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Giuseppe di Stefano, 1921-2008 March 3, 2008

Posted by Jeff in In memoriam, Italian, Opera, Theater.
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Giuseppe di StefanoThe last of the great 20th-century Italian tenors, the man whom Luciano Pavarotti called a role model, has died at the age of eighty-seven.

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“Ah, fors’è lui” January 4, 2008

Posted by Jeff in Giuseppe Verdi, Italian, Netrebko and Villazón, Opera.
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Anna Netrebko nails the Olympic women’s triathlon of Italian opera, the last ten minutes of the first act of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata: “Ah, fors’è lui” followed by “Follie! Delirio vano è questo!”, concluding with “Sempre libera”. Briefly accompanied by her best-known operatic partner, Rolando Villazón.
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“La maledizione!” November 23, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Giuseppe Verdi, Italian, Opera, Theater, Tito Gobbi.
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Above, the quartet from Act III of Verdi’s Rigoletto, the title character of which is the mark of any Verdi baritone. Lina Pagliughi singing Gilda (acted by Marcella Govoni), Mario Filippeschi as the Duke of Mantua, Anna Maria Canale as Maddelena … and the brilliant Tito Gobbi as the court jester whose daughter is seduced by his employer. From a 1946 film, with the orchestra conducted by Tulio Serafin.

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“Credo” November 22, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Giuseppe Verdi, Italian, Opera, Tito Gobbi.
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At the end of his composing career, Giuseppe Verdi returned to his favorite dramatist for his last two operas. Arrigo Boito was very faithful to Shakespeare in his libretto for Otello, but at Verdi’s insistence included an aria in which Iago sings of “Credo in un Dio crudel” — his belief in a cruel God.

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“L’autore ha cercato invece pingervi uno squarcio di vita”* November 21, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Italian, La Boheme, Opera, Theater, Tito Gobbi.
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* “Instead, the author has sought to paint for you a scene from life”

If you have ever read program notes for Pagliacci, Ruggero Leoncavallo’s first and best-known opera, you’ve probably seen the story that the composer based his libretto on a true murder case that had been tried by his father, who was a judge.

Great story … too bad it probably isn’t true.
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“Come Paride vezzoso” November 20, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Italian, Opera, Theater, Tito Gobbi.
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Until I saw this clip I think Falstaff was the only comic role I’d ever seen Tito Gobbi portray.

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“Don Giovanni” November 19, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Italian, Opera, Theater, Tito Gobbi.
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From the 1950 Salzburg Festival, my vote for the greatest recorded performance of a Mozart opera …

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“Va, Tosca!” November 18, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Italian, Opera, Theater, Tito Gobbi.
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Previously on the non-blog I’ve shown you the second-act finale to Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, with Maria Callas in the title role and the Baron Scarpia of George London. London was a brilliant singer — but he was not La Divina’s favorite Scarpia, nor mine.

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“What is honour? A word” November 17, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Giuseppe Verdi, Italian, Legit, Opera, Theater.
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My favorite baritone, the magnificent Tito Gobbi (1913-1984), sings of “L’Onore” in the title role of Giuseppe Verdi’s final opera, Falstaff.
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Playing favorites October 19, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Giuseppe Verdi, Italian, Opera, Régine Crespin, Theater.
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Q: What’s your favorite work by Puccini?

A: La Boheme.

Q: What’s your favorite work by Offenbach?

A: Tales of Hoffman.

Q: What’s your favorite work by Wagner?

A: Meistersinger.

Q: What’s your favorite work by Sondheim?

A: Sunday In The Park With George.

Q: What’s your favorite work by Verdi?

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A sad confluence September 16, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Italian, Opera, Theater.
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The most influential soprano of the twentieth century died on my birthday.

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Più di Luciano September 14, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Giuseppe Verdi, Italian, Opera, Theater.
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Cover of Il Trovatore album

I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to see a new recording as I was when I walked into Sam Goody’s Manhattan store in 1977 to find this. (And I don’t want to hear the word “Photoshop”; he really was that thin once …)

Like much of classic early Verdi, Il Trovatore doesn’t get performed much any more. It’s not for nothing that this was the opera they chose to make fun of in the Marx Brothers movie; when I saw him perform it at the Met there was a big part of me that was disappointed not to see Harpo and Chico playing baseball in the orchestra pit during the overture.

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It’s never over when the fat people sing September 13, 2007

Posted by Jeff in French, Italian, Opera, Theater.
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Although I’d had advance warning of his passing, I hadn’t prepared anything for the blog in advance. So last week I just thought of the first thing I think of when I think of Luciano Pavarotti: the first role I ever saw him in.

Here are clips from works I never saw him in live:

Luciano Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland in their prime, singing the Act I duet, “Verranno a te sull’aure”, from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. From the 1972 Rudolf Bing Gala at the Metropolitan Opera; introduced by Risë Stevens.

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Luciano Pavarotti, 1935-2007 September 6, 2007

Posted by Jeff in In memoriam, Italian, La Boheme, Opera, Theater.
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Luciano Pavarotti sings “Che gelida manina” from Act I of Puccini’s La Boheme, with soprano Mirella Freni.

Before the bombast and the insane managers and the overhype, there was, truly and honestly, one of the great tenors of the twentieth century.

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