TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY
 

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  Giuseppe Verdi

1
"Nabucco" — 1842
"Ernani" — 1844

"Macbeth" — 1847
"Rigoletto" — 1851
"Il Trovatore" - 1853
"La Traviata" — 1853

2
"Les vepres siciliennes" - 1855
"Un ballo in maschera" - 1859
"La forza del destino" - 1862
"Don Carlos" -  1867

3
"Aida" - 1871
Messa da Requiem -  1874
"Otello" - 1887
"Falstaff" - 1893
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
CONTENTS
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Giuseppe Verdi
 
 

Verdi 1886
 
 
Giuseppe Verdi, in full Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi (born October 9/10, 1813, Roncole, near Busseto, duchy of Parma [Italy]—died January 27, 1901, Milan, Italy), leading Italian composer of opera in the 19th century, noted for operas such as Rigoletto (1851), Il trovatore (1853), La traviata (1853), Don Carlos (1867), Aida (1871), Otello (1887), and Falstaff (1893) and for his Requiem Mass (1874).

Early years
Verdi’s father, Carlo Giuseppe Verdi, an innkeeper and owner of a small farm, gave his son the best education that could be mustered in a tiny village, near a small town of about 4,000 inhabitants, in the then-impoverished Po Valley. The child must have shown unusual talent, for he was given lessons from his fourth year, a spinet was bought for him, and by age 9 he was standing in for his teacher as organist in the village church. He attended the village school and at 10 the ginnasio (secondary school) in Busseto.

A little later he composed music (now lost) for the town church and the largely amateur orchestra. One of Busseto’s leading citizens, Antonio Barezzi, a merchant and fanatical music enthusiast, became a second father to the young prodigy, taking him into his home, sending him to study in Milan, and in 1836 giving him his daughter Margherita in marriage. Refused by the Milan Conservatory—he was past the admission age and played the piano poorly—Verdi studied privately with Vincenzo Lavigna, an older composer and an associate of La Scala opera house (Teatro alla Scala). Milan was the intellectual and operatic centre of Italy, and in the years 1832–35 Verdi seems to have learned much about literature and politics there as well as counterpoint and the elements of opera. Later, after his great success with Nabucco, he attended literary salons in the city and made lasting friendships with some cultivated aristocrats.

Barezzi’s plan was for Verdi to return to Busseto as music director, but when this post fell open in 1833 a furious political storm developed leading to long delays. Soured by this, Verdi nonetheless took a compromise position and stayed from March 1836 to October 1838, teaching and composing a good deal, though all he published was a set of songs in 1838.

Needless to say, he had his eye on greater things. The music that he had written during these years must have impressed the right people, for after some difficulty he succeeded in getting an opera, Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio, produced at La Scala in March 1839. Ordinary as the piece may seem today, it succeeded well enough to travel to Genoa and Turin and to gain him a commission for three more operas at Italy’s leading theatre. His rising career was deflected by tragedy: in 1840 his young wife died, following the deaths of two infant children. In addition to this personal grief, Verdi saw his next opera, Un giorno di regno (King for a Day), a comedy, hissed off the stage. This compounded trauma led to a severe depression and either caused or fixed the dour, fatalistic, sometimes harsh aspects of Verdi’s character.



Verdi in 1842

 

Early career
Verdi overcame his despair by composing Nabucodonoser (composed 1841, first performed 1842; known as Nabucco), based on the biblical Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar II), though the well-known story he told later about snapping out of his lethargy only when the libretto fell open at the chorus “Va, pensiero”—by that time one of his most beloved works—is no longer credited. (The older Verdi embroidered on various aspects of his early life, exaggerating the lowliness of his origins, for example.) Nabucco succeeded as sensationally as Un giorno had failed abjectly, and Verdi at age 28 became the new hero of Italian music. The work sped across Italy and the whole world of opera; within a decade it had reached as far as St. Petersburg and Buenos Aires, Argentina. While its musical style is primitive by the composer’s later standards, Nabucco’s raw energy has kept it alive a century and a half later.

There followed a period (1843–49) during which Verdi drove himself like a galley slave, as he himself put it, and to the detriment of his health, to produce nearly two operas a year. His aim was to make enough money for early retirement as a gentleman farmer at Sant’Agata, close to Roncole, where his forebears had settled. He purchased land there as early as 1844. To “produce” an opera meant, at that time, to negotiate with an impresario, secure and edit (often heavily) a libretto, find or approve the singers, compose the music, supervise rehearsals, conduct the first three performances, deal with publishers, and more—all this while shuttling from one end of Italy to the other in the days before railroads.

Though masterpieces were unlikely to emerge from a schedule like this, Verdi’s next two operas were, amazingly, just as wildly successful: I Lombardi alla prima crociata (1843; The Lombards on the First Crusade) and Ernani (1844). The latter became the only work of the “galley-slave” period to gain a steady place in the opera repertory worldwide. His other operas had varying receptions. A list made in 1844 of possible subjects for librettos shows Verdi’s high-minded concern for literary and dramatic values. It included King Lear, a project he would return to and abandon several times in later years. In the 1840s he drew on Victor Hugo for Ernani, Lord Byron for I due Foscari (1844; The Two Foscari) and Il corsaro (1848; The Corsair), Friedrich von Schiller for Giovanna d’Arco (1845; Joan of Arc), I masnadieri (1847; The Bandits), and Luisa Miller (1849), Voltaire for Alzira (1845), and Zacharias Werner for Attila (1846).

Only with Macbeth (1847), however, was Verdi inspired to fashion an opera that is as gripping as it is original and, in many ways, independent of tradition. Just as the biblical theme had contributed to the grandeur of Nabucco, so the tragic theme of Shakespeare’s drama called forth the best in him. Verdi knew the value of this work and revised it in 1865, excising some of its crudities; but its greatest number, the harrowing sleepwalking scene of Lady Macbeth, could be left just as it was written in 1847.



Margherita Barezzi, Verdi's first wife.
(La Scala Museum, Milan)


 

By that time he was receiving lucrative commissions from abroad—from London (I masnadieri) and Paris (Jérusalem, a thorough revision of I Lombardi, 1847). La battaglia di Legnano (1849; The Battle of Legnano), a tale of love and jealousy set against the Lombard League’s victory over Frederick Barbarossa in 1176 ce, was Verdi’s emphatic response to the Italian unification movement, or Risorgimento, which spilled over into open warfare in 1848, the year of revolutions. Greeted ecstatically at the time, this opera later faded.

It is often said that in the earlier operas, too, choruses and other numbers calling for liberation or revolt were taken metaphorically as revolutionary rallying cries, and evidently this did happen on isolated occasions. However, it was only after unification in 1861, when the conte di Cavour, seeking to involve as many important Italians as possible, persuaded the composer to stand for the Chamber of Deputies—which he attended faithfully but soon resigned from—that Verdi came to be widely celebrated as a national hero. “Va, pensiero,” the song of the enslaved Hebrews in Nabucco, assumed the status of an unofficial national anthem. That the vision of Verdi as “singer of the Risorgimento” owes less to historical fact than to patriotic nostalgia should not be thought to diminish its significance; adapted to words about the downtrodden masses, “Va, pensiero” could still be heard at Italian communist rallies in the 1990s.



Verdi as a young man in Milan

 

The early middle years
The prima donna who created Abigaille in Nabucco, Giuseppina Strepponi, who also had helped Verdi as early as 1839 with Oberto, ultimately became his second wife. Her love, support, and practical assistance on behalf of Verdi, over half a century, was boundless, though he was not an easy husband.

Born in 1815, Strepponi had a quite successful, if short, career. Living for a time with her agent, one Camillo Cirelli, in effect as common-law wife, she had borne three children, the oldest of whom (her only son, Camillino) was reared by her former maid. (The two other children were daughters and were given up for adoption.) When her voice began to deteriorate she set up as a teacher in Paris, where Verdi met her again in 1847 while there to produce Jérusalem. They fell in love and were soon living together, though they did not marry until 1859. Strepponi, a devout Catholic, seems to have felt herself unworthy to be Verdi’s wife, a feeling that one suspects Verdi may have shared on some level. It also seems possible that marriage was put off until her son came of age in 1859.

The new richness and depth of Verdi’s musico-dramatic characterization in these years, especially though not exclusively of women, may have developed out of his relationship with Strepponi. She is often evoked in connection with the sympathetic and radiant portrayal of Violetta in La traviata (The Fallen Woman—a rough analogy, to be sure, for Violetta the courtesan had fallen a great deal farther than Strepponi the singer). Yet Verdi showed scant sympathy for the real-life woman when he determined to move back with her to Busseto in 1849 and then to Sant’Agata, where small-town outrage at their liaison reached a peak. For some time he refused to allow her to accompany him on his many travels, which left her alone in a very hostile environment. He himself responded furiously to local censure and refused to have anything to do with Busseto and its musical activities, having first scrupulously repaid with interest the contribution made by the commune to his musical education.

In the meantime he had composed three operas that remain his best known and best loved: Rigoletto (1851), Il trovatore (1853; The Troubadour), and La traviata (1853). The tunes were better than any he had written before, the drama tighter and more exciting, and the characterization altogether original. Rigoletto makes an important technical advance toward a coherent presentation of the drama in music, especially in the famous third act; there is less distinction between the recitatives (the parts of the score that carry the plot forward in imitation of speech), which tend toward arioso (melodic, lyric quality), and the arias, which are treated less formally and dovetailed into their surroundings, sometimes almost unobtrusively. Even greater is the contrast of style in La traviata, with its intimate mood and lyrical pathos—a vein Verdi had previously explored in Luisa Miller. (Click here for an audio clip of an aria from La traviata. Click here for another excerpt, from Rigoletto, as sung by tenor Enrico Caruso. Another audio clip from Verdi may be heard at the Britannica biography of Amelita Galli-Curci.)

By this time he had honed his skills as a competitor in the rapacious marketplace that was 19th-century Italian opera—or, as he always saw it, the grim site of major battles, endless skirmishes, and equivocal victories. He drove hard bargains, complained bitterly at every reverse, stonewalled, and sued. He tried to insist that his operas be performed exactly as written, without cuts, transpositions, or substitutions.

He met his match with the censors, especially after 1848. The plot of Le roi s’amuse, the play by Hugo that inspired Rigoletto, features a curse that was deemed blasphemous and the attempted murder of a king that was politically taboo; only after the king was demoted to a duke and various other modifications were made could the text be approved. Traviata experienced problems of another kind. With La Dame aux camélias (“The Lady of the Camellias”), Alexandre Dumas fils had just caused a considerable scandal in Paris, and Verdi’s operatic version, though at first performed in 17th-century costumes, too obviously broke from operatic convention in setting a present-day subject, and a risqué one at that. For this reason and also because a stout prima donna had been cast as the consumptive heroine, the first performance was a rare Verdi fiasco. “Is it my fault or the singers’? Time will show,” was Verdi’s characteristically laconic comment. After minor revisions and a new production, the opera carried all before it.




Giuseppina Strepponi around 1840

 

The later middle years
Verdi had become an international celebrity, and the change in his status was reflected in his art. From 1855 to 1870 he devoted himself to providing works for the Opéra at Paris and other theatres conforming to the Parisian operatic standard, which demanded spectacular dramas on subjects of high seriousness in five acts with a ballet. He was pointedly challenging Giacomo Meyerbeer, the one European composer more renowned and wealthier than he was, on Meyerbeer’s own ground. While these operas show advances in many areas and include superb scenes, none of them is as satisfactory as a whole as any of the three great operas of the early 1850s.

His first essay in the new manner, Les Vêpres siciliennes (1855; The Sicilian Vespers), is a rather cold piece that has had only lukewarm success from its premiere on. The fault lay partly in the libretto—by Meyerbeer’s own librettist, the poet Eugène Scribe; Scribe merely refashioned an old piece he had written for Gaetano Donizetti.

Two pieces for Italian theatres, Simon Boccanegra (1857) and Un ballo in maschera (1859; A Masked Ball), affected to a lesser extent by the impact of the grand operatic style, show the enrichment of Verdi’s power as an interpreter of human character and as a master of orchestral colour. Boccanegra, despite a gloomy and excessively complex plot, includes powerful scenes and creates a special windswept atmosphere appropriate to its Genoese pirate protagonist. (Verdi often spoke of the unique tinta [“colour”] of each of his operas.) Much more successful with the public was Ballo, a romantic version of the assassination of Gustav III of Sweden—even though again the censorship barred the murder of a king and so made nonsense of the story, its setting transported from 18th-century Stockholm to Puritan Boston, a hundred years earlier. These years also saw Aroldo (1857), an unsuccessful revision of Stiffelio (1850).

In 1862 Verdi represented Italian musicians at the London Exhibition, for which he composed a cantata to words by the up-and-coming poet and composer Arrigo Boito. In opera the big money came from foreign commissions, and in the same year his next work, La forza del destino (The Force of Destiny), was produced at St. Petersburg. Always on the lookout for novel dramatic material, Verdi had wanted to tackle the epic narrative extending over many years and many locations, with scenes of high life and low. This he managed in Forza, which also includes the most extended religious scene in a Verdi opera and his first substantial comic role, that of the irascible Friar Melitone. Verdi finally surpassed Meyerbeer at the Paris Opéra (at least according to opinion at the turn of the 21st century—though not at the time) with Don Carlos (1867), a setting of another play by Schiller that is for once worthy of the original—and in which religion is portrayed much more harshly, and much more in accordance with Verdi’s lifelong strong anticlerical sentiments, than in Forza. Despite its problematic ending, Don Carlos is regarded by some as Verdi’s masterpiece, or at least his masterpiece prior to the Shakespeare operas of his last years.

Verdi felt that both operas with foreign commissions required revision for Italian theatres; this he accomplished for Forza in 1869 and Don Carlo (as it is now usually called) in 1884 and 1887. He needed none with the piece in which at last he fashioned a libretto exactly to his needs, Aida. Verdi wrote a detailed scenario—much simpler than those of the previous two operas—employing Antonio Ghislanzoni, a competent poet, to turn it into verse, the metres of which were often dictated by the composer. Commissioned by the khedive of Egypt to celebrate the opening of Cairo’s new Opera House in 1869 (Verdi had earlier declined a commission for an inaugural hymn celebrating the opening of the Suez Canal), Aida finally premiered there in 1871 and went on to receive worldwide acclaim. Verdi had achieved the grandeur and the gravitas of the Parisian style without its notorious excess padding and without any weak spots, and onto it he had grafted an emotional intensity that only he could furnish.



Giuseppina Strepponi

Late years
When Gioachino Rossini, the most revered figure in modern Italian music, died in 1868, Verdi proposed that a requiem mass in his honour be composed by himself and a dozen of his contemporaries. The project collapsed and Angelo Mariani, who was to have conducted the performance, seemed to Verdi less than wholehearted in his support. Verdi, who could not bear being thwarted, visited his wrath on the unfortunate Mariani, who was the most distinguished Italian conductor of the day and, until then, had been one of his closest friends. The quarrel shows both Verdi and Giuseppina at their worst. Verdi could never forgive an injury, real or imagined, as attested to by his lifelong hatred of La Scala and its audience, which had rejected Un giorno di regno, and his contempt for the town of Busseto. The breach with Mariani widened when the conductor refused to go to Cairo to direct the first performance of Aida. He pleaded illness and was indeed suffering terribly from cancer, of which he died in 1873. Things reached a very ugly pitch when a scurrilous newspaper story accused Verdi of stealing Mariani’s fiancée, the soprano Teresa Stolz.

Although little is known for certain, Giuseppina’s private papers reveal her great distress. She worked valiantly to preserve the marriage, persevering in the most cordial relations possible with Stolz, who finally made some kind of break when she left Italy in 1876. Apparently Giuseppina had put her foot down. But two years later Stolz resumed visits to Sant’Agata, and it was clear the relationship had not blown over. Twenty years later, letters from Verdi that somehow escaped destruction speak of his love for Stolz. She was present at the composer’s deathbed.

In 1873, while waiting in a Naples hotel for a production of Aida, Verdi wrote a string quartet, the only instrumental composition of his maturity. In the same year, he was moved by the death of the Italian patriot and poet Alessandro Manzoni to compose a requiem mass in his honour. He was able to incorporate into it the final movement (“Libera me”) that he had written for the abortive Rossini mass. One of the masterpieces in the oratorio tradition, often heard in concert series into the 21st century, the Manzoni Requiem is an impressive testimony to what Verdi could do outside of the field of opera.

After 1873 the maestro considered himself retired, at long last, from that world of opera to which he had been bound for so many years in a love-hate relationship. He settled in at Sant’Agata, where the same iron hand and obsessive attention to detail that he had applied to operatic rehearsals came to control all aspects of his farming enterprise. A 20-year program of enlargement and improvement of his estates made him a major landholder and a very wealthy man. He funded major charities, of which the best known is the Casa di Riposo per Musicisti, a home for aged musicians that is still in operation in Milan.

His unintended and unimagined return to the stage, many years after Aida, was entirely due to the initiative of his publisher, Giulio Ricordi. Reluctant to allow his most profitable composer to rest on his laurels, Ricordi contrived a reconciliation with Arrigo Boito, who had offended Verdi by some youthful criticism. A proposal that Boito should write a libretto based on Shakespeare’s Othello attracted the old composer, and, as a sort of test, the now-prominent man of letters and composer of the opera Mefistofele agreed to revise the unsatisfactory libretto of Simon Boccanegra. The latter opera is still performed because of Boito’s revision of 1881. The Othello project then took shape, very slowly, on and off, until the opera finally opened at La Scala in 1887. In his 74th year, Verdi, stimulated by a libretto far superior to anything he had previously set, had produced his tragic masterpiece. In Otello the drama is absorbed into a continuous and flexible musical score vastly advanced in style over that of Aida, reflecting every aspect of the characters and every nuance of the action.

After a rapturous tour with Otello throughout Europe, Verdi once more retreated to Sant’Agata, declaring that he had composed his last opera. Yet Ricordi and Boito, who had grown very close to the old man, managed to intervene one more time. With infinite skill, Boito converted Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, strengthened with passages adapted from the Henry IV plays, into the perfect comic libretto, Falstaff, which Verdi set to miraculously fresh and mercurial music (and this time with fewer delays). This, his last dramatic work, produced at La Scala in 1893, avenged the cruel failure of Verdi’s only other comedy in the same theatre half a century earlier.

Even after Falstaff Verdi still interested himself in composition. His list of works ends with sacred music for chorus: a Stabat Mater and a Te Deum published, along with the somewhat earlier and slighter Ave Maria and Laudi alla Vergine Maria, under the title Quattro pezzi sacri (Four Sacred Pieces) in 1898. After a long decline Giuseppina had died in 1897, and Verdi himself gradually grew weaker and died four years later.
 

Assessment
Born in the same year, Verdi and Richard Wagner created parallel, mutually exclusive types of opera that figure equally among the greatest achievements of 19th-century culture. Their works remain at the heart of opera repertory at the beginning of the 21st century.

Verdi appeared on the operatic scene just as the Italian bel canto tradition of Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, and Donizetti, in the quarter-century from about 1815 to 1845, entered its waning phase. He transformed it and dominated Italian opera alone for another 30 years. It was a period of constant experimentation, constant refinement of musical and dramatic means—a process that seems to have continued underground to germinate the two transcendent Shakespeare operas written 20 years after his supposed retirement.

At first it was mainly his vigour and dramatic intelligence that distinguished his operas, works that audiences could feel were continuing safely in his predecessors’ footsteps. But step by step Verdi modified the rigid conventions of bel canto opera, which showed off singers at the expense of dramatic values. Verdi’s genius was to dismantle the system while still giving the singers (and their audiences) melody and brilliance in ample measure. All of this was in the service of drama, as Verdi always stressed, and drama, as he saw it, emerged from the interaction of people in striking, usually dire situations—people who were characterized unforgettably by Verdi’s music. No opera composer has ever assembled a more varied and vivid portrait gallery: Rigoletto, evil jester and loving father; self-sacrificing Violetta of La traviata and self-destructive Amneris of Aida; implacable Fiesco in Simon Boccanegra; the page Oscar in Ballo; the passionate Leonora of Trovatore and the tormented Leonora of Forza; the truly Shakespearean Lady Macbeth; and Verdi’s own Desdemona.

His operas move rapidly, with unerring dramatic rhythm. He developed a whole new musical vocabulary, which broadened the role of the orchestra without compromising the primacy of the voice. He introduced a range of subject matter never before touched in opera; the later Verdi could be subtle, gentle, and atmospheric as well as powerful. Generations of listeners the world over, in and out of the opera house, have loved Verdi’s melodies. The best of them serve the drama, capturing his characters’ emotions with a warmth and directness achieved by few other composers.

Dyneley Hussey
Joseph Kerman

Encyclopædia Britannica
 
 
 

Giuseppe Verdi in 1876 by Ferdinand Mulnier
 
 
 

Giuseppe Verdi was born into a poor family near Parma in Italy. When he showed early musical promise, his father made sacrifices to buy him a second-hand spinet, on which Verdi learnt the basics of music.

At the age of 12 Verdi became the local organist; despite talent as a composer, however, he was denied entrance to the Milan Conservatoire in favour of better-trained young musicians. Undeterred by this rejection, Verdi persisted and was rewarded when a patron enabled him to study privately in Milan. At 20 Verdi was by all accounts badly dressed, with a wasted figure and a face that could have been chiselled from a block of wood; nonetheless, his patron's daughter, to whom he was giving singing and piano lessons, fell in love with him. The two were married in 1836.

Verdi had by this time penned his first opera, Oberto; with the help of friends it was produced at La Scala opera house. Its moderate success led to a commission to write three more. The first, a comedy, was a failure. Nabucco soon followed and was an instant success. Its plot, concerning the conflict between Assyrians and Jews, immediately tired the imaginations of the Italian audience. They empathized with the plight of the Jews, sensing

similarities with their own struggle against Austrian oppression, and the famous Slaves' chorus "Va pensiero", was encored at its premiere despite a rule to the contrary. The production of Nabucco took place during a time of great emotional upheaval for Verdi: in quick succession he lost his two children and then his wife. Only the support of friends got him through what was the most difficult period of his life. The opera's success helped restore a temporary lack of faith in himself, and Verdi threw himself into his work, striving for new heights of achievement.

Italian opera up to this time had been dominated by Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, whose approach allowed singers to demonstrate their talents in showpiece arias. Verdi was more concerned with the dramatic aspects of opera. In fact he asked for a "rough, hoarse, and gloomy voice, with something diabolical about it" for the role of Lady Macbeth in Macbeth (1847), rather than the soprano already chosen, who could merely sing "to perfection."

After Macbeth three of Verdi's most famous operas followed: Rigoletto in 1851, La traviata in 1853 — both using libretti by Francesco Mana Piave, with whom Verdi collaborated on nine operas — and Il trovatore, also in 1853. La traviata treats the theme of selfless love, whereas the other two are highly emotional operas centring on the darker side of human nature and involving hatred, murder, torture, dishonour, and seduction. More operas followed, showing further maturing of style and enlargement of vision: Les vepres siciliennies was written for Paris, Un ballo in maschera for Romе, La forza del destino for St Petersburg, Don Carlo again for Pans, and Aida for Cairo. Verdi spent more time travelling; in London he met Giuseppa Strepponi, whom he married in 1859.

For 15 years after Aida in 1871 Verdi wrote no more operas; but in 1874 his masterly Requiem, written to commemorate his friend the poet and novelist Manzoni, was first performed in Milan. The mixture of religious devotion with highly dramatic music may have offended the purists, but this choral work was nonetheless another triumph.

By now in his seventies, Verdi composed his two last operas, Otello and Falstaff, performed m 1887 and 1893 respectively. Both were unqualified successes. Verdi was nervous about the reception that would be accorded Falstaff, perhaps mindful of the failure of his earlier comedy. But this time he had a brilliant librettist in Arrigo Boito, and Verdi drew on a lifetime's experience to create an opera in which plot, orchestra, music, and singers are perfectly balanced.

Verdi died in Milan in 1901 at the grand age of 87. Two-hundred-thousand people watched his funeral procession pass by, and although he had requested that no music be played, a member of the crowd began to sing "'Va pensiero" and the refrain was taken up by the multitude.

 
 


Verdi in 1859

 
 
 

Messa da Requiem
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Quattro pezzi sacri
Ave Maria
Stabat mater
Laudi alla vergine Maria
Te Deum

 

"Aida"
Karin Van Arkel (with Peter Nilsson at the piano)
Ritorna Vincitor 
Choeur des Marais, L. Touche - piano
Choeur triomphal

Drew Slatton
Celeste Aida

Irina Vasilieva
Aria of Sacerdotessa

 

"Macbeth"
Women's Glee Club
Witches' Chorus
Peter Furlong
Ah, la paterna mano
Paula Goodman Wilder
Si colme il calice
La luce Langue

 

"Le Trouvere"
Choeur des Marais, L. Touche - piano
Choeur des bohemiens

Caltech Women's Glee Club
Vedi! Le fosche notturne spoglie
Irina Vasileva
Aria of Leonora

 

"Traviata"
Choeur des Marais, L. Touche - piano
Prelude
Choeur des zingarelle
Prelude du 3e acte

Women's Glee Club
Brindisi
Drew Slatton
Libiamo!
Daniela Stigliano
Libiam nei lieti calici
Addio del passato

 

"Nabucco"
Choeur des Marais
, L. Touche - piano
Choeur des esclaves

Irina Vasilieva
Aria of Abigaile
Women's Glee Club
Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves

 

"Rigoletto"
Krista Adams Santilli
Caro Nome
Martha Kostiouk Hollier
Arie of Gilda

 

"Un ballo in maschera"
Shuna Sendall
Morro, ma prima in grazia

 

 
 
 
The Best of Verdi
 
KPM Philharmonic Orchestra - The Best of Verdi
Rigoletto - Overture
Rigoletto - "La donna è mobile" ( 2:22 )
Rigoletto - "Cortigiani, vil razza dannata" ( 4:45 )
Nabucco - Overture ( 9:22 )
Nabucco - "Va Pensiero" ( 19:25 )
Nabucco - "Gli arredi festivi" ( 24:07 )
La Traviata - Preludio Act 1 ( 30:03 )
La Traviata - Preludio Act 4 ( 33:49 )
La Traviata - "Di provenza il mar, il suol" ( 37:29 )
La Traviata - "Libiamo ne' lieti calici" ( 41:50 )
Aida - Overture ( 45:00 )
Aida - "Marcia Trionfale" ( 49:41 )
Aida - Entrata Atto 2 ( 50:44 )
Un Ballo In Maschera - "Morrò, ma prima in grazia" ( 55:07 )
La Traviata - "Un dì felice, eterea" ( 59:51 )
La Forza del Destino - Overture ( 1:02:32 )
La Forza del destino - "Son Pereda son ricco d'onore" ( 1:09:59 )
I Lombardi - Overture ( 1:12:39 )
Macbeth - Overture ( 1:17:15 )
Macbeth - Balletto Act 3 ( 1:20:34 )
Macbeth - Valzer Act 3 ( 1:23:05 )
Macbeth - "Che faceste, dite su" ( 1:26:21 )
Il Trovatore - "Vedi! Le fosche notturne spoglie" ( 1:29:53 )
Il Trovatore - "Il balen del suo sorriso" ( 1:32:49 )
Il Trovatore - "Stride la vampa" ( 1:38:35 )
Don Carlo - "O don fatale" ( 1:41:05 )
I Vespri Siciliani - Overture ( 1:45:39 )
Requiem - "Dies Irae" ( 1:56:14 )
 
 
 
 
 
 
Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio — 1839
Un Giorno di Regno — 1840

Nabucco — 1842

I Lombardi' — 1843

"Ernani" — 1844


I due Foscari — 1844
Giovanna d’Arco — 1845
Alzira — 1845
(Attila) — 1846

"Macbeth" — 1847

I masnadieri — 1847
Jérusalem — 1847
Il corsaro — 1848
La battaglia di Legnano — 1849
Luisa Miller — 1849
Stiffelio — 1850

"Rigoletto" — 1851
"Il Trovatore" - 1853
"La Traviata" — 1853
"Les vepres siciliennes" - 1855


Giovanna de Guzman - 1855
Simon Boccanegra — 1857
Aroldo — 1857

"Un ballo in maschera" - 1859
"La forza del destino" - 1862
"Don Carlos" -  1867
"Aida" - 1871
Messa da Requiem -  1874
"Otello" - 1887

Quattro Pezzi Sacri — 1892

"Falstaff" - 1893
 
 
 
 
 
Nabucco - complete Opera. Renato Bruson
 
Nabucco, Verdi. With Renato Bruson, Maurizio Frusoni, Carlo Colombara, Lauren Flanigan, Monica Bacelli. Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro di San Carlo. Conductor: Paolo Carignagni. 1997.
 
 
 
 
 
GIUSEPPE VERDI - NABUCCO - Opera complet
 
Nabucco, rey de Babilonia - barítono Piero Cappuccilli
Abigaille, supuestamente su hija mayor- soprano Ghena Dimitrova
Fenena, hija de Nabucco mezzosoprano- Lucia Valentine Terrani
Ismaele, sobrino del rey de Jerusalén tenor- Placido Domingo
Zaccaria, Sumo Sacerdote de Jerusalén bajo- Evgeny Nesterenko
Anna, hermana de Zaccaria soprano- Lucia Popp
Abdallo, soldado babilonio tenor - Volker Horn
Sumo Sacerdote de Babilonia bajo- Kurt Rydl
Pueblo, soldados

Coro y Orquesta de la Ópera Alemana de Berlín

Director: Giuseppe Sinopoli

Nabucco es una tragedia lírica en cuatro partes con música de Giuseppe Verdi y libreto en italiano de Temistocle Solera, basada en el Antiguo Testamento y la obra Nabuchodonosor, de Francis Cornue y Anicète Bourgeois. Fue estrenada el 9 de marzo de 1842 en La Scala de Milán, con Giuseppina Strepponi en el papel de Abigaille.

 
 
 
 
 
Verdi - Nabucco - Overture
 
Nabucco (short for Nabucodonosor, English Nebuchadnezzar) is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera, based on the Biblical story and the 1836 play by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Francis Cornue. It is Verdi's third opera and the one which is considered to have permanently established his reputation as a composer.

Nabucco follows the plight of the Jews as they are assaulted, conquered, and subsequently exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King Nabucco (in English, Nebuchadnezzar). The historical events are used as background for a romantic and political plot.

Its first performance took place on 9 March 1842 at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan under the original name of Nabucodonosor. The definitive name of Nabucco for the opera (and its protagonist) was first used at a performance at the San Giacomo Theatre of Corfu in September, 1844. Nonetheless, a more plausible alternative for the establishment of this abbreviated form claims that it was the result of a revival of the opera in Teatro Giglio of Lucca..

The best-known number from the opera is the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves," Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate / "Fly, thought, on golden wings," a chorus which is regularly given an encore when performed today

Verdi commented that "this is the opera with which my artistic career really begins. And though I had many difficulties to fight against, it is certain that Nabucco was born under a lucky star." The opera was an instant success, dominating Donizetti's and Giovanni Pacini's operas playing nearby. While the public went mad with enthusiasm, the critics tempered their approval of the opera..

The best-known number from the opera is the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves," Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate / "Fly, thought, on golden wings," a chorus which is regularly given an encore when performed today.

Every summer, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra holds a summer concert of music guaranteed to please the crowds at the outdoor countryside venue of Waldbühne, a few miles outside Berlin.

Based on the amphitheater in the ancient Greek city of Epidaurus, and nestled in a natural valley, the Waldbuhne theater seats 22,000 in leafy comfort and remains one of Berlin's favorite open air concert venues, with magnificent views of the stage. World class conductors lead the Berlin Philharmonic in evening concerts of popular Italian, French, Russian and American favorites.

This is a recording of the concert from 2006, conducted by Marco Armiliato.

 
 
 
 
 
Nabucco - Hebrew Slaves Chorus
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
"Ernani" — 1844
 
 
 
Ernani is an operatic dramma lirico in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play Hernani by Victor Hugo.

Verdi was commissioned by the Teatro La Fenice in Venice to write an opera, but finding the right subject took some time, and the composer worked with the inexperienced Piave in shaping first one and then another drama by Hugo into an acceptable libretto. As musicologist Roger Parker notes, the composer "intervened on several important points, insisting for example that the role of Ernani be sung by a tenor (rather than by a contralto as had originally been planned).

Ernani was first performed on 9 March 1844 and it was "immensely popular, and was revived countless times during its early years". It became Verdi's most popular opera until it was superseded by Il trovatore after 1853. In 1904 it became the first opera to be recorded completely.


Composition history

Following the success of both Nabucco and I Lombardi, Verdi was approached by many opera companies wanting to commission him to write an opera for their houses. Rather than prepare another for La Scala, he was interested in a commission for two operas for the 1843–44 season (one of which would be I Lombardi) which came from the President of the Teatro la Fenice in Venice, Marquis Nanni Mocenigo.

However, the composer was only willing to accept the terms which he proposed: 12,000 Austrian lire to be paid after the first performance, not the third as proposed by Venice (Verdi recalled what had happened to Un giorno di regno with its one and only performance). Amongst other stipulations, he demanded the right to choose his own subject, his own librettist, and also to pay him directly, as well as refusing to accept the requirement that a full orchestral score be available in advance. In addition, he had the right to choose the singers from the assembled company for that season. David Kimbell notes one additional demand:

"He explains [to Mocenigo at La Fenice] - and this was rare at the time - that he began to compose only when the libretto was completed to his satisfaction because 'when I have a general conception of the whole poem, the music comes of its own accord' "
Once this agreement was settled upon, the next step was to choose a subject, something which took some time. Several subjects came to Verdi's attention: for example, Byron's The Corsair was considered, but the right baritone was not available. In thinking about an opera about the Venetian Foscari family, he found that it was forbidden by the censor in order avoid upsetting any of the descendants of that family who were then living in Venice. However, both of these subjects were to become later Verdi operas, Il corsaro and I due Foscari.

An unsolicited manuscript from the unknown Francesco Piave (who was La Fenice's resident poet and stage manager addition to being a friend of Brenna, the company's Secretary) proposed an opera, Cromwell, based on Victor Hugo's play, and on which he had started work. Mocenigo assured the composer of Piave's sense of the theatre and of musical forms, and so they agreed to proceed, although by the time of its approval by the Fenice authorities, it had become Allan Cameron, a story set in the time just prior to the accession of Britain's Charles II. Immediately, Verdi took control and made it clear to Piave what he wanted in the way of a theatrical experience:[2] "...Let's have as few words as possible [.....] Remember that brevity is never a fault [....] But I do insist on brevity because that's what the public wants...."

The idea for Hernani

The Cromwell libretto arrived from Piave in pieces, and Verdi put it away until he had the complete version to work from. However, when the composer and La Fenice's president met in Venice in late August, Verdi expressed some dissatisfaction at how the libretto had turned out. Then Mocenigo's casual reference to Hugo's successful 1830 drama Hernani as an idea for a libretto caught Verdi's imagination, as seen in a letter which the latter wrote to Mocenigo in early September which expressed concerns about Allan Cameron and the way it had turned out, though noting that this was "the fault of the subject and not the poet". He continues:

But oh, if only we could do Hernani instead that would be tremendous. I know that it would mean a great deal of trouble for the poet but my first task would be to try and compensate him.....[...] all he would have to do would be to condense and tighten up; the action is already there ready made, and it's all immensely good theatre. Tomorrow I'll write at length to Piave setting out all the scenes from Hernani which seem to me suitable.
At this point he continues with suggestions for the poet. For Verdi, the appeal of Hugo's work – which the latter described as "Romanticism or the Liberalism in literature" – was "the struggle between love and honour", and Budden sums up this appeal as "Within Hugo's scheme each illogical action follows logically from the one that precedes it, giving Verdi the pace, the eventfulness and above all the dramatic unity that he has been looking for."

Setting the play as the opera, Ernani

However, Piave was not at all pleased by this turn of events and felt that an opera based on Hernani could not be staged for reasons of censorship. For instance, the King's first appearance in the play is from a cupboard where he has been hiding since some time after his arrival and before he meets Elvira. Thus he overhears much of the interaction between Elvira and Ernani before finally revealing himself. Verdi must have realized that no king "would ever be allowed to hide in a cupboard", something which Budden notes.

But the La Fenice directorate did approve the concept and the librettist was offered compensation, though he saved his Allan Cameron in reserve in case of mishap. As it evolved, the opera – originally titled Don Ruy Gomez de Silva in synopsis form – came more and more "to reflect the unique character of the parent drama" as Verdi wished to stick as closely as possible to the original play. For Budden, this "marks a new outlook in Italian opera", because this would never have occurred to either Rossini or Donizetti, for whom plots were interchangeable.

Although Verdi had agreed to try to accommodate the contralto Carolina Vietti when the opera was Allan Cameron, he was against making the leading character of Ernani a musico contralto. However, he compromised somewhat and, by the end of October, it appeared that the four voice types were to be soprano (Elvira), contralto (Ernani), tenor (Don Carlo), and baritone (de Silva), but after the acceptance of the libretto by the Venetian police, Verdi was able to hold firm and ultimately get what he wanted: a soprano, a tenor, a baritone, and – although Rosi was not an experienced enough singer – a bass in the role of de Silva. Thus it became a comprimario role, one to sung by a second-rung singer in the company. But, as Budden notes, Verdi's "difficulties with singers were not yet over".

The season opened with I Lombardi in December 1843. It was a disaster, with terrible singing from the tenor Domenico Conti. Two other operas early in the 1843/44 season were equally poorly received. Having heard one other potential tenor, Vitali, as a possible replacement, the composer presented an ultimatum: either be released from his contract or the company would engage Carlo Guasco in the role of Ernani. With a premiere set for March, two final glitches were overcome: the bass Rosi had disappeared from consideration as de Silva but was replaced by Meini, who then withdrew because he found the part too low. Verdi then engaged a member of the chorus, the bass Antonio Selva who went on to a distinguished career. And, in spite of complaints from the soprano, Sophie Löwe, that she was not be front and centre for the finale, she became part of the final trio.

Verdi and theatre
Budden notes the following in regard to the specific relationship between this opera and the work of Victor Hugo:

...from the first the spirit of Hugo is there. Verdi [ten years younger than the playwright] was part of that youthful audience to which the play Hernani is addressed. The bounding energy of Hugo's alexandrines is reflected in the spirit of Verdi's music, which is far more forceful than anything he had written so far. Victor Hugo, one might say, was good for Verdi; and it significant that both the operas that he based on Hugo's plays (the other was of course Rigoletto) were landmarks in his career.
But it is the composer himself who, in a letter to Brenna, the La Fenice secretary and a friend of Piave's, sums up his own sense of theatre, of what works and what doesn't. This was written at a time when Piave was unhappy about the shift from his original libretto to the one for what became Ernani. With this shift came many changes of direction as issues such as casting came into consideration, and Verdi asks Brenna to communicate his feelings to the librettist:

However little experience I may have had, I do go to the theatre [Verdi is referring to the opera house] all the year round and I pay the most careful attention to what I see and hear. I've been able to put my finger on so many works which wouldn't have failed if the pieces had been better laid out, the effects better calculated, the musical forms clearer, etc.....in a word, if either the composer or the poet had been more experienced.
In effect, Verdi is taking control over all aspects of the piece, which includes the condensation of the sprawling play into his four acts. (The first three acts of Hugo's play become act 1 of the opera). Rather than allow the librettist a free hand in composing his verses, "this would have perpetuated in a diminished form the word-music division that Verdi precisely wanted to get away from. The composer's desire to take charge of every aspect of an opera implied that he had the power to decide what weight to give the text and the music, respectively, depending upon the "moment" of the action.

Performance history
19th century

Budden sums up the opening night success of Ernani: nothing "prevented [the opera] from being a tremendous success. With it, Verdi's fame took a new leap which carried it at once across the boundaries of Italy. For better or worse, he was now a world composer [.....and] wherever there was an Italian opera house, Ernani arrived sooner or later." However, it was not all smooth sailing: due to Hugo's opposition, the first performances in Paris at the Théâtre des Italiens two years later required a change of title - to Il Proscritto - and a change of characters' names: "The practice was followed in other cities where the names Victor Hugo and Hernani smacked of revolution." In Palermo in 1845 it became Elvira d'Aragona and in Messina in 1847 the title became Il proscritto ossia Il corsaro di Venezia, but overall Ernani was staged in one form or another up to the mid-1850s in at least fourteen Italian cities.

The UK premiere, the first of Verdi's operas to be translated into English, took place at Her Majesty's Theatre in London on 8 March 1845 followed on 13 April 1847 by its US premiere in New York.

20th century and beyond

Today, Ernani is an infrequently performed work, although it appeared on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera as early as 1903 and has been given eighty-eight performances up to the March/April stagings in 2008. The opera regained some popularity from the early-1980s onward and was revived in a series of new productions at the San Francisco Opera (1982), Lyric Opera of Chicago (1984), at La Scala (1984) and the Met (1985), the 2008 stagings being the first since that time. It was given as part of the 1997 season of the Sarasota Opera's "Verdi Cycle". The Teatro Regio di Parma, another company with the aim of presenting every Verdi opera, gave it in October 2005.

It was given in May 2008 by Opera Boston, a now-defunct company, which used to present unusual or rarely staged works, and the Melbourne City Opera staged it in March/April 2009. That same year, in October/November, it formed part of the Lyric Opera of Chicago's season. The Bilbao company, ABAO, (which also aims to present all of the composer's work in their "Tutto Verdi" series) presented Ernani in January 2010. The Met revived it for six performances in February 2012, the 25 February performance of which was broadcast to theatres as part of the Met-in-HD season.

Including the Met's 2012 performances, the Operabase listing of past and future performances shows 37 performances of 12 productions in 12 cities since 1 January 2011.


Synopsis

Time: 1519.
Place: Aragon, Aachen, and Zaragoza.

Act 1

Mountains of Aragon

The bandits demand the reason for Ernani's gloom (Chorus: Evviva! Beviam! Beviam! / "To you we drink"; Ernani pensoso! / "Ernani, so gloomy? Why, oh strong one, does care sit on your brow?"). Ernani replies that he loves Elvira (Recitative: "Thanks, dear friends"; Cavatina: Come rugiada al cespite / "As the flower turns to the sun"), who is about to be married against her will to old Gomez de Silva (O tu che l'alma adora). He asks the bandits to abduct her.

In Elvira's chamber

Elvira worries about her upcoming marriage (Scena: "Now sinks the sun and Silva does not return"; Cavatina: Ernani, Ernani involami / "Ernani, Ernani, save me") as servants deliver Silva's wedding presents to her. She reaffirms her love for Ernani (Tutto sprezzo che d'Ernani / "I scorn everything which does not speak to my heart of Ernani"). King Carlos, disguised as a peasant, enters, but Elvira recognizes him and rejects the love that he offers her. As he attempts to use force, she grasps a dagger, but Ernani suddenly arrives and stops Carlos (Trio: "A friend comes quickly to your aid"). Carlos recognizes Ernani as the leader of the bandits. Ernani replies that Carlos robbed him of his lands and forced him into a life of banditry. As he invites Carlos to fight, Silva appears and sees Ernani (Infelice!... e tu credevi... che mai vegg'io! / "Dreadful sight"; Silva's cavatina: "Unhappy man! You thought this lovely...was yours").

[La Scala, Autumn 1844 Silva's cabaletta added: "Infin che un brando vindice" using music originally written for Verdi's first opera, Oberto]

Ernani offers to fight them both when Riccardo approaches and recognises the king. Silva is horrified and apologizes to the king, while Ernani whispers to Elvira to prepare to flee.

Act 2
A hall in Silva's palace

Ernani enters disguised as a pilgrim. He asks for shelter, which Silva grants him, and then learns from Silva that he is about to marry Elvira, who believes Ernani to be dead. Ernani reveals his true identity to Elvira and she tells him that she plans to kill herself at the altar (Duet: Ah, morir potessi adesso / "Ah, if I could die now"). Silva walks in at that moment, discovers the pair, but agrees to keep his word to Ernani and protect him from the king, for which Ernani will owe him a perpetual debt. (Trio: No, vendetta più tremenda / "No, I want to keep a greater revenge"). Carlos arrives and wishes to know why the castle is barred. Silva refuses to surrender Ernani (Carlos' aria: Lo vedremo, veglio audace / "We shall see, you bold old man") and Don Carlos's men cannot find Ernani's hiding place. Silva keeps his word, even when the king secures Elvira as a hostage. Silva releases Ernani, and then challenges him to a duel. Ernani refuses to fight, but unites with Silva in his plans to free Elvira from the king. Ernani swears to appear at the summons of Silva, wherever he may be at that time (Odi il voto o grande Iddio / "Oh God, hear the vow"),

[Added for Parma, 26 December 1844: "at Rossini's request, Verdi wrote a grand aria for the tenor Nicola Ivanoff". Ernani gathers his men to him. His aria of vengeance: Sprezzo la vita né più m'alletta / "Life means nothing to me, only hope of vengeance" concludes the act].


Shrine of Charles at Aachen.
In the burial vault of Charles the Great at Aachen



Act 3

Act III: "O sommo Carlo"

Carlos visits the grave of the emperor Charlemagne (Carlo Magno), whose successor, the new Holy Roman Emperor, is being elected by delegates from the relevant countries. Carlos resolves to change his life if he is crowned (Cavatina: Oh, de' verd'anni miei/ "Oh, the dreams and deceits of my youth"). Hiding behind the vault, he overhears a gathering of conspirators including Silva and Ernani. Ernani swears to murder Carlos. The conspiracy is foiled when Carlos's attendants enter and surprise the conspirators. The king commands that all the traitorous noblemen be executed. Ernani steps forward, declaring that thus he must die too; he is not the bandit Ernani, but Don Juan of Aragon, whose lands were taken from him. Elvira, who had been brought to Carlos as his intended empress, begs mercy for her lover, and Carlos, whose mood has changed, forgives them both and places Elvira's hand in that of Ernani.

Act 4
Ernani's Castle

Elvira and Ernani have just been married, when, in consternation, Ernani hears a bugle call. Silva arrives and silently hands Ernani a dagger. Ernani asks for time to "sip from the cup of love" (Ascolta, ascolta un detto ancor/ "Listen, just one word...") but, cursed by Silva as a coward, Ernani keeps his oath and stabs himself in the heart (Trio with Silva: È vano, o donna, il piangere, è vano / "Your weeping is in vain, woman"). He dies in Elvira's arms, telling her to live.

Orchestration
Ernani is scored for one piccolo, one flute, two oboes, two clarinets, one bass clarinet, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, one cimbasso, one harp, timpani, bass drum and cymbals, snare drum, on-stage band with on-stage bass drum, one offstage horn, six offstage trumpets, and strings.

Music
Noting that the dramatic structure of this opera "brought about a fresh consideration of the fixed forms of Italian opera, in particular an expansion and enrichment of the solo aria and duet together with a more flexible approach to the musical sequences that bind together lyrical pieces", Roger Parker continues by stating that of greatest importance was "Verdi's gathering sense of musical drama's larger rhetoric, his increasing control over the dynamics of entire acts rather than merely of entire numbers. In this respect, the third act of Ernani sets up an imposing standard of coherence, one that is rarely equalled until the operas of the early 1850s."

However, it is writer Gabriele Baldini (whose specialization was in English literature) who in 1980 points to one of the most significant aspects of Ernani's dramatic and musical structure, the concept of male vocal archetypes, something which is echoed in Budden's 1984 chapter on this opera. Baldini writes of the musical conflicts inherent in the drama as a result of the use of certain voice types:

A youthful, passionate female voice is besieged by three male voices, each of whom establishes a specific relationship with her. The siege is fruitless. The male voices, or rather registers, meet with various fates, and each is granted a relationship with the woman, although on different levels. This relationship varies in intensity of passion according to the distance between the soprano register and the particular male voice.
Therefore, it is the lowest voice [the bass, de Silva], which is "farthest away, and thus his relationship is the coldest and most retrained". The baritone [the King, Don Carlo] "manages to draw somewhat closer, although indirectly and ambiguously", but Baldini continues by noting that it the highest male voice [the tenor, Ernani] who "gets near a relationship which if not complete [....] is at least reciprocated for long periods".

Finally, while Baldini agrees with Parker that it is act 3 of Ernani which is the strongest - "in my opinion it marks the first occasion on which Verdi enclosed within a fairly extended musical space (about twenty five minutes) a perfect structural unit" - he also echoes Budden and De Van in noting the importance of the opening horn motif and references to the horn which recur throughout the opera and which ends with the final horn call, the fatal summons to Ernani by de Silva.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
Giuseppe Verdi - ERNANI
 
Salvatore Licitra, Daniela Dessi', Thomas Hampson. Carlo Colombara and Nello Santi in Zurich 2010. Ernani (complete)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
"Macbeth" — 1847
 
Macbeth is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi, with an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave and additions by Andrea Maffei, based on William Shakespeare's play of the same name.

Written for the Teatro della Pergola in Florence, it was Verdi's tenth opera and first given on 14 March 1847. Macbeth was the first Shakespeare play that Verdi adapted for the operatic stage. Almost twenty years later, Macbeth was revised and expanded in a French version and given in Paris on 19 April 1865.

After the success of Attila in 1846, by which time the composer had become well established, Macbeth came before the great successes of 1850 to 1853 (Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata) which propelled him into universal fame. As sources, Shakespeare's plays provided Verdi with lifelong inspiration: some, such as an adaption of King Lear (as Re Lear) were never realized, but he wrote his two final operas using Othello as the basis for Otello (1887) and The Merry Wives of Windsor as the basis for Falstaff (1893).

The first version of Macbeth was completed during the time which Verdi described as his "galley years" which ranged over a period 16 years, and one which saw the composer produce 22 operas. By the standards of the subject matter of almost all Italian operas during the first fifty years of the 19th century, Macbeth was highly unusual. The 1847 version was very successful and it was presented widely. Pleased with his opera and with its reception, Verdi wrote to Antonio Barezzi, his former father-in-law and long-time supporter about two weeks after the premiere:

“ I have long intended to dedicate an opera to you, who have been father, benefactor, and friend to me. It was a duty I should have fulfilled sooner if imperious circumstances had not prevented me. Now, I send you Macbeth which I prize above all my other operas, and therefore deem worthier to present to you. ”
The 1865 revision, produced in a French translation and with several additions was first given on 19 April of that year. It was less successful, and the opera largely faded from public view until the mid-20th century revivals.


Composition history
Original 1847 version

Influenced by his friendship in the 1840s with Andrea Maffei, a poet and man of letters who had suggested both Schiller's Die Räuber (The Robbers) and Shakespeare's play Macbeth as suitable subjects for operas, Giuseppe Verdi received a commission from Florence's Teatro della Pergola, but no particular opera was specified. He only started working on Macbeth in September 1846, the driving reason for that choice being the availability of a particular singer, the baritone Felice Varesi who would sing the title role.[5] With Varesi under contract, Verdi could focus on the music for Macbeth. (Maffei was already writing a libretto for I masnadieri, which was based on the suggested Schiller play, but it could have been substituted for Macbeth had the baritone not be available. Due to various complications, including Verdi's illness, that work was not to receive its premiere until July 1847).

Piave's text was based on a prose translation by Carlo Rusconi that had been published in Turin in 1838. Verdi did not encounter Shakespeare's original work until after the first performance of the opera, although he had read Shakespeare in translation for many years, as he noted in an 1865 letter: "He is one of my favorite poets. I have had him in my hands from my earliest youth".

Writing to Piave, Verdi made it clear how important this subject was to him: "....This tragedy is one of the greatest creations of man... If we can't make something great out of it let us at least try to do something out of the ordinary". In spite of disagreements and Verdi's need to be constantly bully Piave into correcting his drafts (to the point where Maffei had a hand in re-writing some scenes of the libretto, especially the witches' chorus in Act 3 and the sleepwalking scene), their version follows Shakespeare's play quite closely, but with some changes. Instead of using three witches as in the play, there is a large female chorus of witches, singing in three part harmony (though it should be noted that they are divided in three groups, and that every group sings as a single witch, using "I" and not "we"). The last act begins with an assembly of refugees on the English border, and, in the revised version, ends with a chorus of bards celebrating victory over the tyrant.

1865 revised version for Paris
As early as 1852 Verdi was asked by Paris to revise his existing Macbeth in that city. However, nothing transpired but, again in 1864, Verdi was asked to provide additional music - a ballet and a final chorus - for a production planned at the Théâtre Lyrique (Théâtre-Lyrique Impérial du Châtelet) in Paris. In a letter to his publisher, Giulio Ricordi asking for a copy of the score, Verdi stated that "I would like to lengthen several pieces to give the opera more character", but he quickly realized that the proposed additions would not be sufficient and that an overhaul of the entire opera was required. He went ahead to advise the impresario of the Lyrique, Léon Carvalho, that more time was needed and urged patience: "I am labouring, labouring, labouring" he assured the impresario and stressed that he wanted to look at the big picture and not try to hurry along a re-working of an opera he had written so many years before.

So began a revision of the original version of 1847 over the winter of 1864/65. Verdi's librettist from years before, Francesco Maria Piave, was pressed into service to expand the opera and the composer exerted his usual pressures on him as he had done from their first collaboration: "No, no, my dear Piave, it won't do!" was a typical reaction to a first draft—in this case it was of Lady Macbeth's new act 2 aria "La luce langue", the result of which (notes biographer Mary Jane Phillips-Matz) was "from Verdi's insistence came Lady Macbeth's gripping scene". With the addition of music for Lady Macbeth, Macbeth's aria in act 3 was completely re-written—as was a considerable amount of the rest of act 3; a ballet was added in act 3; a chorus began act 4; and the ending of act 4 was also changed, Verdi being determined to drop Macbeth's final aria Mal per me che m'affidai ("Trusting in the prophecies of Hell") in favour of an off-stage death, to end with the triumphal chorus.

If all these specific demands which were placed on Piave were not enough, Verdi wrote a very lengthy letter to Ricordi outlining what he saw as the dramatic demands of the revision. Some relate to crucial elements in the drama, especially how Banquo's appearances as a ghost should be presented. Ultimately however, Verdi had little power over the staged production, but—in regard to the translation—he did insist that the translator, when considering the act 2 duet between the Macbeth couple, retain the words "Folie follie" as written in order to emphasise the dramatic impact which those words created.

One final letter, this time in February to Escudier, relates to what Verdi saw as "the three roles in this opera, and there can only be three". He then lays out that there is "Lady Macbet, (sic) Macbet, (sic) [and the] Chorus of Witches", discounting the role of Macduff.  and he continues by noting that, for him, "the Witches rule the drama.....They are truly a character, and a character of greatest importance."

The new version was first performed on 21 April 1865 in a French translation by Charles-Louis-Étienne Nuitter and Alexandre Beaumont, although Verdi had asked for it to be done by Gilbert Duprez, the tenor-turned-teacher in whom he had great confidence and whom he knew from his performances in his first opera for Paris, Jérusalem in 1847. The composer refused to attend the Paris performance, but provided directions via his publisher, others directly to Escudier. Initially, the reports from Escudier were favourable, but the first performance was poorly received by the critics, something which puzzled the composer: "I thought I had done quite well with it...it appears I was mistaken" he stated when he wrote to his Paris publisher, Escudier. Later performances in Paris fared no better.

In Italian, the opera was given at La Scala in the autumn of 1865, but few if any others in Italy appear to be have been presented Since its revival in Europe from the 1960s, the revised version of Macbeth in Italian remains the preferred version for modern performances.

Performance history
19th Century

The 1847 version, after it was first given on 14 March of that year in Florence, was successful and was performed all over Italy in some 21 locations (some repeated)  until the revised version appeared in 1865, at which time it was recorded that it was given only in Turin (1867), Vicenza (1869), Firenze (1870), and Milan (1874).

The first version was given its United States premiere in April 1850 at Niblo's Garden in New York with Angiolina Bosio as Lady Macbeth and Cesare Badiali as Banco, while the United Kingdom premiere took place in October 1860 in Manchester.

After the 1865 premiere of the revised version, which was followed by only 13 more performances, the opera generally fell from popularity. It was given in Paris in April 1865 and then occasionally up to about 1900. However, after that, it was rarely performed until after World War II.

20th Century and beyond

The US premiere of the later version did not take place until 24 October 1941 in New York, but two European productions, in Berlin in the 1930s and at Glyndebourne in 1938 and 1939, were important in helping the 20th Century revival. The 1938 production was the UK premiere of the revised version and the first to combine the death of Macbeth from the 1847 version with the triumphal ending from the 1865 version, something totally against Verdi's wishes.

Glydebourne revived it in the 1950s but it was not until 1959 that it appeared on the Metropolitan Opera's roster for the first time. (It has been given 91 performances between 1959 and the 2008 revival). Similarly, the first presentations at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with Tito Gobbi (and then others in the title role) took place on 30 March 1960, with other productions presented in 1981 and 2002. The visiting "Kirov Opera" (as today's Mariinsky Opera was then known), presented it in London at Covent Garden in 2001.

In recent times, the opera has appeared more frequently in the repertories of companies such as the Washington National Opera (2007) and the San Francisco Opera (Nov/Dec 2007) and in many other opera houses worldwide, but almost all productions stage the revised version in Italian.

However, the 1847 version was given in concert at the Royal Opera House on 27 June 1997 and both the original and the revised versions were presented in 2003 as part of the Sarasota Opera's "Verdi Cycle" of all the composer's operas in their different versions.

In 2012, the Grand Théâtre de Genève presented a production of the opera under the direction of Christof Loy who invited the Swedish contemporary artist Jonas Dahlberg to create the set design. Dahlberg, whose own work often deals with architecture and film, designed a set which resembled a black and white film. He used Alfred Hitchcock's, Rebecca, and Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr as key references to "dive in the dark and psychic intimacy of the characters". The musical director was Ingo Metzmacher. Lady Macbeth was performed by mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore, Davide Damiani sang Macbeth, and Christian Van Horn was Banco.

Operabase, the opera database which provides information on productions going forward from January 2012 into 2015 (and beyond as announced), currently shows 495 performances of 104 productions in 82 cities as having taken place or planned to take place. The "Opera Statistics" section reveals that this opera stands at number 27 of the top 50 operas performed in the five seasons from 2008/09 to 2012/13, with 140 performances.



Birgit Nilsson as Lady Macbeth, 1947



Synopsis

Note: there are several differences between the 1847 and the 1865 versions which are noted below in text in indented brackets

Place: Scotland
Time: 11th century

Act 1

Scene 1: A heath

Groups of witches gather in a wood beside a battlefield, exchanging stories of the evils they have done. The victorious generals Macbeth and Banco enter. The witches hail Macbeth as Thane of Glamis (a title he already holds by inheritance), Thane of Cawdor, and king "hereafter." Banco is greeted as "lesser than Macbeth, but greater", never a king himself, but the progenitor of a line of future kings. The witches vanish, and messengers from the king appear naming Macbeth Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth protests that the holder of that title is still alive, but the messengers reply that the former Thane has been executed as a traitor. Banco, mistrusting the witches, is horrified to find that they have spoken the truth. In a duet, Macbeth and Banco muse that the first of the witches' prophecies has been fulfilled. Macbeth ponders how close he is to the throne, and whether fate will crown him without his taking action, yet dreams of blood and treachery: while Banco ponders on whether the minions of Hell will sometimes reveal an honest truth in order to lead one to future damnation.

Scene 2: Macbeth's castle

Lady Macbeth reads a letter from her husband telling of the encounter with the witches. She is determined to propel Macbeth to the throne - by fair means or foul.

[Revised version, 1865: Vieni! t'affretta!/ "Come! Hurry!"].
Lady Macbeth is advised that King Duncan will stay in the castle that night; she is determined to see him killed (Or tutti, sorgete / "Arise now, all you ministers of hell"). When Macbeth returns she urges him to take the opportunity to kill the King. The King and the nobles arrive and Macbeth is emboldened to carry out the murder (Mi si affaccia un pugnal? / "Is this a dagger which I see before me?"), but afterwards is filled with horror. Disgusted at his cowardice, Lady Macbeth completes the crime, incriminating the sleeping guards by smearing them with Duncan's blood and planting on them Macbeth's dagger. Macduff arrives for an appointment with the King, while Banco stands guard, only for Macduff instead to discover the murder. He rouses the castle while Banco also bears witness to the fact of Duncan's murder. The chorus calls on God to avenge the killing (Schiudi, inferno, . . / "Open wide thy gaping maw, O Hell").

Act 2
Scene 1: A room in the castle

Macbeth is now king: Duncan's son Malcolm has fled the country, suspicion having conveniently fallen on him for his father's murder: but Macbeth is still disturbed by the prophecy that Banco, not he, will found a great royal line. To prevent this he tells his wife that he will have both Banco and his son murdered as they come to a banquet.

[1865 revised version: In her aria, La luce langue / "The light fades", Lady Macbeth exults in the powers of darkness]
Scene 2: Outside the castle

A gang of murderers lie in wait. Banco is apprehensive (Come dal ciel precipita / "O, how the darkness falls from heaven"). He is caught, but enables his son Fleanzio to escape.

Scene 3: A dining hall in the castle

Macbeth receives the guests and Lady Macbeth sings a brindisi (Si colmi il calice / "Fill up the cup"). The assassination is reported to Macbeth, but when he returns to the table the ghost of Banco is sitting in his place. Macbeth raves at the ghost and the horrified guests believe he has gone mad. Lady Macbeth manages to calm the situation once - and even mocks it by calling for a toast to the absent Banco (whose death is not yet public knowledge), only for the ghost to appear a second time and terrify Macbeth into insanity again. Macduff resolves to leave the country, saying it is ruled by a cursed hand and only the wicked may remain: the other guests are terrified by Macbeth's talk of ghosts, phantoms and witches. The banquet ends abruptly with their hurried, frightened departure.

Act 3
The witches' cave

The witches gather around a cauldron in a dark cave. Macbeth enters and they conjure up three apparitions for him. The first advises him to beware of Macduff. The second tells him that he cannot be harmed by a man 'born of woman'. The third that he cannot be conquered till Birnam Wood marches against him. (Macbeth: O lieto augurio / "O, happy augury! No wood has ever moved by magic power")

Macbeth is then shown the ghost of Banco and his descendants, eight future Kings of Scotland, verifying the original prophecy. (Macbeth: Fuggi regal fantasima / "Begone, royal phantom that reminds me of Banco"). He collapses, but regains consciousness in the castle.

[Original 1847 version: The act ends with Macbeth recovering and resolving to assert his authority: Vada in fiamme, e in polve cada / "Macduff's lofty stronghold shall / Be set fire....".]
A herald announces the arrival of the Queen (Duet: Vi trovo alfin! / "I've found you at last"). Macbeth tells his wife about his encounter with the witches and they resolve to track down and kill Banco's son, as well as Macduff and his family (whom they do not yet know has already fled the country). (Duet: Ora di morte e di vendetta / "Hour of death and of vengeance").
 

Act 4

Scene 1: Near the border between England and Scotland

Scottish refugees stand near the English border (Chorus: Patria oppressa / "Down-trodden country"):

[Original 1847 version: While each version uses the same libretto, the music of this chorus is different. It begins with a less ominous, much shorter orchestral introduction and is sung straight through by the entire chorus.][28]
[1865 revised version: the music is divided into sections for the male and female members, then it unites them towards the end. The revised version is 2 minutes longer than the original.]
In the distance lies Birnam Wood. Macduff is determined to avenge the deaths of his wife and children at the hands of the tyrant (Ah, la paterna mano / "Ah, the paternal hand"). He is joined by Malcolm, the son of King Duncan, and the English army. Malcolm orders each soldier to cut a branch from a tree in Birnam Wood and carry it as they attack Macbeth's army. They are determined to liberate Scotland from tyranny (Chorus: La patria tradita / "Our country betrayed").

Scene 2: Macbeth's castle

A doctor and a servant observe the Queen as she walks in her sleep, wringing her hands and attempting to clean them of blood (Una macchia è qui tuttora! / "Yet here's a spot"). She raves about the deaths of both Duncan and Banco, and even about the deaths of Macduff's family, and that all the perfumes of Arabia would not clean the blood off her hands: all are things that the horrified witnesses would never dare to repeat to any living man.

Scene 3: The battlefield

Macbeth has learned that an army of Scottish rebels backed by England is advancing against him, but is reassured by remembering the words of the apparitions, that no man born of woman can harm him. However in an aria (Pietà, rispetto, amore / "Compassion, honour, love") he contemplates the fact that he is already hated and feared: there will be no compassion, honour and love for him in his old age even if he wins this battle, nor kind words on a royal tomb, only curses and hatred. He receives the news of the Queen's death with indifference. Rallying his troops he learns that Birnam Wood has indeed come to his castle. Battle is joined.

[Original 1847 version's ending: Macduff pursues and fights Macbeth who falls. He tells Macbeth that he was not "born of woman" but "ripped" from his mother's womb. Fighting continues. Mortally wounded, Macbeth, in a final aria - Mal per me che m'affidai / "Trusting in the prophecies of Hell" - proclaims that trusting in these prophecies has caused his downfall. He dies on stage, while Macduff's men proclaim Malcolm to be the new King.]

Macduff pursues and fights Macbeth who falls wounded. He tells Macbeth that he was not "born of woman" but "untimely ripped" from his mother's womb. Macbeth responds in anguish (Cielo! / "Heaven") and the two continue fighting, then disappear from view. Macduff returns indicating to his men that he has killed Macbeth. He then turns to Malcolm, hailing him as King. The scene ends with a hymn to victory sung by bards, soldiers, and Scottish women (Salve, o re!/ "Hail, oh King!). Malcolm as King, and Macduff as hero, together swear to restore the realm to greatness.

Music
Baldini's analysis of the structure of the score in relation to the drama (and the comparison between the two versions) is highly detailed and worthy of examination. He notes that it is not always the 1865 material which is better or more suited than that from 1847. Writing in the Grove Dictionary, musicologist Roger Parker sees the opera as revealing Verdi's "attention to detail and sureness of effect unprecedented in earlier works. This holds true as much for the 'conventional' numbers....as for formal experiments like the Macbeth-Banquo duettino in act 1."

However, while he is not alone in raising the issue of the contrast between the 1847 version and that of 1865 ("the passage of 18 years was just too long to allow him to re-enter his original conception at every point"), in the final analysis for musicologist Julian Budden, the disparity between the versions cannot be reconciled. However, along with Parker, he does concede that "even the traditional elements are better handled than in Attila or Alzira [and] the arias grow organically from the implications of their own material, rather than from the deliberate elaboration of a formula."

But Deryck Cooke, in his 1964 essay "Shakespeare into Music", argues that Macbeth is inferior to both Verdi's later works inspired by Shakespeare (Otello, Falstaff) and the Bard's original:

Only during the present Verdi craze could his Macbeth be seriously set beside its tremendous original. What can we make of a Macbeth who pursues his fatal vision through a musical desert of the old fustian recitative, or a Lady Macbeth whose prayer to be unsexed is a barn-storming martial cabaletta? In the "Grand scena di sonnambulismo", admittedly, Verdi did so magically stroke the big strumming guitar of his orchestra, and so chasten the vocal pride of Italian bel canto, as to foreshadow his achievements of some forty years later.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
Giuseppe Verdi, Macbeth
 
Teatro alla Scala, Milano
Renato Bruson (Macbeth)
Maria Guleghina (Lady Macbeth)
Carlo Colombara (Banco)
Roberto Alagna (Macduff)
Fabio Sartori (Malcolm)

Direttore: Riccardo Muti
Regia: Graham Vick
Scenografia: Maria Bjornson

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
"Rigoletto" — 1851
 
 
Rigoletto is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. The Italian libretto was written by Francesco Maria Piave based on the play Le roi s'amuse by Victor Hugo. Despite serious initial problems with the Austrian censors who had control over northern Italian theatres at the time, the opera had a triumphant premiere at La Fenice in Venice on 11 March 1851.

It is considered by many to be the first of the operatic masterpieces of Verdi's middle-to-late career. Its tragic story revolves around the licentious Duke of Mantua, his hunch-backed court jester Rigoletto, and Rigoletto's beautiful daughter Gilda. The opera's original title, La maledizione (The Curse), refers to the curse placed on both the Duke and Rigoletto by a courtier whose daughter had been seduced by the Duke with Rigoletto's encouragement. The curse comes to fruition when Gilda likewise falls in love with the Duke and eventually sacrifices her life to save him from the assassins hired by her father.



La Fenice's poster for the world premiere of Rigoletto



Composition history

Verdi was commissioned to write a new opera by the La Fenice opera house in Venice in 1850. By this time he was already a well-known composer and had a degree of freedom in choosing the works he would prefer to set to music. He then asked Francesco Maria Piave (with whom he had already created Ernani, I due Foscari, Macbeth, Il Corsaro and Stiffelio) to examine the play Kean by Alexandre Dumas, père, but he felt he needed a more energetic subject to work on.

Verdi soon stumbled upon Victor Hugo's Le roi s'amuse. He later explained that "The subject is grand, immense, and there is a character that is one of the greatest creations that the theatre can boast of, in any country and in all history." It was a highly controversial subject, and Hugo himself had already had trouble with censorship in France, which had banned productions of his play after its first performance nearly twenty years earlier (it would remain banned for another thirty years). As Austria at that time directly controlled much of Northern Italy, it came before the Austrian Board of Censors. Hugo's play depicted a king (Francis I of France) as an immoral and cynical womanizer, something that was not accepted in Europe during the Restoration period.

From the beginning, Verdi was aware of the risks, as was Piave. In a letter which Verdi wrote to Piave: "Use four legs, run through the town and find me an influential person who can obtain the permission for making Le Roi s'amuse."[2] Correspondence between a prudent Piave and an already committed Verdi followed, but the two underestimated the power and the intentions of Austrians and remained at risk. Even the friendly Guglielmo Brenna, secretary of La Fenice, who had promised them that they would not have problems with the censors, was wrong. At the beginning of the summer of 1850, rumours started to spread that Austrian censorship was going to forbid the production. The censors considered the Hugo work to verge on lèse majesté and would never permit such a scandalous work to be performed in Venice. In August, Verdi and Piave prudently retired to Busseto, Verdi's hometown, to continue the composition and prepare a defensive scheme. They wrote to the theatre, assuring them that the censor's doubts about the morality of the work were not justified but since very little time was left, very little could be done. At the time, Piave and Verdi had titled the opera La maledizione (The Curse), and this unofficial title was used by Austrian censor De Gorzkowski in an emphatic letter written in December 1850 in which he definitively denied consent to its production, calling it "a repugnant [example of] immorality and obscene triviality."

In order not to waste all their work, Piave tried to revise the libretto and was even able to pull from it another opera, Il Duca di Vendome, in which the sovereign was with a duke and both the hunchback and the curse disappeared. Verdi was completely against this proposed solution and preferred instead to have direct negotiations with censors, arguing over each and every point of the work. At this point, Brenna, La Fenice's secretary, showed the Austrians some letters and articles depicting the bad character but the great value of the artist, helping to mediate the dispute. By January 1851 the parties were able to agree that the action of the opera would be moved from the royal court of France to a duchy of France or Italy, and some of the characters would have to be renamed. In the new version the Duke reigns over Mantua and belongs to the Gonzaga family. The House of Gonzaga had long been extinct by the mid-19th century, and the Dukedom of Mantua no longer existed, thus no one could be offended. The scene in which the sovereign retires to Gilda's bedroom would be deleted and the visit of the Duke to the Taverna (inn) was no longer intentional, but provoked by a trick. The hunchback jester (originally called Triboulet) was renamed Rigoletto from a parody of Hugo's play, Rigoletti, ou Le dernier des fous (Rigoletti, or The last of the fools). By 14 January, the opera's definitive title had become Rigoletto.

Verdi finally completed the composition of the opera on 5 February 1851, a little more than a month before the premiere, although as he worked on the final stages of Act 3, Piave had already arranged for the sets to be designed. The singers were given some of their music to learn on 7 February. However, Verdi kept at least a third of the score at Busseto. He brought it with him when he arrived in Venice for the rehearsals on 19 February and would continue to refine the orchestration during the rehearsal period.[8] For the première, La Fenice had cast Felice Varesi as Rigoletto, the young tenor Raffaele Mirate as the Duke, and Teresa Brambilla as Gilda (although Verdi would have preferred Teresa De Giuli Borsi). Due to the high risk of unauthorised copying, Verdi had demanded the maximum secrecy from all his singers and musicians. Mirate had use of his score only a few evenings before the première and had to swear that he would not sing or even whistle the tune of "La donna è mobile" except during the rehearsals.



Felice Varesi, the first Rigoletto
 

Performance history

19th-century productions



Rigoletto premiered on 11 March 1851 in a sold-out La Fenice as the first part of a double bill with Giacomo Panizza's ballet Faust. Gaetano Mares conducted, and the sets were designed and executed by Giuseppe Bertoja and Francesco Bagnara. The opening night was a complete triumph, especially the scena drammatica and the Duke's cynical aria, "La donna è mobile", which was sung in the streets the next morning (Verdi had maximised the aria's impact by only revealing it to the cast and orchestra a few hours before the premiere, and forbidding them to sing, whistle or even think of the melody outside of the theatre).] Many years later, Giulia Cora Varesi, the daughter of Felice Varesi (the original Rigoletto), described her father's performance at the premiere. Varesi was very uncomfortable with the false hump he had to wear; he was so uncertain that, even though he was quite an experienced singer, he had a panic attack when it was his turn to enter the stage. Verdi immediately realised he was paralysed and roughly pushed him on the stage, so he appeared with a clumsy tumble. The audience, thinking it was an intentional gag, was very amused.

Rigoletto was a great box-office success for La Fenice and Verdi's first major Italian triumph since the 1847 premiere of Macbeth in Florence. It initially had a run of 13 performances and was revived in Venice the following year, and again in 1854. Despite a rather disastrous production in Bergamo shortly after its initial run at La Fenice, the opera soon entered the repertory of Italian theatres. By 1852, it had premiered in all the major cities of Italy, although sometimes under different titles due to the vagaries of censorship (e.g. as Viscardello, Lionello, and Clara de Perth). From 1852, it also began to be performed in major cities worldwide, reaching as far afield as Alexandria and Constantinople in 1854 and both Montevideo and Havana in 1855. The UK premiere took place on 14 May 1853 at what is now the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London with Giovanni Matteo Mario as the Duke of Mantua and Giorgio Ronconi as Rigoletto. In the US, the opera was first seen on 19 February 1855 at New York's Academy of Music.

20th century and beyond

In modern times, it has become a staple of the standard operatic repertoire. It appears as number 9 (with 395 performances) on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide between 2008/2009 and 2012/13 seasons, and was also the 9th most frequently performed opera in Italy during that period.

Several modern productions have radically changed the original setting. These include Jonathan Miller's 1982 production for the English National Opera, which is set amongst the Mafia in New York City's Little Italy during the 1950s; Doris Dorrie's 2005 production for the Bavarian State Opera, where the Court of Mantua became The Planet of the Apes; director Linda Brovsky's production for Seattle Opera, placing the story in Mussolini's fascist Italy, in 2004 (repeated in 2014); and Michael Mayer's 2013 production for the Metropolitan Opera, which is set in a casino in 1960's Las Vegas. Different characters portray different archetypes from the Rat Pack era, with the Duke becoming a Frank Sinatra-type character and Rigoletto becoming Don Rickles.[19] In March 2014, Lindy Hume, artistic director of Australia's QPAC staged the opera set in the party-going world of disgraced former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.



Teresa Brambilla, the first Gilda, c. 1845



Synopsis

Place: Mantua
Time: the Sixteenth century

Act 1

Scene 1: A room in the palace

At a ball in his palace, the Duke sings of a life of pleasure with as many women as possible: "Questa o quella" ("This woman or that"). He has seen an unknown beauty in church and desires to possess her, but he also wishes to seduce the Countess of Ceprano. Rigoletto, the Duke's hunchbacked court jester, mocks the husbands of the ladies to whom the Duke is paying attention, and advises the Duke to get rid of them by prison or death. Marullo, one of the guests at the ball, informs the noblemen that Rigoletto has a "lover", and the noblemen cannot believe it. The noblemen resolve to take vengeance on Rigoletto. Subsequently Rigoletto mocks Count Monterone, whose daughter the Duke had seduced. Count Monterone is arrested at the Duke's order and curses the Duke and Rigoletto. The curse genuinely terrifies Rigoletto.


Act 1, Scene 2 stage set by Giuseppe Bertoja for the world premiere of Rigoletto



Scene 2: A street, with the courtyard of Rigoletto's house

Thinking of the curse, Rigoletto approaches his house and is accosted by the assassin Sparafucile, who walks up to him and offers his services. Rigoletto considers the proposition but finally declines; Sparafucile wanders off, after repeating his own name a few times. Rigoletto contemplates the similarities between the two of them: "Pari siamo!" ("We are alike!"); Sparafucile kills men with his sword, and Rigoletto uses "a tongue of malice" to stab his victims. Rigoletto opens a door in the wall and returns home to his daughter Gilda. They greet each other warmly: "Figlia!" "Mio padre!" ("Daughter!" "My father!"). Rigoletto has been concealing his daughter from the Duke and the rest of the city, and she does not know her father's occupation. Since he has forbidden her to appear in public, she has been nowhere except to church and does not even know her own father's name.

When Rigoletto has gone, the Duke appears and overhears Gilda confess to her nurse Giovanna that she feels guilty for not having told her father about a young man she had met at the church. She says that she fell in love with him, but that she would love him even more if he were a student and poor. As she declares her love, the Duke enters, overjoyed. Gilda, alarmed, calls for Giovanna, unaware that the Duke had sent her away. Pretending to be a student, the Duke convinces Gilda of his love: "È il sol dell'anima" ("Love is the sunshine of the soul"). When she asks for his name, he hesitantly calls himself Gualtier Maldè. Hearing sounds and fearing that her father has returned, Gilda sends the Duke away after they quickly trade vows of love: "Addio, addio" ("Farewell, farewell"). Alone, Gilda meditates on her love for the Duke, whom she believes is a student: "Gualtier Maldè!... Caro nome" ("Dearest name").

Later, a preoccupied Rigoletto returns: "Riedo!... perché?" ("I've returned!... why?"), while the hostile noblemen outside the walled garden (believing Gilda to be the jester's mistress, unaware she is his daughter) get ready to abduct the helpless girl. Convincing Rigoletto that they are actually abducting the Countess Ceprano, they blindfold him and use him to help with the abduction: "Zitti, zitti" ("Softly, softly"). With her father's unknowing assistance Gilda is carried away by the noblemen. Upon realizing that it was in fact Gilda who was carried away, Rigoletto collapses, remembering the curse.



Act 2

The Duke's Palace

The Duke is concerned that Gilda has disappeared: "Ella mi fu rapita!" ("She was stolen from me!") and "Parmi veder le lagrime" ("I seem to see tears"). The noblemen then enter and inform him that they have captured Rigoletto's mistress. By their description, he recognizes it to be Gilda and rushes off to the room where she is held: "Possente amor mi chiama" ("Mighty love beckons me"). Pleased by the Duke's strange excitement, the courtiers now make sport with Rigoletto, who enters singing. He tries to find Gilda by pretending to be uncaring, as he fears she may fall into the hands of the Duke. Finally, he admits that he is in fact seeking his daughter and asks the courtiers to return her to him: "Cortigiani, vil razza dannata" ("Accursed race of courtiers"). Rigoletto attempts to run into the room in which Gilda is being held, but the noblemen beat him. Gilda rushes in and begs her father to send the people away. The men leave the room, believing Rigoletto has gone mad. Gilda describes to her father what has happened to her in the palace: "Tutte le feste al tempio" ("On all the blessed days"). In a duet Rigoletto demands vengeance against the Duke, while Gilda pleads for her lover: "Sì! Vendetta, tremenda vendetta!" ("Yes! Revenge, terrible revenge!").



Caruso as the Duke of Mantua.
Arias from Rigoletto were amongst his earliest recordings.

 

Act 3
A street outside Sparafucile's house


A portion of Sparafucile's house is seen, with two rooms open to the view of the audience. Rigoletto and Gilda, who still loves the Duke, arrive outside. The Duke's voice can be heard singing "La donna è mobile" ("Woman is fickle"), laying out the infidelity and fickle nature of women. Rigoletto makes Gilda realize that it is the Duke who is in the assassin's house attempting to seduce Sparafucile's sister, Maddalena: "Bella figlia dell'amore" ("Beautiful daughter of love").

Rigoletto bargains with the assassin, who is ready to murder his guest for money, and offers him 20 scudi to kill the Duke. He orders his daughter to put on a man's clothes to prepare to leave for Verona and states that he plans to follow later. With falling darkness, a thunderstorm approaches and the Duke determines to remain in the house. Sparafucile assigns to him the ground floor sleeping quarters.

Gilda, who still loves the Duke despite knowing him to be unfaithful, returns dressed as a man. She overhears Maddalena begging for the Duke's life, and Sparafucile promises her that if by midnight another can be found in place of the Duke, he will spare the Duke's life. Gilda resolves to sacrifice herself for the Duke and enters the house. She is immediately mortally wounded and collapses.

At midnight, when Rigoletto arrives with money, he receives a corpse wrapped in a sack, and rejoices in his triumph. Weighting it with stones, he is about to cast the sack into the river when he hears the voice of the Duke singing a reprise of his "La donna è mobile" aria. Bewildered, Rigoletto opens the sack and, to his despair, discovers his mortally wounded daughter. For a moment, she revives and declares she is glad to die for her beloved: "V'ho ingannato" ("Father, I deceived you"). She dies in his arms. Rigoletto's wildest fear materializes when he cries out in horror: "La maledizione!" ("The curse!")

Instrumentation
The orchestra calls for 2 flutes (Flute 2 doubles piccolo), 2 oboes (Oboe 2 doubles English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in Eb, D, C, Ab, G, and F, 2 trumpets in C, D, and Eb, 3 trombones, cimbasso, timpani, bass drum and cymbals, strings.

Offstage: Banda, bass drum, 2 bells, thunder machine
Onstage: Violins I and II, violas, and contrabasses


Music

Musicologist Julian Budden regards the opera as "revolutionary", just as Beethoven' Eroica Symphony was: "the barriers between formal melody and recitative are down as never before. In the whole opera, there is only one conventional double aria [...and there are...] no concerted act finales." Verdi used that same word – "revolutionary" – in a letter to Piave, and Budden also refers to a letter which Verdi wrote in 1852 in which the composer states that "I conceived Rigoletto almost without arias, without finales but only an unending string of duets."

Budden's conclusions about this opera and its place in Verdi's output is summed up by noting that:

Just after 1850 at the age of 38 Verdi closed the door on a period of Italian opera with Rigoletto. The so-called ottocento in music is finished. Verdi will continue to draw on certain of its forms for the next few operas, but in a totally new spirit.


Recordings and adaptations
There have been dozens of commercial recordings of Rigoletto. The earliest ones include the 1912 performance in French with François Ruhlmann conducting the orchestra and chorus of the Opéra Comique (Pathé) and the 1916 performance in Italian with Lorenzo Molajoli conducting the orchestra and chorus of La Scala (Columbia Records). The first LP edition was released by RCA Victor in 1950 conducted by Renato Cellini and featured Leonard Warren in the title role. The opera has also been recorded in German with Wilhelm Schüchter conducting the orchestra and chorus of the Berlin State Opera in a 1953 recording for EMI Records and in English with Mark Elder conducting the orchestra and chorus of the English National Opera in a 1983 recording for EMI. In the 21st century there have been several live performances released on DVD including a 2001 performance from London's Royal Opera House with Paolo Gavanelli as Rigoletto and Marcelo Álvarez as the Duke (BBC/Opus Arte) and a 2006 performance at the Opernhaus Zürich with Leo Nucci as Rigoletto and Piotr Beczala as The Duke (ArtHaus Musik).

The Duke of Mantua's arias, particularly "La donna è mobile" and "Questa e quella", have long been showcases for the tenor voice and appear on numerous recital discs. Amongst Enrico Caruso's earliest recordings are both these arias, recorded with piano accompaniment in 1903 and again in 1906 with a full orchestra. Luciano Pavarotti, who has recorded the arias for several recital discs, also sings The Duke on three complete studio recordings of the opera: Decca (1972) conducted by Richard Bonynge; Decca (1989) conducted by Riccardo Chailly; and Deutsche Grammophon (1993) conducted by James Levine.

Rigoletto has been a popular subject for movies since the silent film era. On 15 April 1923, Lee DeForest presented 18 short films in his sound-on-film process Phonofilm, including an excerpt of Act Two of Rigoletto with Eva Leoni and Company. Some film versions, such as the 1993 children's film Rigoletto, are based on the opera's plot, but do not use Verdi's music. Curtiss Clayton's 2003 film Rick, set in modern day New York, has a plot based on Rigoletto, but apart from "La donna è mobile" heard in the background during a restaurant scene, does not include any other music from the opera. In the 21st century, the opera was filmed as Rigoletto Story directed by Vittorio Sgarbi with costumes by Vivienne Westwood. First screened at the Venice Biennale in 2004, it subsequently received two Grammy nominations.

In September 2010, RAI Television filmed the opera on location in Mantua with the court scenes taking place in the Palazzo Te. The film faithfully followed Verdi's original specification for the action to take place over two days, and each act was performed at the time of day indicated in the libretto. Broadcast live to 148 countries, the film starred Plácido Domingo in the title role, and Vittorio Grigolo as The Duke. The plot of the film Quartet revolves around the quartet "Bella figlia dell'amore", with which the film concludes.

Adaptations of the opera's music include Franz Liszt's [|Rigoletto Paraphrase]], a piano transcription of "Bella figlia dell'amore" (the famous quartet from Act 3) and a Fantasia on Rigoletto (Op.82) by Sigismond Thalberg which was published in Paris in the 1860s.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
 
Giuseppe Verdi - Rigoletto
 
Rigoletto, Opera in three acts. Libretto after Victor Hugo by Francesco Maria Piave. Bernd Weikl, baritone: Rigoletto. Lucia Popp, soprano: Gilda. Giacomo Jaime Aragall, tenor: Il Duce di Mantova. Jan-Hendrik Rootering, bass: Sparafucile. Klara Tákács, contralto: Maddelena. Helena Jungwirth, mezzo-soprano: Giovanna. Alexander Malta, baritone: Il Conte di Monterrone. Robert Riener, baritone: Marullo. Alexandru Jonita, tenor: Borsa. Gerhard Auer, bass: Il Conte di Ceprano. Renate Freyer, soprano: La Contessa. Karin Hautermann, soprano: Paggio. Theodor Nicolai, baritone: Usciere. Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks. Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Lamberto Gardelli.
 
 
 
 
 
Anna Netrebko, Verdi: Rigoletto, quartet
 
3.8.2007, Baden-Baden
 
 
 
 
 
Luciano Pavarotti - La Donna È Mobile / Rigoletto
 
Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's classic film of Verdi's dark tragedy features the legendary Luciano Pavarotti as the dashing Duke of Mantua
 
 
 
 
 
Luciano Pavarotti " La donna e mobile" Met, 1981
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
"Il Trovatore" - 1853
 
 
Il trovatore (The Troubadour) is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto largely written by Salvadore Cammarano, based on the play El trovador (1836) by Antonio García Gutiérrez. It was Gutiérrez's most successful play, one which Verdi scholar Julian Budden describes as "a high flown, sprawling melodrama flamboyantly defiant of the Aristotelian unities, packed with all manner of fantastic and bizarre incident."

The premiere took place at the Teatro Apollo in Rome on 19 January 1853, where it "began a victorious march throughout the operatic world," a success due to Verdi's work over the previous three years. It began with his January 1850 approach to Cammarano with the idea of Il trovatore. There followed, slowly and with interruptions, the preparation of the libretto, first by Cammarano until his death in mid-1852 and then with the young librettist Leone Emanuele Bardare, which gave the composer the opportunity to propose significant revisions, which were accomplished under his direction. These revisions are seen largely in the expansion of the role of Leonora.

For Verdi, the three years were filled with operatic activity because work on this opera did not proceed while the composer wrote and premiered Rigoletto in Venice in March 1851 and also while his personal affairs limited his activities. Then, in May 1851, an additional commission was offered by the Venice company after Rigoletto's success there. Then another came from Paris while he was visiting that city from late 1851 and into March 1852. Therefore, even before the libretto for Il trovatore was ever completed, before the music was written, and before the opera premiered, Verdi had a total of four different operatic projects underway and in various stages of development.

Today, in its Italian version, Trovatore is given very frequently and is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire.


Composition history

How and when Verdi acquired a copy of the Gutiérrez play is uncertain, but Budden notes that it appears that Giuseppina Strepponi, with whom Verdi had been living in Busseto since September 1849, had translated the play, as evidenced in a letter from her two weeks before the premiere urging him to "hurry up and give OUR Trovatore".

When considering setting Gutiérrez's play, Verdi turned to work with Cammarano, "the born operatic poet" (according to Budden). Their correspondence began as early as January 1850, well before Verdi had done anything to develop a libretto with Piave for what later became Rigoletto in Venice. At this time, it was also the first since Oberto that the composer was beginning to prepare an opera with a librettist but without a commission of any kind from an opera house. In his first letter to Cammarano, Verdi proposed El Trovador as the subject with "two feminine roles. The first, the gypsy, a woman of unusual character after whom I want to name the opera."

With regard to the chosen librettist's strength as a poet in preparing verse for opera, Budden also comments that his approach was very traditional, something which began to become clear during the preparation of the libretto and which appears in the correspondence between the two men.



Rosine Bloch as Azucena (Pierre Petit, 1865)

 

Relationship with Cammarano

Verdi's time and energy were spent mostly on finishing Rigoletto, which premiered at La Fenice in Venice in March 1851. Within a matter of weeks, Verdi was expressing his frustration to a mutual friend, de Sanctis, at having no communication from Cammarano. His letter emphasized that "the bolder he is, the happier it will make me," although it appears that Cammarano's reply contained several objections, which Verdi answered on 4 April and, in his response, he emphasized certain aspects of the plot which were important to him. These included Leonora taking the veil and also the importance of the Azucena/Manrico relationship. He continued by asking whether the librettist liked the drama and emphasized that "the more unusual and bizarre the better".

Verdi also plainly states that if there were no standard forms – "cavatinas, duets, trios, choruses, finales, etc. [....] and if you could avoid beginning with an opening chorus...." he would be quite happy. Correspondence continued between the two men for the following two months or so, including another letter from the composer of 9 April which included three pages of suggestions. But he also made concessions and expresses his happiness in what he is receiving in the way of verse.

During the period to follow, in spite of his preoccupations but especially after he had begun to overcome them, Verdi had kept in touch with the librettist. In a letter around the time of his intended departure for France, he wrote encouragingly to Cammarano: "I beg you with all my soul to finish this Trovatore as quickly as you possibly can."

Preoccupations and delays in 1851–1852

There then arose the question of where the opera would eventually be presented. Verdi had turned down an offer from Naples, but became concerned about the availability of his preferred Azucena, Rita Gabussi-De Bassini. She turned out not to be on the Naples roster, but expressed an interest in the possibility of Rome.

Things were put on hold for several months as Verdi became preoccupied with family matters, which included the illnesses of both his mother (who died in July) and father, the estrangement from his parents with communications conducted only between lawyers, and the administration of his newly acquired property at Sant'Agata (now the Villa Verdi near his hometown of Busseto), where he had established his parents. But his relationship with his parents, albeit legally severed, as well as Strepponi's situation living with the composer in an unmarried state, continued to preoccupy him, as did the deterioration of his relationship with his father-in-law, Antonio Barezzi. Finally, in April 1851, agreement was reached with the elder Verdis on the payment of debts mutually owed and the couple were given time to resettle, leaving Sant'Agata for Verdi and Strepponi to occupy for the next fifty years.

May 1851 brought an offer for a new opera from the Venice authorities, and it was followed by an agreement with the Rome Opera company to present Trovatore during the 1852/1853 Carnival season, specifically in January 1853.

By November Verdi and Strepponi left Italy to spend the winter of 1851/52 in Paris, where he concluded an agreement with the Paris Opéra to write what became Les vêpres siciliennes, his first grand opera, although he had adapted his earlier I Lombardi into Jerusalem for the stage. Including work on Trovatore, other projects consumed him, but a significant event occurred in February, when the couple attended a performance of Alexander Dumas fils's The Lady of the Camellias. What followed is reported by Verdi's biographer Mary Jane Phillips-Matz who states that the composer revealed that, after seeing the play, he immediately began to compose music for what would later become La traviata.

The couple returned to Sant'Agata by mid-March 1852 and Verdi immediately began work on Trovatore after a year's delay.

Death of Cammarano and work with Bardare

Then, in July 1852, by way of an announcement in a theatrical journal, Verdi received news of Cammarano's death earlier that month. This was both a professional and a personal blow. The composer learned that Cammarano had completed Manrico's third-act aria, "Di quella pira" just eight days before his death, but now he turned to De Sanctis to find him another librettist. Leone Emanuele Bardare was a young poet from Naples who was beginning his career; eventually he wrote more than 15 librettos before 1880. Composer and librettist met in Rome around 20 December 1852 and Verdi began work on both Trovatore and La traviata.

His main aim, having changed his mind about the distribution of characters in the opera, was to enhance the role of Leonora, thus making it "a two-women opera" and he communicated many of these ideas ahead of time via letters to De Sanctis over several months. Leonora now was to have a cantabile for the Miserere as well as retaining "Tacea la Notte" in act 1 with its cabaletta. Changes were also made to Azucena's "Stride la vampa" and to the Count's lines. Taking into account the last-minute requirements of the censor and the consequent changes, overall, the revisions and changes enhanced the opera, and the result was that it was a critical and a popular success.





Mezzo Emilia Goggi, sang Azucena

 

Performance history
In Italian as Il trovatore

The opera's immense popularity – albeit a popular successes rather than critical one – came from some 229 productions worldwide in the three years following its premiere on 19 January 1853, is illustrated by the fact that "in Naples, for example, where the opera in its first three years had eleven stagings in six theaters, the performances totaled 190".

First given in Paris in Italian on 23 December 1854 by the Théâtre-Italien at the Salle Ventadour, the cast included Lodovico Graziani as Manrico and Adelaide Borghi-Mamo as Azucena.

Il trovatore was first performed in the US on 2 May 1855 at the then-recently opened Academy of Music in New York while its UK premiere took place on 10 May 1855 at Covent Garden in London.

As the 20th Century proceeded there was a decline in interest, but Il trovatore saw a revival of interest after Toscanini's 1902 revivals. From its performance at the Met on 26 October 1883 up until 2010, the company has given it 615 performances.

Today, almost all performances use the Italian version and its popularity is illustrated by appearing at number 20 (with 190 performances) on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide from the 2008/09 season to the end of the 2012/2013 season.
 

In French as Le trouvère

After the successful presentation of the opera in Italian in Paris, François-Louis Crosnier, director of l'Opéra de Paris, proposed that Verdi revise his opera for the Paris audience as a grand opera, which would include a ballet, to be presented on the stage of the major Paris house. While Verdi was in Paris with Giuseppina Strepponi from late July 1855, working on the completion of Aroldo and beginning to prepare a libretto with Piave for what would become Simon Boccanegra, he encountered some legal difficulties in dealing with Toribio Calzado, the impresario of the Théâtre des Italiens, and, with his contacts with the Opėra, agreed to prepare a French version of Trovatore on 22 September 1855.

A translation of Cammarano's libretto was made by librettist Émilien Pacini under the title of Le trouvère and it was first performed at La Monnaie in Brussels on 20 May 1856. There followed the production at the Paris Opera's Salle Le Peletier on 12 January 1857 after which Verdi returned to Italy. Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie attended the latter performance.

For the French premiere, Verdi made some changes to the score of Le trouvère including the addition of music for the ballet in act 3 which followed the soldiers' chorus, where gypsies danced to entertain them. The quality of Verdi's ballet music has been noted by scholar Charles Osborne: "He could have been the Tchaikovsky of Italian ballet" he states, continuing to praise it as "perfect ballet music". In addition, he describes the unusual practice of Verdi having woven in themes from the gypsy chorus of act 2, ballet music for opera rarely connecting with the themes of the work. Several other revisions focused on Azucena's music, including an extended version of the finale of act 4, to accommodate the role's singer Adelaide Borghi-Mamo. Some of these changes have even been used in modern performances in Italian.

Rarely given in French, it was presented as part of the 1998 Festival della Valle d'Itria and in 2002 Le trouvère appeared as part of the Sarasota Opera's "Verdi Cycle" of all the composer's work.




Plácido Domingo (di Luna), Anna Netrebko (Leonora), Francesco Meli (Manrico),
Salzburg Festival 2014, act 2, sc. 2


Synopsis

Place: Biscay and Aragon (Spain)
Time: Fifteenth century.

Act 1: The Duel
Scene 1: The guard room in the castle of Luna (The Palace of Aljafería, Zaragoza, Spain)

Ferrando, the captain of the guards, orders his men to keep watch while Count di Luna wanders restlessly beneath the windows of Leonora, lady-in-waiting to the Princess. Di Luna loves Leonora and is jealous of his successful rival, the troubadour Manrico. In order to keep the guards awake, Ferrando narrates the history of the count (Aria: Di due figli vivea padre beato / "The good Count di Luna lived happily, the father of two sons"): many years ago, a gypsy was wrongfully accused of having bewitched the youngest of the di Luna children; the child had fallen sick and for this the gypsy had been burnt alive as a witch, her protests of innocence ignored. Dying, she had commanded her daughter Azucena to avenge her, which she did by abducting the baby. Although the burnt bones of a child were found in the ashes of the pyre, the father refused to believe in his son's death; dying, he commanded his firstborn, the new Count di Luna, to seek Azucena.

Scene 2: Garden in the palace of the princess

Leonora confesses her love for Manrico to her confidante, Ines (Tacea la notte placida / "The peaceful night lay silent"... Di tale amor / "A love that words can scarcely describe"). When they have gone, Count di Luna hears the voice of his rival, Manrico, in the distance: (Deserto sulla terra / "Alone upon this earth"). While Leonora in the darkness mistakes the count for her lover, Manrico himself enters the garden, and she rushes to his arms. The count recognises Manrico as his enemy, who has also been condemned to death due to his political affiliations, and challenges him to a duel over their common love. Leonora tries to intervene, but cannot stop them from fighting (Trio: Di geloso amor sprezzato / "The fire of jealous love" ).
 

Act 2: The Gypsy Woman[edit]
Scene 1: The gypsies' camp


The gypsies sing the Anvil Chorus: Vedi le fosche notturne / "See! The endless sky casts off her sombre nightly garb...". Azucena, the daughter of the Gypsy burnt by the count, is still haunted by her duty to avenge her mother (Aria: Stride la vampa / "The flames are roaring!"). The Gypsies break camp while Azucena confesses to Manrico that after stealing the di Luna baby she had intended to burn the count's little son along with her mother, but overwhelmed by the screams and the gruesome scene of her mother's execution, she became confused and threw her own child into the flames instead (Aria: Condotta ell'era in ceppi / "They dragged her in bonds"). Manrico realises that he is not the son of Azucena, but loves her as if she were indeed his mother, as she has always been faithful and loving to him. Manrico tells Azucena that he defeated di Luna in their duel, but was held back from killing him by a mysterious power (Duet: Mal reggendo / "He was helpless under my savage attack"). A messenger arrives and reports that Leonora, who believes Manrico dead, is about to enter a convent and take the veil that night. Although Azucena tries to prevent him from leaving in his weak state (Ferma! Son io che parlo a te! / "I must talk to you"), Manrico rushes away to prevent her from carrying out this intent.

Scene 2: In front of the convent


Di Luna and his attendants intend to abduct Leonora and the Count sings of his love for her (Aria: Il balen del suo sorriso / "The light of her smile" ... Per me ora fatale / "Fatal hour of my life"). Leonora and the nuns appear in procession, but Manrico prevents di Luna from carrying out his plans and takes Leonora away with him.

Act 3: The Son of the Gypsy Woman


Scene 1: Di Luna's camp Di Luna and his army are attacking the fortress Castellor where Manrico has taken refuge with Leonora (Chorus: Or co' dadi ma fra poco / "Now we play at dice"). Ferrando drags in Azucena, who has been captured wandering near the camp. When she hears di Luna’s name, Azucena’s reactions arouse suspicion and Ferrando recognizes her as the murderer of the count’s brother. Azucena cries out to her son Manrico to rescue her and the count realizes that he has the means to flush his enemy out of the fortress. He orders his men to build a pyre and burn Azucena before the walls.

Scene 2: A chamber in the castle

Inside the castle, Manrico and Leonora are preparing to be married. She is frightened; the battle with di Luna is imminent and Manrico’s forces are outnumbered. He assures her of his love (Aria, Manrico: Ah sì, ben mio, coll'essere / "Ah, yes, my love, in being yours"), even in the face of death. When news of Azucena’s capture reaches him, he summons his men and desperately prepares to attack (Stretta: Di quella pira l'orrendo foco / "The horrid flames of that pyre"). Leonora faints.

Act 4: The Punishment[edit]
Scene 1: Before the dungeon keep

Manrico has failed to free Azucena and has been imprisoned himself. Leonora attempts to free him (Aria: D'amor sull'ali rosee / "On the rosy wings of love"; Chorus & Duet: Miserere / "Lord, thy mercy on this soul") by begging di Luna for mercy and offers herself in place of her lover. She promises to give herself to the count, but secretly swallows poison from her ring in order to die before di Luna can possess her (Duet: Mira, d'acerbe lagrime / "See the bitter tears I shed").

Scene 2: In the dungeon


Manrico and Azucena are awaiting their execution. Manrico attempts to soothe Azucena, whose mind wanders to happier days in the mountains (Duet: Ai nostri monti ritorneremo / "Again to our mountains we shall return"). At last the gypsy slumbers. Leonora comes to Manrico and tells him that he is saved, begging him to escape. When he discovers she cannot accompany him, he refuses to leave his prison. He believes Leonora has betrayed him until he realizes that she has taken poison to remain true to him. As she dies in agony in Manrico's arms she confesses that she prefers to die with him than to marry another (Trio: Prima che d'altri vivere / "Rather than live as another's"). The count has heard Leonora's last words and orders Manrico's execution. Azucena awakes and tries to stop di Luna. Once Manrico is dead, she cries: Egli era tuo fratello! Sei vendicata, o madre. / "He was your brother... You are avenged, oh mother!".

Music
Today, most opera scholars recognize the expressive musical qualities of Verdi's writing. However, musicologist Roger Parker notes that "the extreme formalism of the musical language has been seen as serving to concentrate and define the various stages of the drama, above all channeling them into those key confrontations that mark its inexorable progress".

Here he, like many other writers, notes the elements of musical form (then often described as "closed forms") which characterize the opera and make it appear to be something of a return to the language of earlier times, "the veritable apotheosis of bel canto with its demands for vocal beauty, agility and range," notes Charles Osborne. Thus, the cantabile-cabaletta two-part arias, the use of the chorus, etc., which Verdi had originally asked Cammarano to ignore, are evident. But Verdi wanted something else: "the freer the forms he presents me with, the better I shall do," he wrote to the librettist's friend in March 1851. It was not what he received from his librettist, but he certainly demonstrated his total mastery over this style. Osborne's take on 'Il trovatore is that "it is as though Verdi had decided to do something which he had been perfecting over the years, and to do it so beautifully that he need never to do it again. Formally, it is a step backward after Rigoletto".

Budden describes one of the musical qualities as the relationship between the "consistent dramatic impetus" of the action being caused by the "propulsive quality" of the music which produces a "sense of continuous forward motion". Parker describes it as "sheer musical energy apparent in all the numbers". And Budden gives many examples which show Verdi as "the equal of Bellini" as a melodist.

Verdi also clearly recognizes the importance of the role of Azucena. Remembering that the composer's initial suggestion to Cammarano was that he wanted to name the opera after her, Budden notes that this character "is the first of a glorious line"[35] and he names Ulrica (from Ballo), Eboli (from Don Carlos), and Amneris (from Aida) as followers in the same vocal range and with the same expressive and distinct qualities which separate them from the other female role in the opera in which they feature. He quotes from a letter which Verdi wrote to Marianna Barbieri-Nini, the soprano who was due to sing the Leonora in Venice after the premiere, and who expressed reservations about her music. Here, Verdi emphasizes the importance of the role of Azucena:

..it's a principal, the principal role; finer and more dramatic and more original than the other. If I were a prima donna (a fine thing that would be!), I would always rather sing the part of the Gypsy in Il trovatore.

From this position, Budden comments on the distinct differences in an era where vocal registers were less defined and which extend into Leonora's and Azucena's music "where greater verbal projection of the lower voice [can be] turned to advantage" and where "the polarity between the two female roles [extends] into every field of comparison." He then sums up the musical relationship which exists between the two female characters, the men having simply been defined as being representative of their own voice types, something evident and very striking in Verdi's significant use of voice types in Ernani of 1844. Regarding Leonora, Budden describes her music as "mov[ing] in long phrases most characterized by a soaring 'aspiring' quality" whereas "Azucena's melodies evolve in short, often commonplace phrases based on the repetition of short rhythmic patterns".

Cultural references
Enrico Caruso once said that all it takes for successful performance of Il trovatore is the four greatest singers in the world. On many different occasions, this opera and its music have been featured in various forms of popular culture and entertainment. Scenes of comic chaos play out over a performance of Il trovatore in the Marx Brothers's film, A Night at the Opera (including a quotation, in the middle of the Act I Overture, of Take Me Out to the Ball Game).

Luchino Visconti used a performance of Il trovatore at La Fenice opera house for the opening sequence of his 1954 film Senso. As Manrico sings his battle cry in "Di quella pira", the performance is interrupted by the answering cries of Italian nationalists in the audience by showering the stalls area below with patriotic leaflets. In Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism, Millicent Marcus proposes that Visconti used this operatic paradigm throughout Senso, with parallels between the opera's protagonists, Manrico and Leonora, and the film's protagonists, Ussoni and Livia. A staging of Act 1, Scene 2 of Il trovatore is featured in Bernardo Bertolucci's 1979 film La Luna.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
Verdi - Il Trovatore - Domingo, Kabaivanska, Cappuccilli, Cossotto, van Dam - Subtítulos en Español
 
 
 
 
 
 
Anna Netrebko - Verdi: Il Trovatore – Miserere... (Salzburg 2014)
 
Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor
Wiener Philharmoniker
Daniele Gatti, Musikalische Leitung
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
"La Traviata" — 1853
 
 
La traviata (Italian: [la traˈviaːta], "The Fallen Woman") is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi 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 opera was originally entitled Violetta, after the main character. It was first performed on 6 March 1853 at the La Fenice opera house in Venice.

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.


Composition history

For Verdi, the years 1851 to 1853 were filled with operatic activity. First, he had agreed with the librettist Salvadore Cammarano on a subject for what would become Il trovatore, but work on this opera could not proceed while the composer was writing Rigoletto, which premiered in Venice in March 1851. In addition, personal affairs in his home town limited his activities that spring, but after Rigoletto's success in Venice, an additional commission was offered by Brenna, the secretary of La Fenice. After Verdi's return from Paris a contract was signed in May 1852, with performances scheduled for March 1853, although no subject was chosen at that time.

Verdi sees The Lady of the Camellias play

Verdi and Giuseppina Strepponi had visited Paris from late 1851 and into March 1852. In February the couple attended a performance of Alexander Dumas fils's The Lady of the Camellias. As a result of this, Verdi biographer Mary Jane Phillips-Matz reports, the composer immediately began to compose music for what would later become La traviata. However, Julian Budden notes that Verdi had probably read the Dumas novel some time before and, after seeing the play and returning to Italy, "he was already setting up an ideal operatic cast for it in his mind," shown by his dealings with La Fenice. On their return to Italy, the composer had immediately set to work on Trovatore for the January 1853 premiere in Rome, but at the same time seemed to have ideas for the music for Traviata in his head.

Composing for Venice

Francesco Maria Piave was to be engaged to write the new libretto and the two men tried to come up with a suitable subject, but the composer complained that his librettist "had not yet offered him an 'original' or 'provocative' idea". Writing to Piave, he added that "I don't want any of those everyday subjects that one can find by the hundreds." But at the same time, the composer expressed concern about censorship in Venice, something with which he was very familiar after his dealings with the censors concerning Rigoletto. As the months dragged on into October, it was agreed that Piave would come to Sant'Agata and work with the composer. One subject was chosen, Piave set to work, and then Verdi threw in another idea, which may have been La traviata. However, within a short time, a synopsis was dispatched to Venice under the title of Amore e morte (Love and Death). However, as Budden reveals, Verdi writes to his friend De Sanctis telling him that "for Venice I'm doing La Dame aux Camelias which will probably be called La traviata. A subject for our own age."[8] Although still bogged down at Sant'Agata, Piave was sanguine: "Everything will turn out fine, and we'll have a new masterpiece from this true wizard of modern harmonies".

When back at Sant'Agata in late January 1853 Verdi was reminded that his contract called for him to be in Venice within a week or two and for the premiere to be held on the "first Saturday in March 1853". However, it soon became clear that a modern-dress staging of the new opera was impossible – the requirement was that it should be set in the 17th century "in the era of Richelieu" – and reports from the opening of the season confirmed the limitations of the chosen soprano, the 38-year old Fanny Salvini-Donatelli for taking the role of Violetta. Verdi was distraught, for he held on to the notion that the opera could be staged in modern dress – as Stiffelio had been done – Piave was sent back to Sant'Agata to no avail: he could not persuade the composer to back down on his insistence that another soprano be secured, yet the 15 January deadline for securing one had come and gone. Verdi was filled with premonitions of disaster upon his arrival in Venice on 21 February for rehearsals and he made his unhappiness clear to the singers.

Performance history
19th century



The audience jeered at times during the premiere, directing some of their scorn at the casting of soprano Fanny Salvini-Donatelli in the lead role of Violetta. Though she was an acclaimed singer, they considered her to be too old (at 38) and too overweight to credibly play a young woman dying of consumption. (Verdi had previously attempted to persuade the manager of La Fenice to re-cast the role with a younger woman, but with no success.) Nevertheless, the first act was met with applause and cheering at the end; but in the second act, the audience began to turn against the performance, especially after the singing of the baritone Felice Varesi and the tenor Lodovico Graziani. The next day, Verdi wrote to his friend Emanuele Muzio in what has now become perhaps his most famous letter: "La traviata last night a failure. Was the fault mine or the singers'? Time will tell."

Coincidentally, as Philips-Matz points out, an Italian translation of the play La Dame aux camélias was being presented just a short distance from La Fenice.

While there were demands for productions from impresarios in various Italian cities, Verdi was loath to allow them unless he could be sure of the strength of the singers, and in spite of their pleas, the composer refused. As Budden notes, it came to be Venice "that made an honest woman of Violetta" when Verdi allowed a performance at the Teatro San Benedetto. Some revisions took place between 1853 and May 1854, mostly affecting acts 2 and 3, but the opera was given again on 6 May 1854 and was a great success, largely due to Maria Spezia-Aldighieri's portrayal of Violetta. "Then [referring to the La Fenice performances] it was a fiasco; now it has created a furore. Draw your own conclusions!" reported Piave (who had overseen the production in Verdi's absence).

The opera (in the revised version) was first performed in Vienna on 4 May 1855 in Italian. It was first performed in England on 24 May 1856 in Italian at Her Majesty's Theatre in London, where it was considered morally questionable, and "the heads of the Church did their best to put an injunction upon performance; the Queen refrained from visiting the theatre during the performances, though the music, words and all, were not unheard at the palace". It was first performed in the United States on 3 December 1856 in Italian at the Academy of Music in New York. George Templeton Strong noted in his diary: "People say the plot's immoral, but I don't see that it's so much worse than many others, not to speak of Don Giovanni, which as put on the stage is little but rampant lechery", while the Evening Post critic wrote: "Those who have quietly sat through the glaring improprieties of Don Giovanni will hardly blush or frown at anything in La traviata."

The opera was first performed in France on 6 December 1856 in Italian by the Théâtre-Italien at the Salle Ventadour in Paris, and on 27 October 1864 in French as Violetta (an adaptation by Édouard Duprez, older brother of the tenor Gilbert Duprez) at the Théâtre Lyrique on the Place du Châtelet with Christina Nilsson in the title role. The French adaptation of the libretto was published in 1865.

20th century and beyond

Today, the opera has become immensely popular and is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire. As of 2012/13 season, it was in first place on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide.


Synopsis

Place: Paris and its vicinity.
Time: Beginning of the 18th century

Act 1

The salon in Violetta's house

Violetta Valéry, a famed courtesan, throws a lavish party at her Paris salon to celebrate her recovery from an illness. Gastone, a count, has brought with him a friend, the young nobleman Alfredo Germont, who has long adored Violetta from afar. While walking to the salon, Gastone tells Violetta that Alfredo loves her, and that while she was ill, he came to her house every day. Alfredo joins them, admitting the truth of Gastone's remarks.

Baron Douphol, Violetta's current lover, waits nearby to escort her to the salon; once there, the Baron is asked to give a toast, but refuses, and the crowd turns to Alfredo, who agrees to sing a Brindisi – a drinking song (Alfredo, Violetta, chorus: Libiamo ne' lieti calici – "Drink from the joyful cup").


From the next room, the sound of the orchestra is heard and the guests move there to dance. Feeling dizzy, Violetta asks her guests to go ahead and to leave her to rest until she recovers. While the guests dance in the next room, Violetta looks at her pale face in her mirror. Alfredo enters and expresses his concern for her fragile health, later declaring his love for her (Alfredo, Violetta: Un dì, felice, eterea – "One day, happy and ethereal"). At first she rejects him because his love means nothing to her, but there is something about Alfredo that touches her heart. He is about to leave when she gives him a flower, telling him to return it when it has wilted. She promises to meet him the next day.

After the guests leave, Violetta wonders if Alfredo could actually be the one in her life (Violetta: Ah, fors'è lui – "Ah, perhaps he is the one"). But she concludes that she needs freedom to live her life (Violetta: Sempre libera – "Always free"). From off stage, Alfredo's voice is heard singing about love as he walks down the street.

Act 2
Scene 1: Violetta's country house outside Paris

Three months later, Alfredo and Violetta are living together in a peaceful country house outside Paris. Violetta has fallen in love with Alfredo and she has completely abandoned her former life. Alfredo sings of their happy life together (Alfredo: De' miei bollenti spiriti / Il giovanile ardore – "The youthful ardor of my ebullient spirits"). Annina, the maid, arrives from Paris, and, when questioned by Alfredo, tells him that she went there to sell the horses, carriages and everything owned by Violetta to support their country lifestyle.

Alfredo is shocked to learn this and leaves for Paris immediately to settle matters himself. Violetta returns home and receives an invitation from her friend, Flora, to a party in Paris that evening. Alfredo's father, Giorgio Germont, is announced and demands that she break off her relationship with his son for the sake of his family, since he reveals that Violetta's relationship with Alfredo has threatened his daughter's engagement (Giorgio: Pura siccome un angelo – "Pure as an angel, God gave a daughter") because of Violetta's reputation. Meanwhile, he reluctantly becomes impressed by Violetta's nobility, something which he did not expect from a courtesan. She responds that she cannot end the relationship because she loves him so much, but Giorgio pleads with her for the sake of his family. With growing remorse, she finally agrees (Violetta, Giorgio: Dite alla giovine sì bella e pura, – "Tell the young girl, so beautiful and pure,") and says goodbye to Giorgio. In a gesture of gratitude for her kindness and sacrifice, Giorgio kisses her forehead before leaving her weeping alone.

Violetta gives a note to Annina to send to Flora accepting the party invitation and, as she is writing a farewell letter to Alfredo, he enters. She can barely control her sadness and tears; she tells him repeatedly of her unconditional love (Violetta: Amami, Alfredo, amami quant'io t'amo – "Love me, Alfredo, love me as I love you"). Before rushing out and setting off for Paris, she hands the farewell letter to her servant to give to Alfredo.

Soon, the servant brings the letter to Alfredo and, as soon as he has read it, Giorgio returns and attempts to comfort his son, reminding him of his family in Provence (Giorgio: Di Provenza il mar, il suol chi dal cor ti cancellò? – "Who erased the sea, the land of Provence from your heart?"). Alfredo suspects that the Baron is behind his separation with Violetta, and the party invitation, which he finds on the desk, strengthens his suspicions. He determines to confront Violetta at the party. Giorgio tries to stop Alfredo, but he rushes out.

Scene 2: Party at Flora's house

Act 2, scene 2 from Fife Opera's 2004 production
At the party, the Marquis tells Flora that Violetta and Alfredo have separated, much to the amazement of everyone who had previously seen the happy couple. She calls for the entertainers to perform for the guests (Chorus: Noi siamo zingarelle venute da lontano – "We are gypsy girls who have come from afar"; Di Madride noi siam mattadori – "We are matadors from Madrid"). Gastone and his friends join the matadors and sing (Gastone, chorus, dancers: È Piquillo un bel gagliardo Biscaglino mattador – "Piquillo is a bold and handsome matador from Biscay").

Violetta arrives with Baron Douphol. They see Alfredo at the gambling table. When he sees them, Alfredo loudly proclaims that he will take Violetta home with him. Feeling annoyed, the Baron goes to the gambling table and joins him in a game. As they bet, Alfredo wins some large sums until Flora announces that supper is ready. Alfredo leaves with handfuls of money.

As everyone is leaving the room, Violetta has asked Alfredo to see her. Fearing that the Baron's anger will lead him to challenge Alfredo to a duel, she gently asks Alfredo to leave. Alfredo misunderstands her apprehension and demands that she admit that she loves the Baron. In grief, she makes that admission and, furiously, Alfredo calls the guests to witness what he has to say (Questa donna conoscete? – "You know this woman?"). He humiliates and denounces Violetta in front of the guests and then throws his winnings at her feet in payment for her services. She faints onto the floor. The guests reprimand Alfredo: Di donne ignobile insultatore, di qua allontanati, ne desti orror! ("Ignoble insulter of women, go away from here, you fill us with horror!").

In search of his son, Giorgio enters the hall and, knowing the real significance of the scene, denounces his son's behavior (Giorgio, Alfredo, Violetta, chorus: Di sprezzo degno sè stesso rende chi pur nell'ira la donna offende. – "A man, who even in anger, offends a woman renders himself deserving of contempt.").

Flora and the ladies attempt to persuade Violetta to leave the dining room, but Violetta turns to Alfredo: Alfredo, Alfredo, di questo core non puoi comprendere tutto l'amore... – "Alfredo, Alfredo, you can't understand all the love in this heart...".

Act 3
Violetta's bedroom

Dr. Grenvil tells Annina that Violetta will not live long since her tuberculosis has worsened. Alone in her room, Violetta reads a letter from Alfredo's father telling her that the Baron was only wounded in his duel with Alfredo; that he has informed Alfredo of the sacrifice she has made for him and his sister; and that he is sending his son to see her as quickly as possible to ask for her forgiveness. But Violetta senses it is too late (Violetta: Addio, del passato bei sogni ridenti – "Farewell, lovely, happy dreams of the past").

Annina rushes in the room to tell Violetta of Alfredo's arrival. The lovers are reunited and Alfredo suggests that they leave Paris (Alfredo, Violetta: Parigi, o cara, noi lasceremo – "We will leave Paris, O beloved").

But it is too late: she knows her time is up (Alfredo, Violetta: Gran Dio!...morir sì giovane – "Great God!...to die so young"). Alfredo's father enters with the doctor, regretting what he has done. After singing a duet with Alfredo, Violetta suddenly revives, exclaiming that the pain and discomfort have left her. A moment later, she dies in Alfredo's arms.

Instrumentation[edit]
The opera uses an orchestra with the following instrumentation: 2 flutes (fl. 2 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, cimbasso, timpani, cymbals, bass drum, triangle, strings.

Banda: 2 piccolos, A-flat piccolo clarinet, E-flat clarinet, 2 B-flat clarinets, 2 horns, flugelhorn, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, tambourine, bass drum, castanets, harp, 2 double bass.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
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First Act Brindisi 'Libiamo ne' lieti calici', from La Traviata.

Giuseppe Verdi.

Luciano Pavarotti, Alfredo.
Cynthia Lawrence, Violetta.

Chorus composed by:
Mariella Devia, soprano.
Kallen Esperian, soprano.
Shirley Verrett, soprano.
Pietro Ballo, tenor.
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Sherrill Milnes, baritone.
Paul Plishka, bass.

Anton Guadagno, conductor.

 
 
 
 
 
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Teatro alla Scala, 19 gennaio 1956
19 janvier 1956 - January 19, 1956

 
 
 
 
 
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E strano! E strano!...Ah, fors'è lui che l'anima...Follie! Follie!...Sempre libera
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of "La Traviata" composed by
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I think that La Jo has fallen in love
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Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazon, Thomas Hampson

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  Classical Music Timeline

Instruments Through the Ages

Classical Music History - Composers and Masterworks
     
 
 
 

 
 
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