It’s been almost a year since I dusted off the old Opera blog, so this evening, I thought I’d give it a little bit of much needed attention. I’ve often wondered if the fear of clowns that some people have might have stemmed from this kind of character depiction…
Most finales in dramatic opera tend to be emotional roller coasters, and in many of these works, it may take a marathon of several hours to build up to that climax. Unlike many of those longer works, Pagliacci (Italian for “Clowns”) is more of a sprint, firing off the starting line with its opening notes and thrusting the audience quickly toward that dark, tragic end.
The finale in Pagliacci is thrilling and tense, a play within a play. Canio has a comic troupe that has arrived in town, and while he plays an idiot clown husband in his role on stage for the audience, he is in fact very jealous. His wife Nedda, has engaged in an affair with another in town, and pledges she will run off with her new lover after the show. Canio nearly caught the two in the first act though he didn’t see…
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October around my place is a month full of birthdays. In the extended family that lives nearby, there are five birthdays to be celebrated. Rather than do each separately, we usually opt for one big gathering and throw a large dinner party on a weekend convenient for just about everyone. This weekend, the festivities were held at my home. Lorna, I know your birthday is in October too and I have to say, you missed out on some really good food and some killer desserts!
The festive atmosphere filled with so many conversations bubbling at the same time, all at loud levels inspired me to write about that phenomenon of simultaneous conversations and its portrayal in Opera as ensembles. I decided to write the entry in my other blog instead of here. The teaser is here:
Click and enjoy!
This past week, very good friends of ours left town to move back to their native England. The family moved here about ten years ago following a job the husband had in a multinational organization with offices here in Washington D.C. area. It was a temporary assignment, as they all knew from the start, yet ten years is an eternity, especially for their two young daughters, both of whom are now in high school, the oldest in her senior year. It was a bittersweet farewell. I realize it was difficult to be separated from their extended families for so very long with only infrequent visits to and fro, and yet I could see in their daughters’ eyes a hint of sadness to be leaving the many friends they have made while living here.
I suppose in the day and age of Facebook and other social media, it will be far easier to keep in touch and keep up with the goings on than in the past. Still, I will miss them dearly. As you depart for another world, I offer this sentimental passage to you, my good friends Jane, Richard, and to your lovely daughters Ashleigh and Carol. Safe journeys my dear friends…
Soave Sia il Vento
~W. A. Mozart (from the Opera “Cosi Fan Tutte)~
Lyric in Italian:
Soave sia il vento,
Tranquilla sia l’onda,
Ed ogni elemento
Ai vostri desir.
May the winds be gentle
May the waves be calm
And may every one of the elements
To your desire.
Yesterday was the wedding day of the daughter of friends of ours. The venue was beautiful, the weather quite nice for November, and the reception an immensely enjoyable occasion. All in all, it was a long but fun day. Sitting in the Chapel, we were treated to delightful music from a chamber ensemble and harpist, setting a serene and tranquil mood as we waited for the big event. Our friends are accomplished musicians and I just knew they would deliver a first rate experience musically with their selections; they did not disappoint. When the time arrived for the wedding procession, a full choral group of singers along with the chamber orchestra and harpist delivered a perfect rendition of Wagner’s “Treulich Geführt”, otherwise known to just about everyone else in the Western World simply as the “Bridal March.”
Opera geek that I am, I knew it came from Lohengrin, a Wagner Opera written and performed in 1850, more than 160 years ago. For people of today, the melody is immediately recognizable and is etched in just about everyone’s conscious mind, linked to the image of bride proceeding down the aisle to her groom-soon-to-be husband. It’s familiarity is so strong that my mind began wandering as it so often does. I began to wonder, what kind of reaction did Wagner’s first audiences have to this music when they first heard it, with virgin ears and no familiarity with the melody; with no frame of reference other than visual cues from the stage? What kind of impact did it have? How delightful must it have been to hear something new and so beautiful? What kind of emotion did this music evoke from a first time listener? Did the music compliment the visual betrothal on the stage?
Thankfully, my wandering mind was brought back to attention by the beautiful bride and the wedding ceremony. Either that, or it was my wife nudging and elbowing me in the ribs, snapping me back to attention. I suppose she’s seen that day-dreamy look on my face before…
Treulich Geführt, from Lohengrin (R. Wagner 1850)
Much has been written about the moon, in prose, poetry, and song. It has long been the subject of art and photography as well. Its primal beauty has inspired many throughout the ages. As I don’t consider myself much of a writer, poet, musical prodigy, or artist, I have chosen tonight to give tribute to the wonderful harvest moon using the works of others. And, more importantly, I get to act like an opera geek in the process.
When I look at the moon, I am often reminded of a beautiful aria from the Opera Rusalka, composed by Antonín Dvořák. Think of it as an ancient version of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. In this aria Rusalka, a mermaid of the lake, has fallen in love with a Prince who swims in the lake, and here she sings her “Song to the Moon” asking it to tell the Prince of her love for him. I’ve linked the Aria and the lyric below, along with the translation into English; much better material than I could ever write.
The native language is Czech. Following below is the original lyric along with the rough English translation:
O Mesiku (Song to the Moon)
Mesiku na nebi hlubokem
Svetlo tvé daleko vidi,
Po svete bloudis sirokém,
Divas se v pribytky lidi.
Mesicku, postuj chvili
reckni mi, kde je muj mily!
Rekni mu, stribmy mesicku,
me ze jej objima rame,
aby si alespon chvilicku
vzpomenul ve sneni na mne.
Zasvet mu do daleka,
rekni mu, rekni m kdo tu nan ceka!
O mneli duse lidska sni,
at’se tou vzpominkou vzbudi!
Mesicku, nezhasni, nezhasni!
O moon high up in the deep, deep sky,
Your light sees far away regions,
You travel round the wide,
Wide world peering into human dwellings.
O, moon, stand still for a moment,
Tell me, ah, tell me where is my lover!
Tell him please, silvery moon in the sky,
That I am hugging him firmly,
That he should for at least a while
Remember his dreams!
Light up his far away place,
Tell him, ah, tell him who is here waiting!
If he is dreaming about me,
May this remembrance waken him!
O moon, don’t disappear, don’t disappear!
If you made it this far and have not died of boredom or fallen fast asleep, I thank you for your attention. So get out of the house and gaze up at that gorgeous full harvest moon! Good night all…