Friday, January 25, 2013

Preview: "I still see her looking in silence at my white hair" -- King Philip in "Don Carlos"

Ferruccio Furlanetto as King Philip in his study in Don Carlos at the Met
Io la rivedo ancor, contemplar triste in volto
il mio crin bianco il dì che qui di Francia venne.
No, amor per me non ha, amor per me non ha.


I still see her again, contemplating with a sad look
my white mane the day that she came here from France.
No, she doesn't love me, she doesn't love me.

Jerome Hines (bs), King Philip II; Orchestra of the Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Fernando Previtali, cond. Live performance, Sept. 2, 1962

Ferruccio Furlanetto (bs), King Philip II; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, James Levine, cond. Sony, recorded Apr.-May 1992

by Ken

Yes, yes, I know Sunday Classics is supposed to be on hiatus. Let's just call this a hiatus from the hiatus. We've got stuff to deal with, even while I plow ahead with the laborious task of importing Sunday Classics posts into the new stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken" blog at sundayclassicswithken.blogspot.com. (At last count we were all the way back to July 2012!)

To get back to it, here is the same passage from Don Carlos which we just heard in the standard Italian translation, only now in the original French, which, let me remind you, is the only language Verdi ever worked on this opera in. In the bits of it we're going to be hearing tonight, the differences aren't enormous sense-wise, but I've included the originals so you have a chance to see how much more naturally the syntax flows in the French.
Je la revois encor, regardant en silence
mes cheveux blancs le jour qu'elle arriva de France.
Non, elle ne m'aime pas, elle ne m'aime pas.


I still see her again, looking in silence at
my white hair the day that she arrived from France.
No, she doesn't love me, she doesn't love me.

José van Dam (bs-b), King Philip II; Orchestre de Paris, Antonio Pappano, cond. EMI, recorded live at the Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris), Mar. 10-16, 1996

SEE, I GOT THIS IDEA THAT WE COULD JUXTAPOSE
THESE TWO PASSAGES FROM PHILIP'S MONOLOGUE


The thing is, this week I helped a friend sort through and arrange his CD collection, making it possible to pull the stuff he had duplicated. As a result I came away with a pile of stuff that I didn't have, which included this broadcast performance of King Philip's monologue by Jerome Hines from Buenos Aires's Teatro Colón. And as it happens . . . .

It was just around this time that Hines was the Philip of my first Don Carlos, at the Met, with the not-yet-superstar Georg Solti conducting quite admirably. We've heard a lot of Don Carlos in Sunday Classics over the years (after all, there's a lot to hear), and I thought that this would be a good chance to actually butt this pair of passages from Philip's great monologue up against each other together. Over the years I've written about this juxtaposition any number of times, probably even here, but I've never had the opportunity to enable listeners to hear them side by side.

LET'S REMIND OURSELVES WHERE WE ARE

Dramaturgically we're in the first of the two scenes of Act IV (five-act version; or Act III in the four-act version Verdi created by lopping off the opening Fontainebleau act), the scene in the king's study, actually a tight sequence of tableaux that surely adds up to one of the composer's supreme accomplishments.

The situation is this. The Hapsburg King Philip II of Spain, son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and probably himself also the most powerful man in the world, is floating in a sea of troubles -- some of them of his own making, some others merely made worse by him. He is struggling to deal with a bloody Protestant insurrection in Flanders, and at the same time is persuaded that his young wife Elisabeth, the daughter of the French king Francis I, has been unfaithful. (As we have seen, the plan to include as settlement of the 100 Years' War a marriage between Elisabeth and Philip's son, Don Carlos, was changed at the last minute to join Elisabeth to her once-intended father-in-law.)

The scene opened with this extraordinary three-minute orchestral introduction:


Orchestra of the Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Fernando Previtali, cond. Live performance, Sept. 2, 1962

Orchestre de Paris, Antonio Pappano, cond. EMI, recorded live at the Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris), Mar. 10-16, 1996

Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Gabriele Santini, cond. DG, recorded July and Sept. 1961

Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, James Levine, cond. Sony, recorded Apr.-May 1992
A COUPLE OF RECORDING NOTES

First, the opening note of the Previtali performance is lopped off that way on the source CD. Then, as to the Pappano performance, it's so slack and drained of movement that I was going to substitute some other performance -- any other performance. But I thought, maybe it does us good every now and then to hear a clunker of a performance. (It doesn't help that the EMI recording is at a very low level. I tried to crank up the volume, but apparently not enough.) As an afterthought I added the quickish but beautifully atmospheric Santini and quite decent Levine performances.

NOW FOR THAT OTHER PASSAGE . . .

It comes just a couple of minutes later, though with some important material in between which we're not considering tonight.
Si la royauté nous donnait le pouvoir
de lire aux coeurs des hommes
où Dieu seul peut tout voir!
Ah, si la royauté &c.


If only royalty gave us the power
to read in the hearts of men
where God alone can see all!
Ah, if only royalty &c.

José van Dam (bs-b), King Philip II; Orchestre de Paris, Antonio Pappano, cond. EMI, recorded live at the Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris), Mar. 10-16, 1996
Se il serto regal a me desse il poter
di leggere nei cor,
che Dio sol può veder!
Ah, se il serto regal &c.


If only the royal crown gave me the power
to read in hearts
what God alone can see!
Ah, if only the royal crown &c.

Jerome Hines (bs), King Philip II; Orchestra of the Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Fernando Previtali, cond. Live performance, Sept. 2, 1962

DO YOU SEE THE CONNECTION?

Perhaps it will help if we dip into a book by the retired baritone-turned-pedagogue Martial Singher's discussion of Philip's monologue in his book An Interpretive Guide to Operatic Arias: A Handbook for Singers, Coaches, Teachers, and Students.

Here's what Singher has to say about our first passage:
Memory of Elizabeth's arrival comes to Filippo's mind, and some life appears in his voice, "Io la rivedo ancor." But the vision is depressing, and "trista in volto" and "il mio crin bianco" are somber phrases. "Il di che qui di Francia venne" is written with slightly detached notes, an allusion to Elizabeth's youthful appearance, and somehow creates pathos.

And here's what he has to say about the second:
A sudden change of mood occurs. Putting his dark forebodings aside, Filippo reveals the violence of the suspicions and jealousy he usually keeps hidden. In the same majestic tempo but no in a powerful voice he wishes he could read the hearts of Elizabeth and Carlo and others still at court. His voice flexes in a sweeping voalise in "che Dio può sol, può sol veder," hurries on in an almost murmured repeat of "Ah, se il serto regal," only to rise and thunder again on the D-flat of "leggere," without doubt a tenuto, to return to an almost mysterious piano on the last "che Dio sol può veder."
Now Maître Singher is trying to help the singer sing this piece, and so it doesn't necessarily count against him that he hasn't come anywhere close to the crucial connection that really links these passages. After all, the link has to do with something that Philip doesn't seem to know about himself, or at least not to acknowledge, and it may not be especially helpful to the performer to have that spelled out for him.

LET'S PICK UP AT THAT LAST POINT
BUT CONTINUE ON JUST A LITTLE


For the record, about the tiny section we're adding here Maître Singher has this to say:
Then the anxiety of all powerful men seizes him: Is there a conspiracy going on against him, against his marriage? "Se dorme il prence" has the cautious discretion of the plotter's voice. "Il serto perde il re, il consorte l'onore" -- these phrases are said with distaste and great reluctance.Then the anxiety of all powerful men seizes him: Is there a conspiracy going on against him, against his marriage? "Se dorme il prence" has the cautious discretion of the plotter's voice. "Il serto perde il re, il consorte l'onore" -- these phrases are said with distaste and great reluctance.
Well, yes, sort of, but again from our standpoint as audience members, this isn't what really grabs my attention in this tiny morsel. ("The anxiety of all powerful men?" Really?) Let's listen.
Si la royauté nous donnait le pouvoir
de lire aux coeurs des hommes
où Dieu seul peut tout voir!
Ah, si la royauté &c.
Si le roi dort, la trahison se trame.
On lui ravit sa couronne et sa femme!


If only royalty gave us the power
to read in the hearts of men
where God alone can see all!
Ah, if only royalty &c.
If the king sleeps, treason is woven.
They'll ravish him of his crown and his wife!

José van Dam (bs-b), King Philip II; Orchestre de Paris, Antonio Pappano, cond. EMI, recorded live at the Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris) Mar. 10-16, 1996
Se il serto regal a me desse il poter
di leggere nei cor,
che Dio sol può veder!
Ah, se il serto regal &c.
Se dorme il prence, veglia il traditore;
il serto perde il Re, il consorte l'onore!


If only the royal crown gave me the power
to read in hearts
what God alone can see!
Ah, if only the royal crown &c.
If the prince sleeps, the traitor is standing watch,
the king will lose his crown, the husband his honor.

Jerome Hines (bs), King Philip II; Orchestra of the Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Fernando Previtali, cond. Live performance, Sept. 2, 1962

First, is it not interesting that amidst all this introspection the king suddenly lets slip that he sees enemies, traitors all around him? And second, while it may sound metaphorical when he contemplates the possibility "if the king sleeps," but in this case I think the literal significance is much more interesting. The king is not sleeping. This scene begins before dawn, and it seems reasonable to assume that Philip has been up most if not all the night, and very likely the night before that, and the night before that, and the night before that . . . .

In the very next scene the king is going to have the floor wiped with him by a 90-year-old blind man. I don't think it's an accident that the Grand Inquisitor shows up at the crack of dawn for a confrontation with the king. Quite likely he doesn't need sleep, but quite certainly the king does, and he's not getting it. (It also seems overwhelmingly likely that the Grand Inquisitor has spies in the palace who keep him informed of such matters.) At a time when Philip is beset with troubles, both political and personal, he needs all his wits about him. Instead, he is approaching witlessness.

FINALLY, HERE'S THE WHOLE MONOLOGUE
(BUT WITHOUT ENGLISH TEXTS, TILL SUNDAY)


VERDI: Don Carlos: Act IV (III), Scene 1:

King Philip, "Elle ne m'aime pas" ("She doesn't love me")
[in French]

José van Dam (bs-b), King Philip II; Orchestre de Paris, Antonio Pappano, cond. EMI, recorded live at the Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris) Mar. 10-16, 1996

King Philip, "Ella giammai m'amò" ("She never loved me")
[in Italian]

Jerome Hines (bs), King Philip II; Orchestra of the Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Fernando Previtali, cond. Live performance, Sept. 2, 1962


IN THIS WEEK'S SUNDAY CLASSICS POST
(ON HIATUS FROM HIATUS) --


More of and about King Philip's crisis.
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