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

Giacomo Puccini

Mar 01, 2014

1. Still can't find a translation, but who needs it? This has to do with a word game contest in the operetta, "La Belle Helene," by Offenbach, and that's about all I know. “Au Mont Ida.” But it's so invigorating, who cares?élčne

2. Czechs write operas, too. Jenufa's Prayer, from Janacek's tragedy, "Jenufa." Captioned.
Summary: Janacek's Jenufa revolves around one of the worst crimes portrayed in any opera, the drowning of a newborn infant in an icy river. It's an act driven by narrowmindedness and cowardice — but also by love. And remarkably, the overall theme of the opera is forgiveness. When the title character's child is murdered by her own stepmother, Jenufa reacts not with calls for vengeance, but with tender absolution — set to some of Janacek's most radiant music.

3. Another Czech. The mysterious and lovely "Song to the Moon," from "Rusalka," by Dvorak. Here with Anna Netrebko.
Summary: A meadow by a lake, in fairy-tale times. The water nymph Rusalka sits sadly by the water as wood nymphs sing and dance. When the water gnome Vodník asks why she is unhappy she tells him that she has fallen in love with a human—the prince—when he came to swim in the lake. Now she wants to become human herself and live on land to be with him. Horrified, Vodník tells her that humans are evil and full of sin. When Rusalka insists, claiming they are full of love, he says she will have to get help from the witch Jezibaba, then sinks back into the lake in despair. Rusalka calls on the moon to tell the prince of her love (“Mesícku na nebi hlubokém”).

Here is a rendition by Fleming:

4. Czech this out. From Smetana's "Hubicka" ("The Kiss"), here is "Vendulka's Lullabye." Poor Smetana went deaf, yet still managed to write this.
EXCERPT: in 1876, he was given a new libretto, called Hubička, or The Kiss. It tells an awkward story of rekindled romance — some might even call it silly. But Smetana, who was dealing with a new and surely frightening time in his life, took the libretto's tale of renewed love — and hope — to heart. In the process, he created an opera with a touching, folk-like charm, and a depth of feeling that somehow goes beyond its outwardly simple story.
Synopsis: Left alone and confused after Lukas storms out of the house in Act One, Vendulka (soprano Pumeza Matshikiza) sings a thoughtful lullaby to Lukas's young child.
Renee Fleming talks about the aria:

5. Yet another lovely Czech soprano aria, this one from "Libuse," by poor Smetana. Apparently the most loved opera in the culture. Regret that am unable to find translation. Easy to hear the "Ring" influence.
Not performed in the USA until 1986:

6. Kind of hard to find Russian arias on Youtube. Here is one from Tchaikovsky's "Queen of Spades." This is "Ya vas Lyublyu." And by god, there is a translation.
Synopsis: ACT I. During the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-96), children are at play in a St. Petersburg summer park. Two soldiers — Tsurin and Chekalinsky — enter, the former complaining about his bad luck at gambling. They remark that another soldier, Gherman, seems obsessed with the gaming table but never bets, since he is frugal and methodical. Gherman appears with Tomsky, who says his friend hardly seems like his old self: is anything bothering him? Gherman admits he is in love with a girl above his station, whose name he does not even know.

7. Seeing as it's too time-consuming (for me) to look up Russian arias, here's the next best thing: a Russian singing an Italian aria---well, in this case, a Neopolitan song. "Core 'ngrato" ("Ungrateful Heart.") Continuing with the great baritone, Pavel Lisitsian.
About Lisitsian:
About the song:

8. More Russian doing Italian. Lisitsian sings "Il Balen" from Verdi's "Il Trovatore." Somehow sounds a little Russian, anyway, doesn't it? Wait a second. I know why it sounds a little Russian---he’s singing in Russian. (Duh.)
About, translation:
Compare and contrast:

9. "Song of the Flea," by Mussorgsky. Robeson in Russian.

10. And to end today's Opry Links, we say a fond farewell to the Czech and Russian people, and go back to France, where we began, for possibly the most duly beloved male duet in the repertory, "Au fond du temple saint" ("In the depths of the temple") from Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers." Here so splendidly sung by Roberto Alagna and Bryn Terfel. Two men in love with the same woman forswear competition, and pledge eternal friendship.
Summary, translation:



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