All posts by Sergio Bernardini
When the diva is a mezzo Romantic opera brought at the centre of the stage sopranos, heroines of every love drama composed by Bellini to Donizetti to Puccini passing through Verdi. Mezzo-sopranos in those days played somehow the part of “Cinderella”, before the meeting with the fairy Godmother. Relegated mostly to a secondary role, they were seldom able to share the popularity and admiration granted to the leading sopranos of their time. Ebe Stignani, one of the most beautiful voices of the last century Take for example Ebe Stignani. Not many know her or who she was, yet she was one of the most beautiful voices and of the finest musicians of the last century. Ebe Stignani and Maria Callas Stignani was a main star at the Teatro Alla Scala while Maria Callas was just starting her cooperation with the Milan stage. Those were Callas’ difficult first years at La Scala, where she debuted in 1950 as a replacement to Renata Tebaldi in Aida. There was certainly a pre-established criticism if not hostility and even a lack of interest for Callas’ vocal talents, that kept growing till 1953 when, after a Norma with Stignani, the Greek soprano left Italy to return […]
Everywhere in the world, Italian language is popular thanks to music; not just Opera but also pop hits such as Volare or Mamma. Common Italian words are increasingly used in other languages while notation on music scores is traditionally in Italian (piano, forte, crescendo, rallentando etc…). So much so that many Italian terms used for music are now truly international, representing a substantial part of the international Italian vocabulary.
The compelling power of Zandonai’s best opera Francesca da Rimini is the best known of Riccardo Zandonai’s opera, a work of musical richness and compelling dramatic power. D’Annunzio’s play, written in the years of his obsession for Wagner, has many parallels with Tristan und Isolde, as for instance the minstrel account of Isolde’s story at the beginning of the opera and the “goblet scene” in act two. The epitome of a tragic love The first act takes place in Ravenna: Francesca da Polenta, daughter of the lord of the city, is about to marry Guido Malatesta, called Gianciotto because of his deformity (he’s crippled): she’s led to believe that the groom to be is the handsome Paolo, Gianciotto’s brother. In the second act, the following winter, the Guelphs Malatesta, at war with the Ghibellines, are besieging their castle in Rimini. Francesca meets Paolo in the castle and blames him for deceiving her into marriage. Gianciotto arrives followed by their brother Malatestino, who is wounded. In act three, a few months later, Francesca is in her room reading when Paolo, back from a long journey, enters. After confessing each other their love, they go back to the reading which features the […]
What is Rigoletto it about? This sounds like a simple question, which could be answered by telling the story of the Duke of Mantua, the city of Mantua, his hunchback jester and the jester’s daughter, Gilda. A story of love, deception, revenge, and death. The story, of course, is so close to the one told by playwright and poet Victor Hugo in his play Le Roi s’amuse (The King has fun), that they could appear the same thing. But anyone who loves opera will not be satisfied by this explanation. In the best operas, music is much more than an accompaniment to the story: it is through the power of music that the story unfolds into the drama. Verdi fell literally in love with Hugo’s play and was determined to translate it into music; despite his librettist Francesco Maria Piave‘s concerns, particularly over the fourth act culminating in the deposition of a dying Gilda in a bag. In a letter dated June 1850, Verdi explains the reasons he suggested as a title for the opera Monterone’s curse or, by the short, The Curse. “The subject is the curse as a moral element: A distraught father who mourns the honor taken away from his daughter, a […]
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