Opry Links # 83: Farewell 2019!
Joseph Schmidt (left.)
Saturdee Opry Links Farewell 2019 Edition Overture:
"La Forza del Destino," by Verdi. ("The Power of Fate.")
As we bid goodbye to the horror that was 2019, SOL Farewell Edition begins with
a perfunctory, less than subtle adieu, in just over a minute. Count the "addios!"
in "Addio, Addio," a manic duet from Verdi's "Rigoletto." Background: Gilda has
fallen in love with a young student (unaware he’s the cad, the Duke of Mantua)
and their tryst is interrupted when Gilda's father, the hunchbacked court
jester, Rigoletto, comes home. The Duke’s can't tear himself away. The tenor is
Stephen Costello, the soprano, Olga Peretyatko.
The translation, as you might expect:
Farewell...my heart and soul
are set on you alone.
Farewell...my love for you
will last for ever.
"Farewell, dreams of glory
farewell, castles in the air.
With dull rancor I look at my writing desk.
I try, but in vain, to drive away the monotony."
Gee, do I identify! Here is forgotten tenor Gianni Poggi with this glorious
Italian song, "Addio sogni di gloria" ("Farewell, dreams of glory.")
About Gianni Poggi:
A more apt title for the end of a year does not come to mind. Here is "Addio del
Passato," or "Farewell to the past," from Verdi's "La Traviata," in which poor,
terminally ill Violetta sings a farewell to happiness. Maria Callas.
Setting: Violetta's bedroom
Synopsis: Violetta is now poor and about to die. She receives a letter from
Alfredo's father saying that Alfredo has discovered why she lied about her love
for him and is coming to her. She knows that it is too late, though, and sings a
farewell to her happiness with Alfredo.
"May the wind be gentle." A lovely sentiment for a new year (especially in
Southern California, home of the devil's own Santa Anas.) From Mozart's insanely
plotted 'Cosi Fan Tutte," here we have soldiers who pretend they are going off
to war (long story having to do with proving romantic fidelity.) As they leave,
one Alfonso (who has bet the soldiers that their women will be unfaithful) and
two fiances, Dorabella and Fiordiligi, bid them farewell. Despite the absurdity
of the circumstance, the aria---trio, actually---is one of the most lovely in
all opera. "Soave sia il vento." Here is a clip from the 1988 film, with Edita
Gruberova (Fiordiligi), Delores Ziegler (Dorabella), Ferruccio Furlanetto (Guglielmo.)
Trio begins at 1:23 in.
Gentle be the breeze,
Calm be the waves,
And every element
Smile in favour
On their wish.
Summary: In a cafe, Ferrando and Guglielmo (two officers) express certainty that
their fiancées (Dorabella and Fiordiligi, respectively) will be eternally
faithful. Don Alfonso expresses skepticism and claims that there is no such
thing as a faithful woman. He lays a wager with the two officers, claiming he
can prove in a day's time that those two, like all women, are fickle. The wager
is accepted: the two officers will pretend to have been called off to war; soon
thereafter they will return in disguise and each attempt to seduce the other's
lover. The scene shifts to the two women, who are praising their men (duet: Ah
guarda sorella—"Ah look sister"). Alfonso arrives to announce the bad news: the
officers have been called off to war. Ferrando and Guglielmo arrive,
brokenhearted, and bid farewell (quintet: Sento, o Dio, che questo piede è
restio—"I feel, oh God, that my foot is reluctant"). As the boat with the men
sails off to sea, Alfonso and the sisters wish them safe travel (trio: Soave sia
il vento—"May the wind be gentle").
"Bring back the happy days." An apt sentiment for the new year! Especially,
perhaps, for persons of a "certain age." Here is the early Puccini aria of this
name, "Torna ai Felici Di," from the opera, "Le Villi" ("The Fairies.") The
tenor is the great Placido Domingo.
Setting: A town in the Black Forest during spring
Synopsis: Anna has been killed by fairies that were conjured by a witch that
seduced Roberto when he was away in Mainz. However, he does not find this out
until after it happens. Roberto is filled with remorse at letting himself be
seduced by another woman and is shocked to find out that his true love is now
dead at the hand of the same witch.
Bring back the happy days
before my thoughts were anguished
When May was gay with flowers
and love blossomed for me.
Then everything was blackened
by lugubrious mysteries
And now in my heart there is
naught but sadness and terror.
Maybe she lives! Bussiam!
What a thrill caught me!
In vain of that threshold I tried
On the edge, raise your hand!
Just to understand me, they gave me a lugubrious song!
O highest God! Of my path,
O highest God, this is the goal of my destiny ...
Make forgiveness, make forgiveness
Make her happy for a moment and then I'll die!
I can't pray! Ah, damn the day
That I went away from here!
Cursed be your beauty, or vile courtesan ...
Cursed forever! Damn!
Torna ai felici dì dolente il mio pensier,
Ridean del maggio i fior, fioria per me l'amor.
Or tutto si coprì di mister...
Ed io non ho nel cor che tristezza e terror,
Forse ella vive! Bussiam!
Qual brivido mi colse!
Invan di quella soglia tentai
Sul limite levar la man!
Pur d'intender parmi davero un canto lugubre!
O sommo Iddio! Del mio cammino,
O sommo Iddio, del mio destin quest'è la meta...
Fa che il perdono, fa che il perdon
La renda lieta un solo istante e poi morrò!
Pregar non posso! Ah, maledetto il dì
Che andai lontan di qui!
Maledetta sia la tua bellezza, o cortigiana vil...
Maledetta in eterno! Maledetta!
From the opera, "Manon," by Jules Massenet, here is "Adieu, notre petite table,"
(Goodbye, our little table"), but sung in Italian by Mirella Freni, in a
wonderful clip from 1966. Note: the aria, here titled "Addio, o nostro picciol
desco," begins at 2:15. There is a preceding declaration.
Setting: Apartment of Chevalier Des Grieux, Paris, France, 18th century
Synopsis: Manon has been told by a nobleman that her love Des Grieux will soon
be kidnapped by his father's men in order to get him away from her. She knows
that the happy days they have spent in Des Grieux's apartment will soon be at an
end and takes the opportunity to bid adieu to the table at which she and her
love ate many meals together.
Toward the end of Puccini's "La Boheme," Mimi has collapsed on the staircase to
the attic garret, and is carried inside by her friends. In her last moments, she
says that her hands are cold. In order to buy her something for warmth, Musetta
pawns her jewelry and Colline decides to pawn his beloved old overcoat, to which
he sings farewell. This is "Vecchia Zimarra," or "old coat," here sung in an
Australia Opera production by one David Parkin. With English subtitles.
AND. . .a classic performance by James Morris:
Today's end-of-year edition of the long-running Saturdee Opry Links focuses on
songs and arias of farewell. "Goodbye! Courage! Do not cry!"---noble sentiments,
easier counseled than accomplished. . .Here is the poignant, lilting,
understated aria, "Adieu, Mignon," from the opera, "Mignon," by Ambroise Thomas.
The wonderful lyric tenor, from 1931, is one Andre D'Arkor.
Setting: Philine's dressing room in a German castle, late 1700s
Synopsis: After Mignon has been following him around for a long time, Wilhelm
decides that it is time to tell Mignon that he isn't interested in her. He does
this in a kind way, telling her that he must leave her.
But for WWII, D'Arkor would have had a much greater career:
The ironies, the cruelties, complexities of "Madama Butterfly," by Puccini, are
quite appropriate for the tortured year that was 2019, I dare say. Is Lt.
Pinkerton the most loathsome of villains, or is he a victim of. . . ardor? Is he
captivated by Butterfly's beauty, and the exquisiteness of Japan, helpless to
control his emotions? Or is he diabolical, a heartless cad, a scoundrel who
abandons his foreign plaything when finished with it? Is the aria, "Addio,
Fiorito Asil" ("Farewell, flowery refuge") a sincere lament, or shallow,
chauvinistic? Or both? Here is. . ."Addio, Fiorito Asil," or "Farewell, flowery
refuge," from Puccini's "Madama Butterfly," in which the impressionable
scoundrel, Pinkerton, bids farewell to Japan---and poor Butterfly, to whom he
will never return. Sung here by the great Mario del Monaco, the man who could
not sing softly. (But who would want him to?)
Setting: Butterfly's house
Synopsis: Pinkerton comes to Butterfly's house and, after speaking to Suzuki,
decides that it would be too painful to say goodbye to Butterfly directly. He
bids adieu to the house in which he and Butterfly spent many happy hours.
FINAL BOW of the 2019 year-end "farewell edition" of Saturdee Opry Links
goes---as it did last year---to the little tenor, Joseph Schmidt, one of several
to earn the title, "The Pocket Caruso." Exiled throughout the '30's as a concert
performer because opera halls deemed him too short at 4' 11' (really!), Schmidt,
a Jew, was to die of infection and heart failure after being interred in a Swiss
refugee camp while fleeing the Nazi invasion of France. He was only
thirty-eight. Here he is with the great Tosti song, "Addio."
About Joseph Schmidt:
Saturdee Opry Links Farewell Edition ENCORE!
It's the end of the world, after all, so here is Brunhilde's Immolation from
"Gotterdammerung," by Wagner. A slight bit of context: the gods have queered the
deal, loused everything up, screwed the pooch, etc. For themselves, and for the
universe. Brunhilde, ever a force for logic and morality, realizes this, and
simply burns down the house, hastens the end of everything, pulls the plug. As
someone needs to do for the current adminstration in D.C. Here it is, kids, the
end of everything---with English subtitles! It's a long clip, so you might want
to skip to the 14-minute mark. (The closing shot, in which the humans stand,
shattered, bewildered, was a choice of the director, Patrice Chereau.) Happy New
Year! Crank it up!
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