the Abbe de Chazeuil meet the company at
the Comédie-Française before the show. Although the Prince is the patron of
Adriana's main competition as an actress, Duclos, he compliments Adriana. She
replies to the compliments by saying that she is only the vessel through which
the muses work. You know, like Saturdee Opry Links.
Netrebko and bass-baritone Erwin Schrott have created a charitable foundation to
support disabled and disadvantaged children. On 18 May in Munich the couple
established the Anna and Erwin Foundation – Anna Netrebko and Erwin Schrott for
Kids. One wonders if it endures beyond their subsequent split.
Here is the other half of the Anna Netrebko Charitable Foundation for disabled
children, baritone Erwin Schrott. In this aria, Faust has a little impertinent
conversation---a complaint, really---with Gawd Awmightee. And who doesn't? From
"Mefistofele," by Boito, this is "Ave Signor" (roughly, "Hey, you!")
"Arrogant dust! Haughty atom!
The phantom of man
That inebriated illusion
That he calls: Reason, Reason."
Setting: The Heavens
Synopsis: Mefistofele speaks to God and offers to wager that he can win the soul
of Doctor Faust, a respected philosopher, by enticing him to sin.
Live in '45, it's the great Jussi Bjorling as the Duke, on stage at the Met.
"This one or that one" (if they're female, they're fine), sings the great
exploiter, er, admirer, of the ladies. "Questa o Quella," from Verdi's "Rigoletto."
Yes, of course you know it, but how many chances do you have to time-travel to
the Met in '45? (Aria starts around the 1:40 mark, the high note is icing on the
cake, and you get some wonderful stuff afterward, too.)
Setting: A hall in the palace of the Duke of Mantua
Synopsis: After he discloses his wish to woo the Countess Ceprano, the Duke is
warned that the Countess has a jealous husband. The Duke replies that he will go
after any woman that he wants and that he won't be scared off by any jealous
"Adriana Lecouvreur," by Cilea, is not performed so often (though the Met is
doing it this season), which is curious, given the several wonderful arias it
contains. Here is another: "Poveri Fiori," (“Poor Flowers”) sung by the wondrous
Mirella Freni. Why wondrous? Not only vocal beauty, but an amazingly long career
of about 40 years. Here she is in 1989, still in fine
fettle. The aria begins around the two minute mark.
Setting: a room in Adriana's house, Paris, 1730
Synopsis: On her birthday, Adriana is sent a package which she believes is from
Maurizio. Depressed and suicidal because of Maurizio's betrayal of their love,
her mood is made worse when she opens the package and finds that it contains the
decrepit remains of the violets that she gave Maurizio some time ago as a sign
of their love. She sings to them of her sorrow. Little does she know, however,
that the package is from Maurizio's other love, the Princesse de Bouillon, who
has soaked the flowers in poison.
Poor flowers, gems
even yesterday born, today dying,
what oaths of treachery!
The last kiss, or the first kiss,
here is the first,
sweet and strong kiss of death,
kiss of love.
Tottu is finished!
With your fragrance the contempt dies:
with you one day
Everything is finished!
Poveri fiori, gemme de'prati,
pur ieri nati, oggi morenti,
quai giuramenti d'infido cor!
L'ultimo bacio, o il bacio primo,
soave e forte bacio di morte,
Tottu è finito!
Col vostro olezzo muoia il disprezzo :
con voi d'un giorno senza ritorno cessi l'error!
Tutto è finito!
Here is our second plea to the Awmightee Gawd of the morning. (Not to worry,
He/She never listens.) There aren't many more noble moments, perhaps, in all
opera, than when Rienzi (distant relative of mine) calls upon the Lard and
Savoir Faire to give him the power to lead the common people to victory over the
filthy mountebanks. Hear, hear! And here is the glorious "Allmächt'ger Vater,"
or "Almighty Father," from Wagner's "Rienzi." Jonas Kaufmann.
Setting: a hall in the Capitol of Rome, Italy, middle of the 14th century
Synopsis: Rienzi has been excommunicated for leading a force of Roman citizens
against the treacherous Roman nobles, prompting everyone to abandon their
support of him. On the brink of disaster, Rienzi prays to God that he might be
given strength to weather the crisis. He feels that he is doing God's work by
empowering the common citizen.
In 1945, young Mario Lanza stepped on to the stage of the Hollywood Bowl and
astonished---as this recording still does. Yes, poor "Nessun Dorma" ("None shall
sleep") has been beaten to death, with a stake driven through its heart by the
likes of Michael Bolton and the late Aretha Franklin (whydja do it?), but
hearing this recording of Lanza---with its soaring, ardent phrases, and
stupendous high note at the end---might restore its wonder to you. From
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.
SOL could do with a little pick-me-up at this point, eh? Here is the
luminescent, effervescent Sumi Jo, a genius who speaks about 78 languages, this
time in Italian. "Sempre Libera," from Verdi's "La Traviata." This will put a
spring in your stoop. I recommend tuning in around the 4:50 mark.
Setting: A salon in the house of Violetta after a big party
Synopsis: In the first part of this aria, Violetta muses over the offer of
Alfredo's love and wondering if he is her true love after her numerous flings.
In the second part, she decides not to worry about her problems and, instead,
live only for pleasure and freedom.
One cuppa Jo deserves another. Here is the antic, ticklish, and otherwise
tricked out coloratura hilarity, "The Doll Song," from "Tales of Hoffman," by
Offenbach. Talk about an amazing high note at the end---gadzooks. If this does
not delight you, just go. . .ride a Bird. Quick, somebody wind her up! This is
"Les oiseaux dans la charmille" ("The birds in the hedges.")
Setting: The parlor room of Spalanzani the scientist, 19th century
Synopsis: Spalanzani the inventor winds up Olympia the doll to sing for his
guests. She sings this song about the birds and how they sing of the young girl
What? You didn't get enough birds in the last SOL selection? Well, here, a
fellow named Des Grieux recounts a dream of living in a house surrounded by
flowers and birds. You know, like The Tiki Room. This is "La Reve," also known
as "En fermant les yeux" ("Closing his eyes. . ."), from "Manon, by Massenet.
Note how the music so suits the topic at hand: a dreamy, transporting melody for
the story of a dream. Is that sort of a musical onomatopoeia? Now, I'm going to
punish you rubes with two versions: first, by the terrific (phenomenon, really)
Roberto Alagna, going strong in his '50's. This is a live performance, sung with
great skill. No, he is not Bjorling, but no one is. (Quite a diminuendo, said
the actress to the archbishop.) The second is by the great French lyric tenor,
Georges Thill, from long ago---which brings a kind of French verisimilitude to
Setting: Apartment of Chevalier Des Grieux, Paris, France, 18th century
Synopsis: In order to cheer Manon up, Des Grieux relates to her a dream that he
has had. He has dreamed that someday he will own a house surrounded by beautiful
flowers and singing birds. However, he realizes that his dream was still drear
because it lacks one thing : Manon.
And here is the Georges Thill version:
Three Sumi Jo's in one grab bag? So Sumi. Let's go out with a waltz, eh?
Anyone who needs an explanation of the plot of "Romeo and Juliet," in this case,
the opera by Gounod, should just leave now. "Je veux vivre" ("I want to live.")
Setting: The Capulet's ballroom, Verona, Italy, 14th century
Synopsis: When others speak of marriage to her, Juliet sings that she would like
to live inside her dream where it is eternally spring. (Me, too!)
And for those who wonder what it looks like in the opera:
Saturdee Opry Links Encore!
What a wonderful thing is a sunny day!
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