Venue: Aula Mgr Giuseppe Farrugia - St George's Basilica
Festival Mediterranea 2010
Vocal Duo Recital: Letizia Coljanni (soprano)/Leonardo Alaimo (Tenor
Roberto Moretti: Pianoforte
G Rossini (1792-1868) ‘Ecco ridente in cielo’ (Il Barbiere di Siviglia)
At the time of Rossini’s appearance on the operatic world stage, the great traditions of classic opera were paling and various factions were waging a battle for hegemony. Romantic tendencies manifest in the learier operas are harnessed by a classic wit and pregnancy, and in Il Barbiere di Siviglia Rossini gives the world a work worthy of Beaumarchais and Mozart. Indeed, with his inexhaustible melodic gifts, his masterly characterisations, his uncanny knowledge of the stage, Rossini stands close to Mozart, and Il Barbiere is a worthy companion to Figaro. In this wonderful melody, one can discern the current of a free and happy civilisation, based on the gracefulness of a natural aristocracy. While not always free from an irrepressible improvisatory disposition, this aria rewards the listener with a sane, vivacious and broad sensibility coupled with a clear and decided spirit. It is a piece of great sonority that fully exposes the mezza voce of the tenor.
G Puccini (1858-1924) ‘Chi il bel sogno di Doretta’ (La Rondine)
Typical of Puccini’s verista style is his economy of musical language. The shorter and the more concentrated the piece, the more pregnant it is with explosive emotion. In this aria Magda, a Parisian courtesan, relives her youthful experience when she sees her old flame Ruggiero. In this exquisitely beautiful aria, she initially sings of a girl, Doretta, and the inexplicable thrill and breathless wonder of her first kiss. Through this, Magda integrates her own feelings and translates Doretta’s experience into her own.
L Bernstein (1918-1990) Candide’s Lament (Candide)
Candide is a French satire written in 1759 by the French philosopher of the Enlightenment, Voltaire. It tells the story of a man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism by his mentor, Pangloss. The work describes the abrupt cessation of this lifestyle, followed by Candide's slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not outright rejecting optimism, advocating an enigmatic precept, "we must cultivate our garden", in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”. The work is characterized by its sarcastic tone and its erratic, fantastical, and fast-moving plot. A picaresque novel with a story similar to that of a more serious bildungsroman, it parodies many adventure and romance clichés, the struggles of which are caricatured in a tone that is mordantly matter-of-fact. Still, the events discussed are often based on historical happenings, such as the Seven Years’ War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. As philosophers of Voltaire's day contended with the problem of evil, so too does Candide in this short novel, albeit more directly and humorously. Voltaire ridicules religion, theologians, governments, armies, philosophies, and philosophers through allegory; most conspicuously, he assaults Leibniz and his optimism. Leonard Bernstein composed the music for the 1956 comic operetta adapted from the novel. The original 1956 libretto of Candide, written by Lillian Hellman, was an intensely bitter and somewhat loose adaptation of Voltaire, but Hugh Wheeler’s new libretto, first produced in 1974, was a far more faithful adaptation of the novella, and the one which is still in use today. In typical Bernstein style, Candide’s Lament is a truly haunting piece which, despite its awkward phrasing an rather angular melodic line, is representative of the soul-searching that Candide undergoes throughout the unfolding of the drama.
‘Glitter and be gay’ (Candide)
The character Cunegonde's coloratura aria in Candide, Glitter and Be Gay is a favourite showpiece for many sopranos. Posing considerable technical difficulties, this aria is among the most fiendishly challenging coloratura soprano arias. If sung as written throughout there are three high E-flats, two staccato and one sustained. There are also numerous uses of high C and D-flat. Some of the florid passages are very intricate, calling for marksmanship of the highest order. Theatrically, it demands an elaborate comic staging, in which Cunegonde adorns herself with jewellery, while singing and dancing around the stage. This is reminiscent of Marguerite in the ‘Jewel Song’ from Gounod’s Faust, and has a satirical quality that is a challenge to perform.
G Rossini Duetto dei gatti
Rossini’s penchant for jokes, his improvisatory imagination and impish quality of his musical texture is all brilliantly brought out in this inimitable, cheeky duet. Here, two singing voices engage in a quirky duet, imitating two cats. The writing is extremely clever, for all its apparent frivolity and insouciance, and it fully attests to Rossini’s mastery of the contrapuntal style and acute sense of musicality.
F Liszt ‘Miserere’ (Variations from Il Trovatore, G Verdi)
In the great Romantic world, characterised by brilliant performances, virtuoso players and insurmountable egos, Liszt emerges as an independent innovator, the first musician who saw clearly that even Chopin’s admirably original method of composition would not suffice for the foundation of a new style, for the new art that was lurking about the classic scene could not rise from the ruins of the old. As far as Liszt was concerned, it had to break completely with the past and to develop its own aesthetic principle. He threw himself wholeheartedly into the new world of sonority and, amongst others, his variation-style of writing testifies to the new art at which he arrived through his transcriptions. Liszt’s transcription of Verdi’s ‘Miserere’ from his opera Il Trovatore is based on one sound phenomenon: basically a chord. From it, Liszt derives both the melody and the accompaniment. The whole work is an eloquent testimony to the liberation of the musical language, and the use of the ‘mot propre’ instead of classic paraphrase, enriched the language considerably. He fully exploits the whole tonal and dynamic gamut of the pianoforte, and his musical texture is as dazzling as it is demonic.
G Rossini ‘Si ritrovarla io giuro’ (La Cenerentola)
La Cenerentola, ossia La bontà in trionfo (Cinderella, or Goodness Triumphant) is an opera buffa in two acts by. The libretto was written by Jacopo Ferretti, and is based on the fairy tale Cinderella. The opera was first performed in Rome's Teatro Valle on 25 January 1817. Rossini composed La Cenerentola when he was 25 years old, following the success of Il Barbiere di Siviglia the previous year. La Cenerentola, which he completed in a period of three weeks, is considered to have some of his finest writing for solo voice and ensembles. Cenerentola has given Don Ramiro (who is in disguise as the Prince's squire) a bracelet and tells him that when he finds the match, then she will be his. She then leaves. Alidoro encourages Ramiro to go after her and indeed she does. He declares that he will no longer be in disguise and sings that he will find her. For, he is guided by love and once he finds her, she shall never leave him. The bracelet she has given him glitters brightly, but the light in her eyes is far more bright. The aria alternates between moods of reminiscence and carefree abundance, which is very typical of the Rossini style.
G Donizetti (1797-1848) ‘Il dolce suono … ardon gl’incensi … spargi d’amaro pianto’
(Lucia di Lamermoor)
From the musical wealth of his period Donizetti seizes one significant detail – the cult of the melody and the beauty of the voice – upon which he builds an entirely personal art. When Donizetti sings, he does not spare himself (or his singers for that matter); everything sings in him, his whole soul bathes in the happiness of the flowing melody, warm, scented, and caressing, filled with desire, memory, and passion. The true, unparalleled master of the bel canto, with the possible exception of Bellini, Donizetti endows his melody with that importance and completeness, that natural and true expressive force that justifies its central position in the opera. In Lucia di Lamermoor, based on Walter Scott’s masterpiece, the listener is faced with the work of a romanticist with a penchant for melancholy in the softly elegiac melodies that captivate and enthrall. These melodies and arias are not patterns; on his stage there are no puppets but real dramatic figures, living men and women whose language is melody. In Lucia we have one such figure, a young woman on the throes of adulthood, yet one who finds her equivalent in Shakespeare’s Juliet, to whom the Bard gives the immortal words “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,/My love as deep; the more I give to thee,/The more I have, for both are infinite”. In this cavallo di battaglia, Donizetti weaves arguably one of the most beautiful arias ever written. Characteristic of this melody are his long phrases that give the impression that the singer is actually even singing over the rests, prompting the comparison with Milton’s words “notes of many a winding bout of linked sweetness long drawn out”. It is an aria that requires a mature emotional and intellectual response to the woes and travails of a woman doomed a destiny she is neither able to change nor able to cope with.
F Lehar ‘Tace il labbro’ (The Merry Widow)
Often called 'The Queen of Operettas', this is certainly the most celebrated and successful show of its kind ever written. The melodies and songs - Vilja", "The Merry Widow Waltz", "You'll Find Me At Maxim's" to name but a few - are lovingly played and sung the whole world over, making it one of the surest box-office attractions of all time. This duet is among the most poignant in all the musical numbers that are scattered all over the operetta. At once thoughtful and mature, the brimming sparkle that characterises this work is never far from the surface. It is a refined, sophisticated and very elegant work that is the hallmark of artistic comedy at its highest level.
G Verdi (1813-1901) Brindisi (La Traviata)
La traviata is an opera in three acts by set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. It is based on La dame aux Camélias (1852), a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils. The title "La traviata" means literally The Woman Gone Astray, or perhaps more figuratively, The Fallen Woman. Both Piave and Verdi wanted to follow Dumas in giving the opera a contemporary setting, but the authorities at La Fenice insisted that it be set in the past, "c. 1700". It was not until the 1880s that the composer and librettist's original wishes were carried out and "realistic" productions were staged. The Brindisi occurs at the beginning of the first Act, and it is a musical number that, like champagne, is bubbly, sparkling and brilliant in both its rhythmic drive and wonderful melody.