Sunday, May 8, 2011

SECOND SOPRANO SUNDAY IN MAY: "Caro Nome" from Rigoletto.

A maiden from 15th Century Mantua in Italy. This could be Gilda in Rigoletto.
La divina Maria Callas sings Gilda's "Caro nome". One of my favorite performances as well as my favorite soprano arias. In this posting we shall also include other wonderful artists as well, like Natalie Dessay. At the end of this program, you can tell me which one is your favorite!
"Caro Nome" 
from Verdi's opera Rigoletto:

--Italian Text-- Caro nome che il mio cor
festi primo palpitar,
le delizie dell'amor
mi dêi sempre rammentar!
Col pensiero il mio desir
a te ognora volerà,
e pur l' ultimo sospir,
caro nome, tuo sarà.

--English Translation--
Sweet name, you who made my heart
throb for the first time,
you must always remind me
the pleasures of love!
My desire will fly to you
on the wings of thought
and my last breath
will be yours, my beloved.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

FIRST BASS SATURDAY IN MAY - Portrait of Osmin from Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio

This is a drawing I doctored up a bit with Photoshop to make this Turkish Jannissary look like the character Osmin as I imagine him in Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio. Osmin is another Orientalist stereotype of the European imagination. He is the ruthless and sadistic "Terrible Turk" which one finds in many European dramas and operas.
Mozart must have been exposed to Turkish music at some time in his life. The Janissaries that marched around the walls of Vienna blaring their martial music a hundred years ago must have left enough traces in the city. The Austrians did share a border with the Ottoman Empire. Listen to some very Middle-Eastern sounding notes in Osmin's aria:

Lyrics to:

Osmin's Air from Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio 

Solche hergelaufne Laffen...............These immoral puppies
Die nur nach ...................................Who do nothing 
den Weibern gaffen,........................But ogle women.
Mag ich vor den Teufel nicht;..........I'd rather have the devil;
Ist uns auf den Dienst zu passen:.....For all they ever do
Denn ihr ganzesTun und Lassen......Is watch us at our work
Doch mich trügt kein solch Gesicht..But a face like that.
Eure tücken, ,....................................Doesn't deceive me
Eure Ränke........................................Your tricks, your wiles,
Eure Finten, eure Schwänke.............Your schemes. your guiles,
Sind mir ganz bekannt.......................All are known to me,
Mich zu hintergehen,.........................You'll have to get up early.
MüBt ihr früh aufstefen,...................To get the better of me
Ich hab' auch Verstand......................For I know what's what!
Drum, beim Barte des Propheten!.....By the beard of the Prophet
Ich studiere Tag und Nacht,...............I'll not rest day and night
Ruh' nicht, bis ich seh'dich töten,.......Till I find a way to kill you
Nimm dich, wie du willst, in acht........Watch out, if you can!

Aber was habe ichbrannt,..............But what have I,
dir denn getan?...............................Ever done to you?

Erst  geköpft,.......................First beheaded
Dann gehangen,...................Then hanged
Dann gespielt.......................Then impaled
Auf heiße Strangen,.............On red-hot spikes
Dann verbrannt....................Then burned,
Dann gehunden....................Then bound,
Und getaucht;.......................Then drown
Zuletzt geschunden...............Finally flayed


Here is Osmin singing in Hungarian! I think he sounds rather good in Magyar - I would love to see a Turkish version of Mozart. Why not?

Bass Cage Match: Osmin's Low D!






Friday, May 6, 2011

FIRST BARITONE FRIDAY IN MAY - "Madamina" from Mozart's Don Giovanni


Madamina, il catalogo è questo - Allen, Te Kanawa (Don Giovanni ROH'88)







Thursday, May 5, 2011

FIRST TENOR THURSDAY IN MAY - "Che gelida manina" from Puccini's La Boheme.

Nicolai Gedda "Che gelida manina" La boheme













Wednesday, May 4, 2011

FIRST COUNTERTENOR WEDNESDAY IN MAY - "Svegliatemi nel core" from Handel's Giulio Cesare

Svegliatevi nel core - Robert E. Lee, male soprano





Tuesday, May 3, 2011

FIRST CONTRALTO TUESDAY IN MAY "Love's Old Sweet Song" as mentioned in James Joyce's Ulysees

British Contralto Clara Butt ~ Love's Old Sweet Song (1923)



Love's Old Sweet Song

Music by J.L. Molloy;
words by G. Clifton Bingham

Song Lyrics

Once in the dear dead days beyond recall,
When on the world the mists began to fall,

Out of the dreams that rose in happy throng
Low to our hearts Love sang an old sweet song;

And in the dusk where fell the firelight gleam,
Softly it wove itself into our dream.

Just a song a twilight, when the lights are low,
And the flick'ring shadows softly come and go,
Tho' the heart be weary, sad the day and long,
Still to us at twilight comes Love's old song,
comes Love's old sweet song.

Even today we hear Love's song of yore,
Deep in our hearts it dwells forevermore.

Footsteps may falter, weary grow the way,
Still we can hear it at the close of day.

So till the end, when life's dim shadows fall,
Love will be found the sweetest song of all.

Just a song a twilight, when the lights are low,
And the flick'ring shadows softly come and go,
Tho' the heart be weary, sad the day and long,
Still to us at twilight comes Love's old song,
comes Love's old sweet song.




Monday, May 2, 2011

FIRST MEZZO MONDAY IN MAY - "Seguidilla" from Carmen




Here is La Divina singing the Seguedille from Carmen - The immortal Maria Callas!



From Bizet's Carmen

Près des remparts de Séville,      Near the ramparts of Seville
Chez mon ami, Lillas Pastia       At the place of my friend, Lillas Pastia
J'irai danser la Séguedille        I will go to dance the Seguedilla
Et boire du Manzanilla.       And to drink Manzanilla.
J'irai chez mon ami Lillas Pastia.    I will go to the place of my friend, Lillas Pastia.

Oui, mais toute seule on s'ennuie,       Yes, but all alone, one gets bored,
Et les vrais plaisirs sont à deux;       And the real pleasures are for two;
Donc, pour me tenir compagnie,        So, to keep me company,
J'emmènerai mon amoureux!       I will take away my lover.
Mon amoureux, il est au diable,       My lover, he has gone to the devil,
Je l'ai mis à la porte hier!       I put him out yesterday!

Mon pauvre coeur très consolable,       My poor heart, very consolable,
Mon coeur est libre comme l'air!       My heart is free, like the air!
J'ai des galants à la douzaine,       I have suiters by the dozen,
Mais ils ne sont pas à mon gré.       But, they are not to my taste.
Voici la fin de la semaine;        Here it is the weekend;

Qui veut m'aimer?  Je l'aimerai!       Who wants to love me?  I will love him!
Qui veut mon âme?  Elle est à prendre.      Who wants my soul?  It's for the taking.
Vous arrivez au bon moment!       You're arriving at the right time!
J'ai guère le temps d'attendre,       I have hardly the time to wait,
Car avec mon nouvel amant,       For with my new lover,

Près des remparts de Séville,      Near the ramparts of Seville
Chez mon ami, Lillas Pastia!      At the place of my friend, Lillas Pastia!

Tais-toi!  je t'avais dit        Shut up!  I told you
de ne pas me parler!        Not to talk to me!

Je ne te parle pas,         I am not talking to you,
Je chante pour moi-même!        I am singing for myself!

Et je pense.     And I'm thinking. 
Il n'est  pas  défendu de penser!       It's not forbidden to think!

Je pense à certain officier,        I am thinking of a certain officer,
Je pense à certain officier,        I am thinking of a certain officer,

Qui m'aime.  Et qu' à mon tour       Who loves me and whom  in turn
Oui, qu' à mon tour, je pourrai bien aimer.    yes, whom in turn,  I could really love.


Mon officier n'est pas un capitaine;       My officer is not a captain;
Pas même un lieutenant,        Not even a lieutenant,

Il n'est que brigadier,        He is only a corporal,
Mais c'est assez pour une Bohémienne,      But, that's enough for a gypsy,

Et je daigne m'en contenter.        And I deigne to be contented with him.

Carmen, je suis      Carmen, I am
Comme un homme ivre,      like a man intoxicated,
Si je cède, si je me livre,        if I give in, if I surrender,
Ta promesse, tu la tiendras?       Your promise, will you keep it?
Ah! si  je t'aime, Carmen,         Ah! if I love you, Carmen,
Carmen, tu m'aimeras?       Carmen, will you love me?

CARMEN:       (with  Don Jose)
Oui, nous danserons la Séguedilla       Yes, we will dance the Seguedilla
En buvant du Manzanilla.        While drinking Manzanilla.

Près des remparts de Séville,       Near the ramparts of Seville
Chez mon ami, Lillas Pastia        At the place of my friend, Lillas Pastia
J'irai danser la Séguidille        I will go to dance the Seguidilla
Et boire du Manzanilla.        And to drink Manzanilla.
Tra. la. la. la. la. etc.

DON JOSE:    (with Carmen)
Chez Lillas Pastia, tu le promets.       At Lillas Pastia's place, you promise.
Carmen, tu le promets!        Carmen, you promise!

Ah!  Près des remparts de Séville, etc.  Ah!  Near the ramparts of Seville, etc.



Sunday, May 1, 2011

THE FIRST SOPRANO SUNDAY IN MAY - "In questa reggia" from Puccini's Turandot.

An interesting poster of Turandot: the drowsy opium eyes are typical of orientalist typecasting at the turn of the century.

This is my favorite version of this aria. Sung by the powerful Maria Callas. There is partly a sentimental reason for that. It was my first introduction to both Turandot and Maria Callas at the Lakewood Public Library. The picture on the cover was love at first sight!

This is a very interesting version of Turandot. The princess almost looks doll-like in appearance. The background is incredibly surreal. Gwyneth Jones gives a spectacular performance here!

Some people say that the Wagnerian soprano Birgit Nilsson was the best Turandot ever. Well, I just may agree, even though the Maria Callas version will always be close to my heart for sentimental reasons. Birgit Nilsson gives a stunning performance here with Franco Corelli.

Other people assert that there is no greater Turandot than Dame Eva Turner. So many opinions! I dare say, that I might be convinced. Her voice is perfect for that role, icy, yet vulnerable. That high C she hits chills me to the bone as much as the Prince of Persia facing the block!

Turandot's Aria in Italian
Visit the Metropolitan Opera Site for an analysis of Turandot's problem as expressed in this aria. She does not come into the opera until this pivotal scene.

In questa reggia, or son mill'anni e mille
Un grido disperato risonò.
E quel grido, traverso stirpe e stirpe,
Qui nell’anima mia si rifugiò!
Principessa Lo-u-Ling

Ava dolce e serena che regnavi
Nel tuo cupo silenzio in gioia pura,
E sfidasti inflessibile e sicura,
(L’aspro dominio,
Oggi rivivi in me!)
Fu quando il Re dei Tartari

Le sette sue bandiere dispiegò.
Pure nel tempo che ciascun ricorda,
Fu sgomento e terrore e rombo d’armi.
Il regno vinto! Il regno vinto!
E Lo-u-Ling, la mia ava, trascinata
Da un uom come te, come te,
Straniero, là nella notte atroce
Dove si spense la sua fresca voce!
(Da secoli ella dorme
Nella sua tomba enorme.)
O Principi, che a lunghe carovane
D’ogni parte del mondo
Qui venite a gettar la vostra sorte,
Io vendico su voi, su voi
Quella purezza, quel grido e quella morte!
Mai nessun m’avrà!
L’orror di chi l’uccise vivo nel cuor mi sta.
No, no! Mai nessun m’avrà!
Ah, rinasce in me l’orgoglio
Di tanta purità! Straniero!
Non tentar la fortuna!

Gli enigmi sono tre, la morte una!


In this palace, thousands of years ago,
A desperate cry rang out.
And that cry, passing down the generations
Found refuge here in my soul!
Princess Lo-u-Ling,
Sweet and serene ancestress, you who reigned
In your deep silence in pure joy
And defied, unyielding and confident,
The harsh domination (of men),
Today you live again in me!
(It was when the King of the Tartars
Unfurled his seven banners)
And yet in the time that everyone remembers,
There was dismay and terror and the roar of arms.
The kingdom was conquered!
And Lo-u-Ling, my ancestress, dragged away
By a man like you, like you,
Stranger, there in the terrible night
Where her young voice was stifled!
(For ages she has slept in her vast tomb.)
O Princes, who in long caravans
From every part of the world
Come here to try your fortune,
I avenge upon you, upon you
That purity, that cry and that death!
No man will ever possess me!
Horror of the man who killed her
Remains alive in my heart.
No, no!
No man will ever possess me!
Ah, in me is reborn the pride
Of such great chastity!
Do not tempt fortune!
The riddles are three, death is one.

This concludes our Soprano Sunday.


Saturday, April 30, 2011

TODAY ON BASS SATURDAY- "Monstre affreux" from Rameau's Dardanus.

It is fun to imagine the awful monster in Rameau's opera to be a cross between the Kraken and the Cloverfield monster.

Aria d'Anténor
Jean-Phillipe Rameau, Dardanus.

Voici les tristes lieux que le monstre ravage.
Hélas ! Si pour moi seul je craignais sa fureur
Je l'attendrais sur ce rivage
Pour être sa victime, et non pas son vainqueur.

Monstre affreux, monstre redoutable
Ah ! Que le sort me serait favorable,
S'il ne m'exposait qu'à vos coups,
Monstre affreux monstre redoutable.
Ah, l'Amour est encore plus terrible que vous. 

Contre votre fureur, il est du moins des armes,
Mais contre ses alarmes
Vainement on cherche un appui,
Il renaît des efforts qu'on fait pour le détruire,
Et le cœur même qu'il déchire 
Est d'intelligence avec lui. 

Monstre affreux, monstre redoutable 
Ah ! Que le sort me serait favorable, 
S'il ne m'exposait qu'à vos coups, 
Monstre affreux, monstre redoutable.
Ah, l'Amour est encore plus terrible que vous.

English Translation

Here are the sad lands ravaged by the monster
Alas! If it were only for myself who feared his fury
I would await on this shore to be his victim
And not his vanquisher.

Dread monster, fearsome monster
Ah! How kind fate would be to me
If he exposed me only to no blows but yours!
Dread monster, fearsome monster
Ah! Love is much more terrible than you

At least against your fury there are weapons
But against his attacks
One looks in vain for support;
All efforts to destroy him only gives him new life
And the very heart that tears him apart
Is in league with him.

What a noise! What a horrible storm!
The waves rise up to the heavens;
I hear the terrible voice of vengeful thunder; 
Night wraps this place in a thick veil!
Come forth from your deep caverns,
Cruel monster, come forth. Let your hideous face
Add to the horror that reign over these waves.
Nothing can daunt an unhappy lover.
I see this fearsome monster. Come on!

The orchestra does not do justice here to the Bulgarian basso profundo Boris Christoff. He is Bulgarian, by the way, and not Russian! My apologies for the mistake in my last blog. Boris Christoff is very famous for singing Russian songs, like Kalinka or the Volga Boatmen. Easy to believe he's Russian. His performance of Monstre affreux in Dardanus is superb! What is missing is a strong orchestra, which in my opinion, should be inseparable from the singer, Thus, I believe that a much better version can be enjoyed by listening to a video featuring Laurent Naouri with Les Musiciens du Grenoble under the baton of Mark Minkowski.  Even though Laurent Naouri is not a bass singer, his baritone voice delivers an impeccable performance. The orchestra really highlights the throbbing heartbeat of Rameau's harrowing aria.

Though I was not able to post this gem on my blog, I suppose, for copyright reasons, I can gratefully redirect you to this impeccable performance: just click on this word: monster. But wait! Here it is with the same Laurent Naori, but in a video with ducks swimming in a pond, hardly the fearful monster depicted in the aria. Well, I suppose that a bug would look at a duck the way we look at the Kraken!

Here is an interpretation by French baritone Gérard Souzay:

To place the monster scene in context, here are scenes from a London Royal College of Music production of Rameau's opera Dardanus
This concludes Bass Saturday.

P.S. For a bit of fun, I've added a video of Boris Christoff singing Kalinka!


Friday, April 29, 2011

TODAY ON BARITONE FRIDAY - "Der Vogelfanger bin ich ja" from Mozart's Magic Flute

For Baritone Friday, I have selected the charming aria "Ein Vogelfanger Bin Ich Ja" that introduces baritone Detlef Roth in his  funny interpretation of Papageno the Bird Catcher in Mozart's magical opera The Magic Flute or Die Zauberflote in German. 

Here are the lyrics to the aria:
Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja
Papageno's Aria from The Magic Flute

Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja, 
Stets lustig heissa hopsasa! 
Ich Vogelfänger bin bekannt 
bei Alt und Jung im ganzen Land. 
Weiß mit dem Lokken umzugehn 
und mich aufs Pfeiffen zu verstehen! 
Drum kann ich froh und lustig sein, 
Denn alle Vögel sind ja mein. 
Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja, 
Stets lustig heissa hopsasa! 
Ich Vogenfänger bin bekannt 
Bei Alt und Jung im ganzen Land. 
Ein Netz für Mädchen möchte ich;
Ich fing sie dutzendweis für mich! 
Dann sperrte ich sie bei mir ein 
Und alle Mädchen wären mein. 
Wenn alle Mädchen wären mein,
So tauschte ich brav Zukker ein.
Die welche mir am liebsten wär, 
der gäb ich gleich den Zukker her.
Und küsste sie mich zärtlich dann, 
Wär' sie mein Weib und ich ihr Mann. 
Sie schlief an meiner Seite ein; 
ich wiegte wie ein Kind sie ein.

"The Bird Catcher I Am Indeed"


The birdcatcher I am indeed, 
Always happy, heidi heh hey!
I, the birdcatcher, am well known
To old and young throughout the land. 
Know how to get around the bird decoys 
And be understood on the fife. 
Therefore I can be happy and funny, 
For all the birds are indeed mine. 
The birdcatcher I am indeed,
Always happy, heidi heh hey! 
I, the birdcatcher, am well-known 
To old and young throughout the land.
A net for girls is what I would like;
I¹d catch them by the dozen for me! 
Then I would lock them up with me 
And all the girls would be mine. 
If all the girls were mine, 
Then I¹d dutifully trade for some sugar. 
The one I liked the best, 
To her I would immediately give the sugar. 
And if she kissed me tenderly then, 
She would be my wife and I her husband. 
She would fall asleep by my side; 
I would rock her to sleep like a child. 

Listen to Dietrich Fischer in the role of Papageno:

Here is Simon Keenlyside singing the aria in a hilarious outfit:
Here is an English version of the Magic Flute with Nathan Gunn singing the role of Papageno. The costumes and decor look Chinese. One would think we had walked into a set of Turandot! The setting of the Magic Flute is supposed to be in a far-off land, equivalent to that Star Wars "in a galaxy long time ago". Many productions choose Egypt because of the Masonic symbology in the opera. The choice of ancient Cathay makes this production unique and quite interesting:

Here is Nathan Gunn singing the aria in the original German.
We end Baritone Friday with a clip from Ingmar Bergman's celebrated and fabulous film of the Magic Flute, sung in Swedish and with English subtitles. The Swedish language somehow fits well with Mozart's music.
This concludes our Baritone Friday.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

TODAY ON TENOR THURSDAY - "La donne e mobile" from Verdi's Rigoletto.

"La donna è mobile"
from Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto (1851)

Italian Text

La donna è mobile
Qual piuma al vento,
Muta d'accento
e di pensiero.

Sempre un amabile,
Leggiadro viso,
In pianto o in riso,
è menzognero.

È sempre misero
Chi a lei s'affida,
Chi le confida
mal cauto il cuore!

Pur mai non sentesi
Felice appieno
Chi su quel seno
non liba amore!

English Translation of 
"La donna e mobile"

Woman is fickle
Like a feather in the wind,
She changes her voice
and her mind.

Always sweet,
Pretty face,
In tears or in laughter,
she is always lying.

Always miserable
Is he who trusts her,
He who confides in her
his unwary heart!

Yet one never feels
Fully happy
Who on that bosom
does not drink love!

The aria "La donne e mobile" from Verdi's opera Rigoletto is perhaps the most famous tenor aria of all time. I just have to start with Enrico Caruso's 1907 recording. This was perhaps the first superstar recording of the century!
Here is Alessandro Bonci's recording, just a year before Caruso's superhit.

Here is Ferdinando Ciniselli's recording in 1924:
The great Beniamino Gigli in 1934:

Here is Jussi Bjorling's recording in 1937:
Here is Mario Lanza playing Caruso in a 1950s movie about the opera singer's life.

Here is Mario Lanza again singing an English version of the song in a radio program sponsored by Coca-Cola in 1952. Redirect by clicking here on Coca-Cola. For some reason it does not want to post on my blog!

Giuseppe di Stefano sang in many La Scala productions with Maria Callas. A great tenor, here he is singing "La donne e mobile" around the mid-50s.
We move forward in time to 1963 to hear Michael Trimble sing the Verdi Aria:
Here is Carlo Bergonzi in 1964. Listen to that long note he holds! Bravo!
Luciano Pavarotti is widely considered as having been the world's greatest tenor since Caruso. They say his voice is like a golden trumpet. Here he is singing "La donne e mobile". Pavarotti lives on!
Below is a clever video that compiles all the endings from "La donne e mobile" and spans throughout the years of history. Which ending is your favorite?

Placido Domingo is always a favorite of many. Here he is as the Duke of Mantua. There is just something about his voice that is so easily identifiable!
Lovely version by Jose Carreras of the aria and in excellent HD sound!
Now lets put the Three Tenors together and see how they all sound together, Without looking at the voices, can you guess who is singing at the moment?

Here is rising star Rolando Villazon.singing the aria.

We will finish with an HQ recording of the ever popular Andrea Bocelli.
So, which of the above is your favorite?

This concludes Tenor Thursday.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

TODAY ON COUNTERTENOR WEDNESDAY - " Va tacito e nascosto" from Handel's Giulio Cesare

Tolomeo (Ptolemy) and Caesar meet in a banquet. When Tolomeo subtly threatens him, Caesar responds with this incredible aria, saying that he will be on guard against any violence Tolomeo has planned. Caesar was played by a castrato in Handel's era. This has become a trouser role for many a mezzo-soprano. Occasionally, a male counter-tenor or an even rarer male soprano plays the role. Nowadays it is common to see the aria sung by a baritone.
 This is my favorite so far: countertenor Andreas Scholl. The quality of the orchestra is also excellent!

Here is Andreas Scholl again in a super Copenhagen 2005 I love the contemporary costumes, as it shows the timelessness of Handel's opera.

The following version is sung by male countertenor, Philippe Jarousski. If you read music, you can also follow the notes:

Here are the lyrics:
"Va tacito e nascosto" 
Giulio Cesare's countertenor aria 
in the title role of Handel's greatest opera, Giulio Cesare

Va tacito e nascosto,
(It should be silent, sly and hidden.)

 quand'avido è di preda, 
(For our quandary are mere prey)
l'astuto cacciator.
(To a crafty and calculating hunter.) 

E chi è mal far disposto,
(And never forget, dear friends, he who is ill-prepared,) 

non brama che si veda
(Will not successfully spot)
l'inganno del suo cor. 

(The deception of a treacherous heart.)

Here is other version sung by notable countertenors. Here is David DQ Lee in a BBC presentation:

Here is a version by French countertenor Christophe Dumaux

An excellent interpretation from Greek countertenor, Nicholas Spanos. If one can step out of one's box, there is nothing effeminate about a counter-tenor's high voice. Nicholas gives a very 'macho' performance as a young wide-eyed Caesar. He is followed by French countertenor Christophe Dumaux:

Listen to countertenor Paul Esswood while looking at images of Caesar. Nice video to watch:

Countertenor David Daniel has an excellent version. Full voice and excellent HD sound. Enjoy!
Before we conclude Countertenor Wednesday. Let us look at female "trouser versions" of the role:

Here is the great contralto Ewa Podles:
Here is British mezzo-soprano Sarah Connelly in what is perhaps the best interpretation of Caesar I have ever seen, regardless of voice. Her acting is excellent!
For fun, let's hear a baritone version of the aria. Sung by the famous German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau:

To conclude our Contralto Wednesday, here is one of those combination videos that plays the whole aria quite smoothly by jumping from one singer to another. A tremendous technological feat...hats off to he person who created the video!

Tomorrow is Tenor Thursday!