Svenska Romanser Program Notes

svenska romanser
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) is recognized as one of Finland’s most prominent composers. Sibelius’s work was acclaimed across a range of genres including chamber music, songs, choral works, piano pieces, symphonies and other large-scale orchestra compositions. He studied both law and music when he first moved to Helsinki in 1885. However, it wasn’t long until Sibelius dropped his law pursuits to study composition with Martin Wegelius[1]. Sibelius composed over 100 solo songs for voice and piano which were primarily set to text by Swedish and Finnish-Swedish poets. Song cycle Op. 50 was an exceptions.
Composed in the summer of 1906, Opus 50 is Sibelius’s only German song cycle. Sibelius composed one other German song, Erloschen, which may have originally been intended for Op. 50[2]. The song cycle displays Sibelius’s composition style of lacking a postlude. The composer believed music is tied to the text and often would not compose much past the last sung word[3]. This style of composition also occurs in his works Bollspelet vid Trianon, and En Slända which are also presented on this recital.
Lenzgesang is a greeting to spring! Filled with a colorful depiction of the transition between seasons. Sibelius mimics the sound of spring blooming at a rapid pace with syncopated rhythms and crisp articulations.  Lenzgesang was published in a collection of poems called “Fahrendes Volk” by Arthur Fitger (1840-1909).  Fitger was also recognized for his accomplishments as a historical and mythological subject painter[4].
Sibelius creates an unstable longing for synchronized meters between the vocalist and accompaniment in his setting of Sehnsucht. In a seemingly ironic way, the tension between voice and piano finally come to a resolve at the end “Schmerz und Trost der Schemrzen bist in einem mir” (Pain and relief from pain, is what you are to me). The text was written by German calligrapher and typographer, Emil Rudolf Weiss (1875-1942).
The feeling of longing carries into the next piece of this song cycle, but creates an entirely different atmosphere. Im Feld ein Mädchen singt tells of a heartbreakingly sad song sung by a maiden in the field. While the singer’s reasoning for this sad song is purely speculation, the maiden’s song becomes a reflection of the singer’s current emotional state. Written by Margarete Susman (1872-1966), this poem was published in Susman’s first book of poems “Mein Land” in 1901. Though she was born in Hamburg, German, Susman grew up in Zürich, Switzerland and for a short time, studied art in Paris. From 1915 to 1933 Susman had lived in Germany but returned to Switzerland to live out her days. Her time in Switzerland was still tormented by the tragedies of World War II. She stated, “One can barely conceive of the horror: the language I myself spoke had become terror to me.”  Just before her death in 1966, Susman completed her memoirs “Ich habe viele leben gelebt” (I have lived many lives)[5].
Aus banger Brust and Die stille Stadt were both written by Richard Dehmel (1863-1920). Dehmel was known for his writings that depicted naturalistic social themes and the miseries of the working class[6].
In contrast to the other poems set by Sibelius for this song cycle, Die stille Stadt pulls away from the nature scene and drops the audience in the middle of a city consumed by smoke, and fog that blocks out the moon and stars. Despite the bleak contrast to exuberant spring time in nature (for example Lenzgesang), there is a serene quality to this song as the closing phrase tells us of a child’s song of praise.
To close out the song cycle, Rosenlied takes the audience back to a similar theme and mood as the opening movement, Lenzgesang. A jubilant and romantic themed ¾ dance-like meter tells the story of roses witnessing a lovers’ encounter. True to Sibelius’s style of forgoing a postlude, the accompaniment and vocal line abruptly conclude the piece. As the rose speaks of withering away to the grave so stops the music, completing the song cycle.  Rosenlied was written by German poet Anna Ritter (1865-1921).
Lenzgesang                                                                    Spring Song
Seid gegrüßt, ihr grünen Hallen                                Greetings to you, you green halls
frühlingsheller Waldespracht,                                   Spring’s bright forest of splendor,
wo das dumpfe Herz aus allen                                   where the dull heart of all
Kümmernissen froh erwacht.                                    worrying awakes.
Seid gegrüßt, ihr Felsenzacken,                                 Greetings to you, you rocky crags,
Die ihr in die Wolken ragt                                           that stretch to the clouds
und auf starkem Riesennacken                                  and, on strong gigantic necks,
säulenschlanke Buchen tragt.                                     bear the slender columns of beech trees.
Moos’ge Schluchten, Steingeklüfte                          Mossy gorges, stone chasms
überdeckt das rote Laub,                                           covered by the red foliage,
das im Sturm die Herbsteslüfte                                that the stormy autumn winds
Hingewettert in den Staub.                                        flung down into the dust.
Wie ein Teppich braun und golden                          Like a carpet, brown and golden,
lagern Schichten über Schicht,                                   the layers over layers,
die mit selt’nen Blüten dolden                                    interrupted with rare blooming spikes
kaum ein Grünes unterbricht.                                    That are green stalk flowers.
Was sich hoffnungsvoll entfaltet                                What unfolds hopefully
einst im Mai in junger Kraft,                                        once in May in its youthful vigor,
wird im Herbste schnell veraltet                                will quickly grow old, in the autumn
Zu den Toten hingerafft.                                               swept away by the dead;
Aber unerschöpflich dringen                                      But inexhaustibly surges forth again
Trieb’ um Triebe wachsend nach,                              new shoots on new shoots
und die starken Äste schlingen                                   and the strong branches entwine
sich zum hochgewölbten Dach.                                  to form the high vaults of heaven.
 Menschenkind, und du willst klagen,                       Child of man, would you complain
wenn im Wirbelsturm der Welt                                  in the hurricane of life,
deine Hoffnung hingeschlagen                                   if your hopes are dashed
gleich dem Laub zu Boden fällt?                                 when the leaves fall to the ground?
Auf! Aus ungeschwächtem Marke                            Arise! From unweakened land,
Schaffe neue, tausendfalt,                                           create thousands of new hope;
und so wache, so erstarke                                            Grow and become strong
wie der sturmerprobte Wald.                                     Like the storm-tried forest.
Seid gegrüßt, ihr grünen Hallen                                  Greetings to you, you green halls
frühlingsheller Waldespracht.                                     Spring’s bright forest of splendor.
Durch die Wipfel hör ich’s wallen                              I hear it through the tree tops
hundertstimmig laut und sacht,                                 A hundred voices loud and gentle,
treibend, knospend, vielgeschäftig                           sprouting, budding, busily working,
rauscht’s dahin wie Geisterflug;                                rushed like a spirit in flight;
Lenz, ich spüre lebenskräftig                                       Spring, I sense life-affirming
deinen neuen Athemzug.                                             your renewed breath.
Sehnsucht                                                                      Longing
Oft am langen Tage seufz ich, ach! nach dir,         Often, on long days, I sign, Ah! After you,
fühl ich dich mir nahe,sprech ich so mit dir.        I feel that you are near me, I speak to you.
In der kühlen Frühe aufgewacht zu mir,              In the cool, early morning, when I awake,
fühl ich, was uns trennet, seufz ich, ach! nach dir.        I feel what separates us, I sigh, Ah! After you.
Seh dein Auge schauen liebevoll zu mir,               I see your eyes looking lovingly at me,
schaut mich an und weilet einen Blick bei mir.         They look and rest upon me for a moment.
Geht von mir am Tage,kommt zurück zu mir,         You leave me during the day, come back to me,
wenn ich nach dir klage, schweigend und in mir.   When I yearn for you, silently and in my soul.
Schmerz und Trost der Schmerzen bist in einem mir         Pain, and relief of pain; you are both to me,
oft am langen Tage seufz ich, ach! nach dir.                          Often, on long days, I sigh, ah! After you.
 
Im Feld ein Mädchen singt                                                          In the field a maiden sings
Im Feld ein Mädchen singt…                                                        In the field a maiden sings …
Vielleicht ist ihr Liebster gestorben,                                         maybe her lover died,
vielleicht ist ihr Glück verdorben,                                             maybe her luck is spoiled,
daβ ihr Lied so traurig klingt.                                                       Because her song sounds so sad.
Das Abendrot verglüht-                                                                 The sunset glows,
die Weiden stehn und schweigen,                                            the willow stands and remains silent
und immer noch so eigen                                                             and still so uniquely,
tönt fern das traurige Lied.                                                           sounds the sad song far away.
Der letzte Ton verklingt.                                                                The last sound fades away.
Ich möchte zu ihr gehen.                                                              I would like to go to her.
Wir müβten uns wohl verstehen,                                              We would have understood each other well,
da sie so traurig singt.                                                                    because she sings so sadly.
Aus banger Brust                                                                             From Anxious Hearts
Die Rosen leuchten immer noch,                                               The roses are still shining,
die dunklen Blätter zittern sacht;                                               The dark leaves tremble gently;
ich bin im Grase aufgewacht,                                                      I have woken in the grass,
o kämst du doch,                                                                              Oh, would you come,
es ist so tiefe Mitternacht.                                                           It is deepest midnight.
Den Mond verdeckt das Gartentor,                                          The moon hides the garden gate,
sein Licht flieβt über in den See,                                                Its light flows over into the lake
die Weiden stehn so still empor,                                               The willows rise so quietly,
mein Nacken wühlt im feuchten Klee.                                     My neck is resting in the wet clover.
So liebt’ ich dich noch nie zuvor!                                                               I’ve never loved you like this before!
So hab ich es noch nie gewuβt,                                                  I never knew it like that before
so oft ich deinen Hals umschloβ                                                 When, so often, as I embraced your neck
und blind dein Innerstes genoβ,                                                And blindly enjoyed your innermost essence,
warum du so aus banger Brust                                                   why you, from anxious heart,
aufstöhntest, wenn ich überfloβ.                                              Would groan loudly when I overflowed.
O jetzt, o hättest du gesehn,                                                       Oh now, if only you had seen,
wie dort das Glühwurmpärchen kroch!                                  How the glow-worms crawled by just now!
Ich will nie wieder von dir gehn!                                                I never want to leave you again!
O kämst du doch!                                                                             Oh, you would come!
Die Rosen leuchten immer noch.                                               The roses are still glowing.
Die stille Stadt                                                                                  The Silent City
Liegt eine Stadt im Tale,                                                                There is a city in the valley,
ein blasser Tag vergeht;                                                                A pale day fades away;
es wird nicht lange dauern mehr,                                              it will not be long
bis weder Mond noch Sterne,                                                     until neither the moon nor the stars,
nur Nacht am Himmel steht.                                                       but only night stands in the sky.
Von allen Bergen drücken                                                            From every hilltop there presses
Nebel auf die Stadt,                                                                        fog down on the city,
es dringt kein Dach,                                                                         there is no roof,
nicht Hof noch Haus,                                                                       no yard or house,
kein Laut aus ihrem Rauch heraus,                                           no sound can break through the smoke,
kaum Türme noch und Brücken.                                                Hardly even towers and bridges.
Doch als dem Wandrer graute,                                                   When the traveler begins to dread,
da ging ein Lichtlein auf im Grund;                                           there a little light illuminates the ground;
und durch den Rauch und Nebel                                                               and through the smoke and mist
began ein leiser Lobgesang                                                          began a quiet song of praise
aus Kindermund.                                                                             from a child’s mouth.
Rosenlied                                                                                           Rose Song
Wir senkten die Wurzeln in Moos und Gestein,                  We sank our roots in the moss and rock,
wir wiegten die Schultern im rosigen Schein,                       We rocked our shoulders in the rosy glow,
wir tranken die Sonne, den Tau und das Licht,                     We drank the sunshine, the dew and the light,
wir prangten in Schönheit und wussten es nicht.                We were beautiful and did not know it.
Der Lenz strich vorüber und küsste uns leis,                          The spring passed and kissed us softly,
der Tag ward so still und die Nächte so heiss,                      The day was so quiet and the nights so hot
der Wind sprach von Liebe manch’                                           The wind spoke of love,
flüsterndes Wort,                                                                            many a whispering word,
ein Schritt kam gegangen, ein Arm trug uns fort.                 One step came, one arm carried us away.
Wer hält unser Leben in zitternder Hand?                             Who holds our life in a trembling hand?
Es duftet und rieselt ein weisses Gewand.                            A fragrant white gown is rustling.
Wir sehn eine Brust, die die Sehnsucht erregt,                    We see a breast, which arouses longing,
wir hören ein Herz, das in Leidenschaft schlägt.                  We hear a heart that beats in passion.
Von Liebe gebrochen, zu Liebe gebracht,                               Broken by love, brought to love,
wir grüssen dich, Schwester,                                                       We greet you, sister,
in schweigender Nacht.                                                                 in silent the night.
Der Tag, der zu holderem Blühen dich ruft,                           The day calling you to bloom more nobly,
er schenkt unsre Schönheit verwelkt in die Gruft.              Places our withered beauty into the grave.
The Tennis game at Trianon is a quirky mini-scena representing the Tennis Court Oath established during the French Revolution all the while creating a scene that pokes fun at the Estate of Marie Antoinette, who was famously beheaded during the French revolution. True to Sibelius’ composition style, Bollspelet features recitative like sections and lacks a postlude.
Gustaf Fröding (1860-1911) wrote the poems to both Bollspelet vid Trianon and Fylgia. Though he is not well known in the English-speaking world, he has been acclaimed to be one of the 19th centuries most innovative poets[7]. Fröding’s texts lend themselves well to musical settings with their “rich musical form”[8]. The tone of his poems range in political satire (such as Bollspelet), lyric nature poems, and Biblical fantasies[9].
Bollspelet vid Trianon                                                                    Tennis at Trianon
Det smattrar prat                                                                             There is prattling on
och slår boll och skrattar                                                               and a game with a ball and laughter
emellan träden vid Trianon,                                                         among the trees at Trianon,
små markisinnor i schäferhattar,                                               small marquises in shepherdess hats,
de le och gnola, lonlaridon.                                                          smile and hum, “Lon laridon.”
Små markisinnor på höga klackar,                                             Small marquises in high heels,
de leka oskuld och herdefest                                                      they innocently play, and are herding
för unga herdar med stela nackar,                                            young herdsmen with stiff necks,
Vicomte Lindor, Monseigneur Alceste.                                   Viscount Lindor, Monseigneur Alceste.
Men så med ett                                                                                But all of a sudden
vid närmste stam                                                                             from the nearest tree
stack grovt och brett                                                                      appeared, coarse and broad,
ett huvud fram.                                                                                a head sticking out from behind.
Vicomten skrek:                                                                                               The Viscount shouted:
“Voilà la tête-là!”                                                                            “There’s the head there!”
och Monseigneur                                                                            and Monseigneur
slog förbi sin boll                                                                              swung and missed his ball
och “qu’est-ce que c’est?”                                                            and “what is it?”
och “qui est la bête là?”                                                                 and “who is that beast?”
det ljöd i korus från alla håll.                                                        were heard in chorus from all sides.
Och näsor rynkas förnämt koketta,                                          And noses are wrinkled coquettishly,
en hastig knyck i var nacke far                                                    a hasty turn of the head
och markisinnora hoppa lätta                                                      and the marquises hop lightly
och bollen flyger från par till par.                                               and the ball flies from pair to pair.
Men tyst därifrån                                                                             But silently, away from there,
med tunga fjät                                                                                  with heavy footsteps
går dräggens son                                                                              goes the peasant’s son
Jourdan Coupe-tête.                                                                      Jourdan with the missing head.
The composition style Sibelius used for En Slända (A Dragonfly, 1904) is radically different than the previous pieces on this recital. The voice and piano are in a true back and forth duet, leaving the vocalist exposed for most of the piece. To enhance the visual of a dragonfly elegantly flitting around, a vocalize on “ah” is inserted, which is not in the original poem by Oscar Levertin (1862-1906). En Slända was published in Levertin’s collection titled Nya dikter (“New Poems”, 1894)[10].
En Slända                                                                                            The Dragonfly
Du vackra slända,                                                                             You beautiful dragonfly,
som till mig flög in,                                                                          who flew to me,
när tyngst min längtan                                                                   when my longing was deepest,
över boken drömde,                                                                       reading my book,
du kom med hela sommarn till mitt sinn.                               You came to my soul with all of summer.
Du kom och jag allt gammalt svårmod glömde.                   You came and I forgot all my old hardship.
Blott dig jag såg, min dag jag lycklig dömde,                         Just from seeing you, I judged my days happily,
du vackra slända.                                                                             you beautiful dragonfly.
Men bäst jag jublade, att du var min                                        But I was jubilant that you were mine
och lifvets skänk i sång på knä berömde,                                               and praised life’s gift on my knees,
du flög den samma väg som du kom in,                                  you flew out the same way you came in,
du trolska slända.                                                                             you magic dragonfly.
All afskedsgråt                                                                                  Tears of parting ran into words
 i välgångsord förrinn!                                                                    of farewell!
Ej beska fauns i bägarn, som vi tömde.                                   No bitterness was in the cup which we emptied.
Att du var sol, jag skugga blott vi glömde.                              We forgot you were sun, I was just a shadow.
Flyg ljus, flyg blå, än sommarlycka finn,                                  Fly light, blue one, than summer find
välsignade, som en gång varit min,                                           blessed one who once was mine,
min vackra slända.                                                                           my beautiful dragonfly.
Jubal is based on the biblical character of the same name who is described as the father of all who play the harp and flute (Genesis 4:21).  In Ernst Josephson’s (1851-1906) retelling of the story, Jubal creates music when he shoots a beautiful white swan out of the sky with his arrow. Sibelius tells this story through his composition, again, using recitative like sections. Recurring thematic melodies establish the three characters represented in the poem: the narrator, the swan, and Jubal.
Jubal                                                                                                     Jubal
Jubal såg en svana fly                                                                     Jubal saw a swan flying
över vattnet högt mot sky,                                                           over the water, high in the sky,
spände hastigt bågen.                                                                    He quickly drew his bow.
Klang, ljöd strängen.                                                                       Clang, sounded the string.
Som en il                                                                                              Like a gust of wind,
fågeln, träffad av en pil,                                                                 the bird was struck by an arrow,
fött att dö på vågen.                                                                       fell to die on the wave.
Solen sjönk i samma stund,                                                          The sun sank in that same moment,
purpur dränkte himlens rund,                                                     purple drenched the vault of heaven,
lunden hördes susa;                                                                        the grove was heard whispering;
och en ljuv melodisk vind                                                              and a delightful melodic wind
smekte sakta Jubals kind,                                                              gently stroked Jubal’s cheek,
for att böljan krusa.                                                                         it made the water ripple.
Svanen sjöng: “vad ljuvlig klang,                                                 The Swan sang: “What lovely sound,
yngling, från ditt vapen sprang                                                   o youth, from your weapon sprang
när du grymt mig fällde?                                                               when you crucified me so cruelly?
Sträng till sträng du binda skall,                                                  You tie string to string,
spela så för världen all,                                                                  play then for all the world,
prisa skaparns välde!”                                                                    and praise the Creator’s rule!”
Sjöng så Jubal:”svana vit,                                                              So sang Jubal, “White swan,
varje kväll jag vänder hit                                                                every night I shall come here
att din död besjunga.                                                                     to sing of your death.
Ty du lade till mitt bröst                                                                Because you touched my heart with
strängaspelets ljuva tröst,                                                            the delightful comfort of the strings played,
sången på min tunga.”                                                                   And the song upon my tongue.”
Gunnar De Frumerie (1908-1987) is considered one of Sweden’s most important romanser composers of the 20th century. He was a professor of piano at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm as well as a member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Music[11]. Frumerie intended this song cycle be performed with elegant högsvenska (high Swedish) diction[12].
Pär Lagerkvists (1891-1974) published “Hjärtats sånger” the year after his second marriage, which was in 1926. The theme for this collection was a vast contrast to his typically dark and pessimistic writing style[13]. A writer well versed in poetry, novels and drama, Lagerkvist was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1951[14].
När du sluter mina ögon, the opening number to Frumerie’s Hjärtats sånger (Songs of the heart, Op. 27, revised in 1976), is undeniably about death. The translation of the opening phrase, “when you close my eyes with your gentle hand,” paints a powerful image of preparing a person for burial. Though the image of death typically creates feelings of disparity, with the combination of Frumerie’s lullaby influenced melody and the continuous mention of light, the poem offers a peaceful view of death.
Blir det varcket som du där går (there is beauty where you walk, no. 2), continues the musical atmosphere created in the opening piece. The poet revels in their infatuation with what could possibly be a celestial being. This being creates light where it walks as it floats above the ground. Even the earth takes pleasure in being stepped upon by this creature.
The fifth of six songs in Op. 27, Du är min Afrodite is a stand out piece with a sweeping accompaniment and declamatory vocal line. Frumerie’s accompaniment creates the image of Aphrodite rising out of the depths of the sea as the singer declares, “You are my Aphrodite, born out of the sea”.
The cycle closes by continuing the nautical theme in som en våg (“like a wave”). This calm after the storm ambiance brings the listener full circle to a gentle melody similar to the opening movement. The sound of waves gently crashing on the shore are represented in the accompaniments continuous grace notes.
När du sluter mina ögon                                                        When you close my eyes
När du sluter mina ögon                                                         when you close my eyes
med din goda hand                                                                  with your good hand
blir det bara ljust omkring mig                                              all becomes bright around me
som mig soligt land.                                                                like a sunlit land.
Du i skymning vill mig sänka,                                                 You want to surround me in twilight,
men allt blir till ljus!                                                                but everything turns into light!
Du kan intet annat skänka mig                                             you give me nothing
an ljus, blott ljus.                                                                     but light, just light.
Det blir vackert dar du går                                                           There is beauty where you walk
Det blir vackert dar du går, marken,                                         There is beauty where you walk, the ground,
stigen, stranden som du följer,                                                   the path, the beach you are following,
allt tycks ljusna, glädjas,                                                                everything seems bright, delightful,
allt som ser dig.                                                                                 everything that sees you.
kan väl jorden glädjas                                                                     Can the earth rejoice
för att någon stiger på den,                                                         when someone walks on her,
trampar på den,                                                                               steps on her,
en som den älskar?                                                                          someone she loves?
Fråga inte mig.                                                                                  Don’t ask me.
Jag ser blott skenet,                                                                       I only see the shine,
hur det dröjer kring dig,                                                                 how it is around you,
svävar över marken,                                                                       floats over the ground,
som om jorden log.                                                                         as if the earth smiled.
Stig pa den,                                                                                         Step on the one,
som glӓds att se dig lycklig.                                                          who delights in seeing you happy.
Blott inte hårt,                                                                                   Just not hard,
som om du visste att du var älskad.                                         as if you knew you were loved.
Du är min Afrodite                                                                          You are my Aphrodite
Du är min Afrodite, den ur havet födda,                                 You are my Aphrodite, born out of the sea,
så ljus som vågens                                                                           as light as the wave’s foam
driva av skum i solen lyftad.                                                         of ocean spray lifted in the sunlight.
Och mitt djupa, dunkla hav,                                                         and you are my deep dark sea,
mitt liv, min skumma grav,                                                           my life, my dark grave,
mitt hjärtas oro, tunga ro,                                                            my heart’s concern, a heavy peace,
Allt som i solen ej fått bo.                                                             All that was not allowed to live in the sun.
Du är min Afrodite,                                                                         You are my Aphfrodite,
den ur djupet födda.                                                                   born out of the depths.
Som en våg                                                                               Like a wave        
Som en våg sköljd upp mot stranden                                   Like a wave rinsed up to the beach
vilar du hos mig.                                                                           you rest with me.
När jag smeker dig med handen                                           When I caress you with your hand
skälver havet ini dig.                                                                trembles the sea in you.
Djupa hav, som födde dig.                                                     Deep sea that gave birth to you.
Kom intill mig,                                                                                   come near me,
nära till mig,                                                                                       close to me,
Djup som blivit du.                                                                          Depths that have become you.
Detta som inom dig skälver                                                          This trembles within you
är ditt hjärta ju,                                                                                 is your heart,
är ett mänskohjärta ju.                                                                  is a human heart after all.
Swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927) was also a pianist and conductor. Despite being mostly self-taught as a composer, Stenhammar is one of Sweden’s most prolific composers and his songs have become popular to record.
Flickan kom i från sin älsklings möte is a multi-character mini drama. The poem tells the story of a girl who sneaks away to see her lover and her concerned mother. Sibelius also set this famous text. Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877) wrote this famous poem. He is also famed for writing the Finnish national anthem. Runeberg is celebrated annually with his own day, February 5th, and a pastry named after him. The pastry is an almond cake-like muffin topped with raspberry jam[15].
Flickan kom I från sin älsklings möte                     The Girl returned from meeting her lover
Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte,                        The Girl returned from meeting her lover,
kom med röda händer. Modern sade:                    returned with red hands. Her mother said:
“Varav rodna dina händer, flicka?”                          “What has made your hands red, girl?”
Flickan sade: “Jag har plockat rosor                        The girl said: “I was picking roses
och på törnen stungit mina händer.”                       and pricked my hands on the thorns.”
Åter kom hon från sin älsklings möte,                      Again she returned from meeting her lover,
kom med röda läppar. Modern sade:                      returned with red lips. Her mother said:
“Varav rodna dina läppar, flicka?”                             “What reddened your lips, girl?”
Flickan sade: “Jag har ätit hallon                                The girl said, “I was eating raspberries
och med saften målat mina happar.”                       and with the juice I stained my lips.”
Åter kom hon från sin älsklings möte,                      Again she returned from meeting her lover,
kom med bleka kinder. Modern sade:                     came with red lips. Her mother said:
“Varav blekna dina kinder, flicka?”                            “What has made your cheeks so pale, girl?”
Flickan sade: “Red en grav, o moder!                       The girl said: “Dig a grave for me, o mother!
Göm mig där och ställ ett kors däröver,                  Hide me there and set a cross above,
och på korset rista, som jag sager,                            and on the cross write as I tell you:
En gång kom hon hem med röda händer,              Once she came home with red hands,
ty de rodnat mellan älskarns händer.                      they had turned red between her lover’s hands.
En gång kom hon hem med röda läppar,                Once she came home with red lips,
ty de rodnat under älskarns läppar.                          They had turned red beneath her lover’s lips.
Senast kom hon hem med bleka kinder,                 Finally, she came home with pale cheeks,
ty de bleknat genom älskarns otro.”                       They had turned pale at her lover’s betrayal.”
The final piece of this recital is based on an Icelandic mythical creature that appears during sleep, Fylgia. In Fröding’s poem, the protagonist repeatedly begs Fylgia to stay. Fröding’s most productive writing occurred soon after a nervous breakdown. The urgency of this text very well could stem from the emotional anxieties Fröding was dealing with at the time[16]. Stenhammar captures Fröding’s sense of urgency in with the use of a repetitive sixteenth-note pattern and a relentless descending baseline.
Fylgia                                                                                    Fylgia
Fylgia, Fylgia, fly mig ej,                                                 Fylgia, Fylgia, fly not from me,
när jag drags av det låga mot dyn,                            when I am drawn to the lowest depths of the mud,
du skygga, förnäma, sky mig ej,                                  you shy, noble one, escape me not,
när med lumpna tankar                                                 when I block out your plaint figure
jag shimmer din veka gestalt,                                      with despicable thoughts,
som svävar I skönhet och stjärnglans                       you hover in beauty and starlight
och drömmar av ljus för min syn                                                and dreams of light my vision
så nära mig, men så fjärran dock                               so near to me, but as far away as the distant sky,
som den fjärran, fjärran skyn,                                     the distant, distant sky,
du eftertrådda, du oåtkomliga,                                  you longed for, unreachable one,
du flicka av skönhetslängtan,                                      maiden of longed-for beauty,
du väsen I dräkt av livets skiraste silverskir            dressed in life’s most ethereal clear silver,
med lyckliga drag och kärlekens                                 with happy features and the shimmer
skäraste törnrosskimmer i hyn.                                  of briar rose on your skin.

Fylgia, Fylgia, fly mig ej,                                                 Fylgia, Fylgia, fly not from me,
du skygga, förnäma, sky mig ej,                                  you shy, noble one, escape me not,
du min skönhetslängtan,                                              you, my longed-for beauty,
du som mot dagens sorger                                           you, who against the days’ sorrow
är min skyddande tröst i nattens syn!                      Are my protecting comfort in the vision of night!

 
Bibliography:
Barnett, Andrew. “Jean Sibelius- a short biography.” SibeliusOne. 2006/2014. Accessed March 10th,           2019. http://sibeliusone.com/jean-sibelius/jean-sibelius-a-short-biography/
Britannica Academic, s.v. “Oscar Ivar Levertin,” accessed April 28, 2019, https://academic-eb-                com.libezproxy2.syr.edu/levels/collegiate/article/Oscar-Ivar-Levertin/47971.
Chela, Carina. “Runeberg: A Patriot 19th-Century Rapper.” This is Finland. Accessed April 27th, 2019.
                 https://finland.fi/arts-culture/runeberg-a-patriotic-rapper-of-the-19th-century/
 “Fitger, Arthur Heinrich Wilhelm.” Benezit Dictionary of Artists.17 Mar. 2019.                 http://www.oxfordartonline.com.libezproxy2.syr.edu/benezit/view/10.1093/benz/9780199773                787.001.0001/acref-9780199773787-e-00064839.
“Guide to the Papers of Margarete Susman.” Access March 10th, 2019.    http://digifindingaids.cjh.org/?pID=1724566#a2
Hahn, Barbara. “Margarete Susman.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women’s Archive. (Viewed on March 17, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/susman-margarete&gt;.
Hallmundsson, Hallberg. An Anthology of Scandinavian Literature: from the Viking Period to the Twentieth Century. Collier Books: New York. 1965
Hersey, Anna. Scandinavian Song: A Guide to Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish Repertoire and Diction.      Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. 2016.
Lindqvist, Helene and Philipp Vogler. “Gunnar de Frumerie.” The Art Song Project. 2011. Accessed March               10th, 2019. http://theartsongproject.com/gunnar-de-frumerie/
“Richard Dehmel: German Poet.” Feb 4, 2019. Accessed March 17, 2019.                 https://www.britannica.com/biography/Richard-Dehmel
Roland-Silverstein, Kathleen. Romanser: 25 Swedish Songs with Guide to Swedish Lyric Diction.     Stockholm: Gehrmans Musikförlag, 2013.
Tiilikainen, Jukka. Jean Sibelius: Solo Songs with Piano. Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1998.
[1] Barnett. “Jean Sibelius- a short biography.” SibeliusOne. 2006/2014.
[2] Tiilikainen. Jean Sibelius: Solo Songs with Piano. 1998. VIII
[3] Hersey. Scandinavian Song. 2016. Loc 1710 of 7094.
[4] “Fitger.” Benezit Dictionary of Artists.
[5] Hahn. “Margarete Susman.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.
[6] “Richard Dehmel: German Poet.” 2019.
[7] Hallmundsson. An Anthology of Scandinavian Literature. 1965. 322.
[8] Hersey. Scandinavian Song. 2016. LOC 3010.
[9] Hallmundsson. An Anthology of Scandinavian Literature. 1965. 322.
[10] Britannica Academic, s.v. “Oscar Ivar Levertin.”
[11] Lindqvist. “Gunnar de Frumerie.” The Art Song Project. 2011.
[12] Roland-Silverstein. Romanser: 25 Swedish Songs with Guide to Swedish Lyric Diction. 2013. 18.
[13] Hersey. Scandinavian Song. 2016. Kindle edition. Loc 3523.
[14] Hallmundsson. An Anthology of Scandinavian literature. 1965. 338.
[15] Chela. “This is Finland.” Runeberg: A Patriot 19th-Century Rapper.
[16] Hallmundsson. An Anthology of Scandinavian Literature. 1965, 322.

 

Welcome!

Hello Friend! Welcome to my website.  Check back frequently for upcoming events and performances. I’m so grateful for your support.

The intent of this blog is to offer updates and reviews of a performances so all my friends and family have the opportunity to stay connected to the music community.

Now, grab some coffee and have a lovely day.Placeholder Image

Hansel and Gretel

I cannot believe a month has gone by already! The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas flies by so fast!

This months Opera focus is Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. This German fairy tale opera took its premiere on December 23rd 1893 making a fitting choice for our December opera (among other reasons of course).

Attending Hansel and Gretel at Chautauqua during the summer of 2001 was my first opera going experience. I was 15 years old and was participating in a summer chorale studies program. While it took many years later to finally dive into my enjoyment for opera, Hansel and Gretel has always been near and dear to my heart. Fast forward to Spring 2008 for my operatic role debut: Gretel.

I find this opera (particularly if you watch an english version) to be accessible to most everyone. It’s a familiar fairy tale, easy to follow story line, and musically so clear to listen to. You don’t need to be a music scholar to enjoy this. I believe you shouldn’t have to be a music scholar to enjoy ANY opera but given various time periods and styles often times operas get a bad rep for being inaccessible outside of those studying it. I even plan to introduce my nieces and nephew to this opera and they are all under the age of 10.

Before diving into watching a performance (you can view it on The Met Opera on Demand app/website) I recommend listening to the overture. It has the main musical themes you will hear throughout the opera. Listen to it a few times; really absorb the melodies. Also, it’s incredibly stunning and if you’re not in the holiday spirit this overture will get you there!

If the thought of getting into the holiday spirit with a familiar fun fairy tale isn’t enticing enough just remember there’s a colorful cannibalistic witch! Not necessarily something you want to associate with the holidays but remember all works out in the end (at least in this version it does).

To wrap it all up, enjoy this clip of “Evening Prayer”. You may have heard it before…

 

 

La Boheme

This months blog post is going to be pretty short. Month number three and we are doing another italian opera. However we are advancing past Bel Canto and moving into verismo. Verismo meaning “realism”.

In the 8th grade I was introduced to this Puccini opera. We were learning about it for a general music class and the hit broadway musical RENT had been out for a few years. We were comparing the two and needless to say, I mostly only retained the RENT information. Anyway, all I remembered about the opera La Boheme was that Pavarotti was the leading man and Mimi died. That’s it. No really. That’s all I remembered about it. Fast forward to 2007 (ish?) for my first live viewing of La Boheme. I was so excited! Everyone always gushed about how much they love this timeless opera and how the music just takes you away.

I was very let down with this beloved opera. I probably should have brushed up on the story line and listened to some excerpts so I could hum along in my head but overall I was actually bummed this opera did not hold up to the hype. I could not believe WHY anyone would think this is the best opera of all time.

Anyway, I was disappointed the relationship between the leading lady and tenor was so shallow. Literally Mimi walks in the door and BAM they are singing “Amore!!!” Comeon, how is this verismo aka “realism”. I’m willing to be flexible but this was just sickening. Sure sure sure the music was lovely, the cast sang stunningly, but that didn’t matter. No connection for me. Just too shallow and hokey. I will tell you though, the opening for Act 2 still drives me nuts. If I can skip through all that nonsense to Musetta’s waltz that’d be GREAT!

So, what changed? Why do I now enjoy La Boheme (though maybe not as much as some still…) Well, first I started listening to some tenor arias and “Che gelida manina” came on my playlist. I loved it! Took me by surprise. So I had to keep going and naturally take another listen to Mimi’s arias. While the characters seemed lacking in depth at my first look, once I started digging into the music more I found the characters were actually much closer to “realism” than I thought possible. In fact, the relationships between the characters became much more interesting. People write books and dissertations on this stuff, but I’m going to wrap this up with one more paragraph. So please, venture out and do some of your own research.It will be fun! Promise.

Anyway, FINALLY I am now able to get past the hokey “AMORE!!” at the end of the first act (despite it being unquestionably beautiful music). I realized Mimi’s financial situation and poor health was all too believable. I suppose when I was younger I thought Mimi was a simple girl and somewhat naive. OR maybe I didn’t get a good read of the subtitles my first viewing and didn’t realize Mimi is a beautiful soul trapped in an ugly world. Doing what she needs to so she can survive in a tragic society.

Ok, that’s all I have time for. Now you have some of my thoughts on this classic.

Recital Program

Laura Libby McCall, Soprano
Rachel Hidlay, Piano

Seufzer, thränen, kummer, noth                                Johann Sebastian Bach
from Cantata No. 21    (1713)                                                (1685-1750)
Ich hatte viel Bekummernis
(I had a great affliction)
BWV 21
C. 1714 (or before; the date of composition is uncertain)
text attributed to Salomo Franck (1659-1715), based on I Peter 5:6-11, and Luke 15:1-10 (the Luther German Bible)
Suefzer, Thränen, Kummer, Noth                            Sighs, tears, grief, distress,
angstlich Sehnen,                                                            nervously watching,
Furcht und Tod                                                                fear and death
nagen mein beklemmtes Herz,                                 gnaw at my anguished heart,
ich empfinde Jammer, Schmerz.                             I feel misery, pain.
Piangerò la sorte mia                                                     George Frideric Handel
from Giulio Cesare (1724)                                                   (1685-1759)
Act III, scene 3
setting: Egypt, 48 BCE; Cleopatra’s palace

E pur cosi un giorno                                                         Therefore in one day
perdo fasti e grandezze? Ahi, fato rio!                    I lose fame and greatness? Oh, treacherous fate!
Cesare, il mio bel nume, è forse estinto;                               Caesar, my protector, is perhaps no more;
Cornelia e Sesto inermi son, nè sanno                    Cornelia and Sesto are powerless,
darmi soccorso. Oh Dio!                                                They cannot assist me. O God!
Non resta alcuna speme al viver mio.                      No hope remains in my life.

Piangerò la sorte mia.                                                    I will lament my destiny,
Si crudele e tanto ria,                                                     so cruel and merciless,
finchè vita in petto avrò.                                               as long as there is life in my body.

Ma poi morta d’orni’intorno                                       But once dead, everywhere,
il tiranno e note e giorno                                              the tyrant, night and day,
fatta spettro agiterò.                                                      My spirit will torment.

Batti, batti, o bel Masetto                                             Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
from Don Giovanni (1787)                                                             (1756-1791)

                                                Soprano, Jayna Betancourt

From Act I, scene 4
setting: Seville, the 17th century; the garden of Don Giovanni’s palace; late afternoon
character: Zerlina

Zerlina and Masetto, a peasant couple, are about to be married. The festivities have begun when Giovanni happens on the scene and becomes enamored of the charming Zerlina. He tries to lead her to his castle but does not succeed. In this aria a contrite Zerlina teases her offended fiancé into good humor again.

Batti, o bel Masetto,                                                         Hit, oh handsome Masetto,
la tua povera Zerlina.                                                        your poor Zerlina.
Starò qui come agnellina                                                  like a little lamb
le tue botte ad aspettar.                                                  I’ll await your blows.
Lascerò straziarmi il crine,                                              I’ll let my hair be pulled out.
Lascerò cavarmi gli occhi,                                                                I’ll let my eyes be scratched out.
e le care tue manine lieta poi                                          and the, happy, I will be able to kiss
saprò baciar.                                                                       your dear beloved hands.
Ah, lo vedo, non hai core:                                 Ah, I see it: you don’t have courage!

Pace, o vita mia;                                                                 Peace, oh love of my life!
in contenti ed allegria                                                       In contentment and good cheer
notte e dì vogliam passar,                                               let’s enjoy passing the nights and days.
sì sì…                                                                                      yes, yes etc.

Caro nome                                                                       Giuseppe Verdi
                from Rigoletto (1851)                                              (1813-1901)

Act I, Scene II
Libretto: Francesco Maria Piave
Character: Gilda, Rigoletto’s Daughter
Setting: Mantua, the 16th century; a deserted street outside Rigoletto’s house; night
Synopsis: The hunchback Rigoletto is a jester at court. His wife is dead, and he has always concealed his lovely daughter, Gilda, from the world. At mass she has met a handsome young man who makes his way into their walled garden and declares his love. She múses on his name, Gualtier Maldè, not suspecting that he is really the Duke of Mantua, Rigoletto’s employer, in search of adventure. (G. Schirmer Opera Anthology)
Gualtier Maldé!                                                                Gualtier Maldé!
nome di lui sì amato                                                      name of him so much loved.
ti scolpisci                                                                          you engrave yourself
nel core innamorato!                                                    In my enamored heart!
Caro nome che il mio cor                                            Dear name, which first made
festi primo palpitar,                                                       my heart throb.
le delizie dell’amor                                                         you must always recall to me
mi dei sempre rammentar!                                        The delights of love!
Col pensier il mio desir                                                 In my thoughts, my desire
a te sempre volerà,                                                         will always fly to you;
e fin l’ultimo sospir,                                                       and even my last breath,
caro nome, tuo sarà.                                                      Dear name, will be yours.
Il mio desir a te                                                                My desire will evermore
ognora volerà!                                                                  Fly to you!

Après un rêve                                                                    Gabriel Fauré
(After a dream- 1878)                                                          (1845-1924)

                                                Soprano, Jayna Betancourt

Das un sommeil que charmait ton image                    In a sleep charmed by your image
je rêvais le Bonheur, ardent mirage;                            I dream of happiness,
tes yeus étaient plus doux,                                              your eyes were soft,
ta voix pure et sonore,                                                      you were radiant as a sky lit by the dawn.
tu rayonnais comme un ciel éclair par l’aurore.         You were radiant as a sky lit by the dawn.

Tu m’appelais et je quittais la terre                              you called me, and I left the earth
Pour m’enfuir avec toi vers la lumière;                         to flee with you w=owards the light
les cieux pour nous, entr’ouvraient leurs nues,         the heavens parted their clouds for us
Splendeurs inconnues,                                                      Un known splendors,
lueurs divines entrevues…                                               glimpses of divine light…

Hélas, hélas, triste réveil des songes!                         Alas, alas, sad awakening from dreams!
je t’appelle, ô nuit, rends-moi tes mensonges;          I call to you, o night, give me back your illusions;
Reviens, Reviens, radieuse,                                            Return, return in radiance,
Reviens, ô nuit mystérieuse!                                          Return, o mysterious night!           

Je suis encore                                                                   Jules Massenet
from Manon (1882)                                               (1842-1912)

Je suis encore tout étourdie…                                        I am still very scatterbrained
Je suis encore tout engourdie!                                       I am still very numb
Ah! Mon cousin! Excusezmoi!                                        Ah! My cousin! Excuse me!
Excusez un moment d’émoi.                                           Excuse me on moment
Je suis encour tout étourdie!                                          I am still very scatterbrained
Pardonez à mon bavardage,                                           pardon my chattering
J’en suis à mon premier voyage!                                   this is my first journey!

Le coche s’éloignait à peine,                                           the coach had scarcely started to move
que j’admirais de tous mes yeux                                    when I opened my eyes wide watching
les hameaux, les grands bois, la plaine,                       the little villages, the forest, the plain,
les voyageurs jeunes et vieux.                                        The passengers, both young and old.
Ah! Mon cousin, excusezmoi!                                         Ah! My cousin, excuse me!
C’est mon premier voyage!                                             It’s my first time travelling!

Je regardais fuir, curieuse,                                              Attentively I saw the trees rush by,
les arbres frissonnant au vent!                                      Trembling in the wind!
Et j’oubliais, toute joyeuse,                                             and overwhelmed with delight
que je partais pour le couvent!                                       I was forgetting that I was leaving for the convent!

Devant tant de choses nouvelles,                                  Faced with so many new things,
ne riez pas, si je vous dis                                                  don’t laugh when I tell you
que je croyais avoir des ailes,                                         that I thought I had wings
et m’envoler en paradis!                                                  And was flying to paradise!

Oui, mon cousin!                                                                Yes, my cousin!
Puis, j’eus un moment de tristesse.                              Then, I felt a moment of sadness.
je pleurais, je ne sais pas quoi.                                       I cried, I don’t know what about.
L’instant d’après, je le confesse,                                   Then the very next minute, I confess
je riais, ah!                                                                           I was laughing, ha!
mais sans savoir pourquoi!                                              But withough knowing why!

Ah! Mon cousin, excusezmoi!                                         Ah! My cousin, excuse me!
pardon! Je susi encore tout étourdie…                        Pardon! I am still scatterbrained
Je suis encore tout engourdie!                                       I am still very numb
Pardonnez à mon bavardage.                                         Pardon my chattering.
J’en suis à mon premier voyage!                                   this is my first journey!


Apparition                                                                          Claude-Achille Debussy
(1884)                                                                                                           (1862-1918)

La lune s’atristait.                                                               The moon grew-sad.
Des séraphins en pleurs                                                                  Some seraphim in tears.
Rêvant, l’archet aux doigts,                                           dreaming, bow in hand,
dans le calme des fleurs                Vaporeuses,                        in the calm of the misty flowers
tiraient de mourantes violes                                         drew from dying viols
De blancs sanglots glissant                                             some white sobs as their bows glided
sur l’azur des corolles.                                                     over the azure of the corollas.
C’était le jour béni de ton primier baiser.                 It was the day blessed of your first kiss.
Ma songerie aimant a me martyriser                         My dreaming, fond of tormenting me,
S’eniverait savamment du parfun de tristesse      became knowing drunk on the perfumed sadness
Que même sans regret et sans deboire laisse        that, without the regret or bitter aftertaste,
La cueillaison d’un Rêve au Coeur qui l’a cueilli.   The harvest of dreams leaves in the reaper’s heart.
J’errais donc, l’oeil rive sur le pave vieilli,                 So I wandered, my eyes fixed on the old paving stones.
Quand avec du soleil aux cheveux,                          When, with the sun on your hair,
dans la rue et dans le soir,                                            in the street, and in the evening
tu m’es en riant apparue,                                             you appeared laughing before me.
et j’ai cruvoir la fée                                                         and I thought I saw the fairy
Au chapeau de clarté                                                     with a hat of light
Qui jadis sur mes baux sommeils                              who had once passed across the beautiful slumber
d’enfant gâte passait,                                                    of my spoiled childhood who passed
laissant tougours de ses mains mal fermées        allowed from her half-closed hands
Neiger de blancs bouquets                                          snow white bouquets
d’étoiles parfumees.                                                      of perfumed starts.

Ständchen (Serenade)                                                     Richard Strauss
(1888)                                                                                             (1864-1949)

Mach ‘auf, mach ‘auf, doch leise, mein Kind            Open up, open up, but softly, my child,
Um Keinen vom schlummer zu wecken                     so as to awaken no one from sleep.
Kaum murmelt der Back, kaum zittert im Wind       the brook hardly murmurs, the wind hardly shakes
Ein Blatt an den Büschen und Hecken.                        A leaf on the bushes and hedges.
D’rum leise, mein Mädchen, dass nichts sich regt   Therefore softly, my maiden, that nothing stirs,
Nur leise die Hand auf die Klinke gelegt.                                    Simply lay your hand on the latch quietly.
Mit Tritten, wie Tritte der Elfen so sacht,                   With footsteps, like footsteps of the elves so light,
Um über die Blumen zu hupfen,                                                  so as to skip over the flowers,
Flieg’ leicht hinause in die Mondscheinnacht,        fly lightly out into the moon-lit night
Zu mir in den Garten zu schlupfen.                             To slip out to me in the garden.
Rings schlummern die Blüten                                        The flowers slumber around
am rieselnden Bach                                                           the rippling brook
Und duften im Schlaf, nur die Liebe ist wach.         so sweetly scented in their sleep, only love is awake.
Sitz’ nieder, heir dämmert’s geheimnisvoll              Sit down, here dusk gathers so mysteriously
Unter den Lindenbäumen,                                             under the linden trees.
Die Nachtigall uns zu Häupten soll                               the nightingale above out heads shall
Von uns’ren küssen traumen,                                       and the rose, when she awakens in the morning
Hoch glühn von den Wonneschauern der Nacht.   will glow sublimely form the delights of the night.

Winter                                                                                 Dominick Argento
from Six Elizabethan Songs (1958)           (1927-Present)

When icicles hang by the wall and Dick the shepherd blows his nail, and Tom bears logs into the hall, and milk comes frozen home in pail; When blood is nipt and ways be foul, then nightly sings the staring owl. Tuwhoo! Tuwhit! Tuwhoo! A merry note! While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doth blow, and coughing drowns the parson’s saw, and birds sit brooding in the snow, and Marian’s nose looks red and raw. When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl then nightly sings the staring owl, Tuwhoo! Tuwhit! Tuwhoo! A merry note! When greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

 

Anne Boleyn                                                                      Libby Larsen
(2001)                                                                                   (1950-Present)                                                                 

Try Me, Good King: Last Words of the Wives of Henry VIII: Libby Larsen’s Royal Portraits of Song
Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII, 6 May 1536
Henry’s love letter to Anne Boleyn;
Anne Boleyn execution speck, 19 May 1536

Try me, good king. Let me have a lawful trial and let not my enemies sit as my accusers and judges.
Try me, good king. Let me receive an open trial for my truth shall fear no open shame.
Never a prince had a wife more loyal, more loyal in all duty,
never a prince had a wife more loyal, more loyal in all true affections,
never a prince had a wife more loyal than you have found in Anne Bulen.

You have chosen me from low estate to be your wife and companion.
Do you not remember the words of your own true hand?
“My own darling, I would you were in my arms for I think if long since I kissed you,
my mistress and my friend.”
Do you not remember the words of your own true hand?

Try me good king, Try me. If ever I have found favor in your sight,
if ever the name of Anne Bulen has been pleasing to your ears,
if ever I have found favor in your sight, if ever the name of Anne Bulen has been pleasing to your ears,
let me obtain this request and my innocence shall be known.

Let me obtain this request and my innocence shall be cleared.
Try me. Good Christian people, I come hither to die and by the law I am judged to die.
I pray God, I pray God save the King.
I hear the executioner’s good, and my neck is so little.

La Cenerentola

This month’s opera focus is on another Bel Canto work. La Cenerentola (Cinderella) was written by Rossini in 1817. It took Rossini three weeks to complete the work with the help of borrowing some of his own material of course. It was common for Rossini to reuse his overtures (which he did in this opera) and other arias. Hey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?

Anyway, La Cenerentola is an operatic dramma giocoso; translated meaning drama with jokes. While the Grimm Brother’s famous version is anything but joking, the italians version however (Basile 1634) doesn’t hack off toes or peck out eyes. Not to say there aren’t any tragic operas from the Bel Canto period (cough cough Donizetti takes the cake on this one…) but think of all the coloratura you can write if your characters are lovely, charming and over the time cartoony!

I think watching La Cenerentola is going to be easy for the modern day viewer. After Disney’s release of their version of Cinderella in 1950 we are expecting evil step sisters to be ridiculous and obnoxious, Cinderella to be lovely, humble and caring, and the prince to be well, charming. Add beautiful singing, coloratura fireworks and patter singing in there and we’ve got a winning combination.

While I don’t feel the need to give you a synopsis of the classic Cinderella storyline, here are some differences between our beloved Disney version and Rossini’s dramma giocoso.
Other than the obvious… it’s all sung. Ok, that was a dumb dumb obvious. But La Cenerentola is sung in recitative (speech like) to propel the story line and filled with arias, duets, trios, and chorus to enhance the characters and conflict. If you have not experienced an opera with recitative this opera is a great choice. I find the the recitatives are well balanced setting up the the story and then setting up the ensemble or aria to follow.

Ok, let’s talk about the characters in this piece. Obviously we have Cinderella (Angelina), the two step sisters (Clorinda- Soprano and Tisbe- Mezzo Soprano), Prince Ramiro, Dandini (a valet to the prince), Alidoro (a philosopher and the princes former tutor) and Don Magnifico (Cinderella’s step-FATHER).
Wait what? No evil step mother? No fairy godmother? Nope. In this version Cinderella has a step father who puts his obnoxious daughters first. And our ‘fairy godmother’ turns out to be Alidoro; a philosopher. With a few twists and turns Alidoro is the one to actually assist our lovely Cinderella to get her to the ball. The last big difference, the prince recognizes Cinderella not by her shoe but by her bracelet.

Now hold up, why the male dominate cast? Even the chorus is all male. Let’s keep it simple. The opera is called La Cenerentola. It all bases around our leading lady. What better way than to highlight this character throughout the entire opera than to fill the stage with male roles? I’m sure we can dig up sound reasons and support facts as to why we only have three women in this production. We see this in Barber of Seville, Rigoletto, La Traviata. Let’s face it, our heroines are put on a pedestal; I wouldn’t want to tamper with it.

To wrap this up, let’s spoil the ending. I honestly cannot remember if our Disney version Cinderella forgives her evil step mother and sisters for being so cruel. I think she does but is that it? Does she bother to incorporate them into her new life? I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure she marries the prince and says “see ya! you can be the maid!”. But this version our Cenerentola wants to be a family with her step father and sisters. Even after their cruelty she wishes no ill on them. Cinderella is the winner in the end not because she gets the prince, but because she is truly forgiving and loving to her family; even though they would not let he be apart of her family before she became a princess. She turns out to be everything we need from a Cinderella. For that I LOVE this version!

 

 

 

L’Elisir d’Amore

L’Elisir d’Amore or should we say “the elixir of love”! *spoiler alert* better known as a cheap bottle of wine; just like real life. This fun loving Bel Canto opera by Donizetti centers around two characters; Nemorino and Adina. From the very beginning it is clear to the audience that Nemorino is madly in love with the beautiful, rich landowner Adina. Adina does not reciprocate Nemorino’s affections. Yet, there is no doubt she enjoys the attention and takes it for granted. When sergeant Belcore arrives on the scene to compete for Adina’s affection she does not hesitate to flaunt it in front of Nemorino and the rest of the village for that matter.

Fortunate for Nemorino, Doctor Dulcamara arrives with a cure for ANY Ailment; even a broken heart. Promising Nemorino his special “Elixir of love” will win Adina over Nemorino accepts his position without hesitation. With a fantastically fun scene between the two, Nemorino and Dulcamara banter back and forth over the elixir with some Donizetti style patter singing. Nemorino promises the Doctor that no one will know he sold him the elixir.

Now that you have a solid set up for the rest of the store I’m actually going to leave you hanging with the plot line. I’ll give  you a hint: It works out in the end. My intentions aren’t to give you a basic synopsis of the opera. Wikipedia has been doing a good job of that for 10 years. Also, you’re going to be watching it so I don’t need to share with you every little detail. You get to experience that for yourself! I want to share with you why I love this opera and some insight to what you can get out of it and expect besides the plot line.

Let’s dig into the characters.
Adina-I love this character. I find her quite complex for a character in a comedic opera. Take her off the stage and she’s still a real person. I’ve seen her be manipulative, genuine, cleaver, conflicted but above all without a doubt she is CONFIDENT. She has to be. After all, she is a wealthy landowner that the rest of the village depends on. She is responsible for a lot of people; her friends. However, she is still quite young. Where are her parents? Was there a tragedy in her life? We don’t know but all the more reason to show Adina as a multi-dimensional character. Though she is on stage the majority of the time, Adina does not have a true aria. The closest she gets is at the end of the opera just before all is resolve during ‘Prendi, per me sei libero (Take it, I have freed you)’.

Nemorino on the other hand may not be as multidimensional as Adina but he has his moments! Identified as the village ‘moron’ we mostly see him bumbling around like a fool but then he offers us ‘Una furtiva lagrima (a furtive tear)’.  Revealing a depth of the character we’ve been waiting for all opera we see him grow from constantly let down by Adina’s rejection to showing a glimmer of hope. Despite the melancholy undertones of the piece, ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ is actually hopeful and uplifting but not ridiculous or comedic like the majority of the opera.

Belcore, well what you see is what you get. From the moment he arrives on scene to the end of the opera he is an arrogant sergeant who doesn’t back down. Well, that is until Adina turns him down. But don’t worry, with a stage full of chorus girls he has no problem redirecting his attentions.

As I mentioned, this opera hails from the Bel Canto period. Bel Canto meaning “Beautiful singing”. Composers of this era focused on showing off the voice which is why at first listen you may feel slightly overwhelmed with LOTS OF NOTES. However, I think you’ll find this is not only a display of vocal athleticism but also a wonderful display of character. The intention of the text is brought to life and to be simply honest it is AMAZING what the human voice can do!