Sunday, April 24, 2011


A personal prayer to thee, Maria de la Caridad del Cobre, Patron Saint of Cuba! Today, on Easter Sunday, I will officially launch my Opera Blog to the general public. I pray for thy protection and thy inspiration to make this a site that will bring a little slice of happiness to those who visit my blog, a little slice of happiness, regardless of religion or musical tastes that are different from mine! AMEN.

My friends and family know how passionate I am about opera. I want to share this love plus my research, with the rest of the world! I do not claim to be an expert on the subject as I still have a lot to learn; however, I do claim a healthy amount of expertise. I have listened to opera since I was a child and have a very intimate relationship with the opera world. It was opera that taught me how to speak Italian, French and German,

With all the new technology connecting us across the oceans, it is now possible to share one's interests and passions with whoever cares to look and listen,  regardless of border or distance. Even Time is beginning to bend; I'm not talking about the differences in time zones: that is more about mechanics and geographical position. I am talking about my newfound ability to post a blog in the future, or most curiously, in the past! This concept will be explored in my other blog, the Tribian Gazetteer

Meanwhile, this ability to travel back in time is a great way to meet long dead composers, famous singers, and even the real and imaginary heroes, heroines (and villains) from the operatic repertoire. Opera, after all, is all about story and this blog is as much a Space Opera as Star Trek, but the planets we will visit are Nibelungheim or 18th century Seville, St. Mark's Square in Venice or Bleeker Street in New York, Dido's palace in ancient Carthage or the People's Palace in modern China. Perhaps, Star Trek composer Ron Jones might be inspired to write a serious opera based on the fabulous music that has graced the television series for decades.

After two months of learning the basic ropes of the very new art of blogging, today I project myself astrally to Easter Sunday, April 24, 2011, the day I make my public debut with the blog I call "The Opera House Gazetteer." Today is Easter "Soprano" Sunday, and I dedicate this site to Santa Maria de la Caridad del Cobre, patron saint of all Cubans on earth or adrift at sea.

As for the title of my blog, the word "gazetteer" was chosen. A "gazetteer" usually refers to a geographical guide, a kind of encyclopedia. The word is a corruption of the Venetian gazetta which used to be a newspaper that could be bought with a diminutive coin called a gazetta. The root of the word has an even older history: It was brought from east to west, across the Hellespont,  by the Greek armies of Alexander the Great, It comes from the ancient Persian word gaza which means "treasure".

Today we will start our program with la divina Maria Callas singing Verdi's beautiful "Ave Maria" from the opera Otello before we go on to the more familiar, but equally beautiful Ave Marias from the opera, oratorio and art music repertoire. We also hope to discover some other rare and less-known versions of this beautiful prayer in song.

The beautiful Maria Callas. My favorite Diva in every way!
Desdemona's aria from Otello

Ave Maria, piena di grazia, eletta .......Hail Mary, full of grace, chosen 
Fra le spose e le vergini sei tu, .......Among wives and maidens art thou, 
Sia benedetto il frutto, o benedetta, .......Blessed be the fruit, o blessed one, 
Di tue materne viscere, Gesù. .......Of thy womb, Jesus. 
Prega per chi  .......Pray for the one 
adorando a te si prostra, .......Who kneels in prayer before you, 
Prega nel peccator, .......Pray for the sinner,
per l'innocente,  .......For the one who is innocent,
E pel debole oppresso e pel possente, and for the mighty, 
Misero anch'esso, .......And for the weak and oppressed, 
tua pietà dimostra. .......Also wretched, show thy mercy. 
Prega per chi sotto .......Pray for the one
l'oltraggio piega .......Who bows his head 
La fronte e sotto la malvagia sorte; .......Under injustice and under misfortune; 
Per noi, per noi tu prega, prega ....... Pray thou for us, pray 
Sempre e nell'ora della morte nostra, .......Ever and in the hour of our death, 
Prega per noi, prega per noi, prega. .......Pray for us, pray for us, pray. 
Ave Maria . . . Hail Mary . . . 
Nell'ora della morte. ........In the hour of our death.
Ave!. . .Amen! .......Hail! . . . Amen! 

For most versions of the Ave Maria, here is the original Latin prayer, and translation: 

Ave Maria, gratia plena: .......Hail Mary, full of grace; 
Dominus tecum: .......The Lord is with thee; 
Benedicta tu in mulieribus, .......Blessed art thou among women, 
Et benedictus fructus  .......And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
ventris tui Iesus. .......And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. 
Sancta Maria mater Dei, .......Holy Mary, mother of God, 
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, .......Pray for us sinners, now, 
Et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen. ......And in the hour of our death. Amen.

Here's the very interesting version arranged by the French composer Gounod who created this beautiful melodic line on top of the harmonic beauty of the Prelude in C by Bach :

Although Barbra Streisand is a popular singer, her voice is magnificent in this contemporary version of "Ave Maria" (the back-up voices make the song sound a little corny, I must confess). She is definitely a mezzo-soprano and her high notes are superb. I hope to find more of her singing the great classics, hopefully with a more traditional orchestral arrangement and without a chorus. Barbra needs no backup!

Here is Schubert's famous version, sung by light soprano in German. The lyrics are below :
Schubert Version ;
Ave Maria! Jungfrau mild,
Erhöre einer Jungfrau Flehen,
Aus diesem Felsen starr und wild
Soll mein Gebet zu dir hinwehen.
Wir schlafen sicher bis zum Morgen,
Ob Menschen noch so grausam sind.
O Jungfrau, sieh der Jungfrau Sorgen,
O Mutter, hör ein bittend Kind!
Ave Maria!
Ave Maria! Unbefleckt!
Wenn wir auf diesen Fels hinsinken
Zum Schlaf, und uns dein Schutz bedeckt
Wird weich der harte Fels uns dünken.
Du lächelst, Rosendüfte wehen
In dieser dumpfen Felsenkluft,
O Mutter, höre Kindes Flehen,
O Jungfrau, eine Jungfrau ruft!
Ave Maria
Ave Maria! Reine Magd!
Der Erde und der Luft Dämonen,
Von deines Auges Huld verjagt,
Sie können hier nicht bei uns wohnen,
Wir woll'n uns still dem Schicksal beugen,
Da uns dein heil'ger Trost anweht;
Der Jungfrau wolle hold dich neigen,
Dem Kind, das für den Vater fleht.
-------------Ave Maria-------------
Ave Maria! Maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's pleading
From these rocks, stark and wild,
my prayer shall be wafted to thee.
we shall sleep safely till morning,
though men be ever so cruel.
o Maiden, see a maiden's distress,
O Mother, hear a suppliant child.

Ave Maria, undefiled!
When we upon this rock lie down
to slumber, and they protection covers us,
The hard stone will seem soft to us.
If Though smilest, the scent of roses will float
Through this murky cavern,
O Mother, hear a child's petition,
O maiden, 'tis a maid that calls!

Ave Maria, Maiden pure,
the demons of the earth and air,
driven forth by thy gracious glance
cannot stay here with us.
we will camly bow to fate
Since they holy comfort hovers over us;
Mayest though be favourably inclined to the maiden,
To the child that pleads for her father!


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