Sunday, September 29, 2013

In "I Pagliacci," we come now to a moment of high drama for Nedda and Tonio


Sine Bundgaard as Nedda and Fredrik Zetterström as Tonio in Copenhagen, December 2011 -- there are full English texts farther along in the post.

To deal for now with just the beginning:
When NEDDA finishes her Ballatella, she is startled to discover TONIO watching.

NEDDA [sharply interrupting her train of thought]: You're there? I thought you had gone.
TONIO: It's the fault of your singing.
Fascinated, I reveled in it.
NEDDA [mockingly]: Ha Ha! So much poetry!
TONIO: Don't laugh, Nedda!
NEDDA: Go! Go off to the inn!
TONIO: I know well that I am deformed,
I am contorted,
that I arouse only scorn and horror.
Yet my thoughts know dreams, desires,
a beating of the heart.
When so disdainfully you pass me by,
you don't know what tears
grief forces out of me!
Because, in spite of myself,
I've suffered enchantment,
I've been conquered by love!
[Moving closer to her]
Oh! let me tell you --
NEDDA [interrupting]: That you love me?
Ha ha ha ha!

Clara Petrella (s), Nedda; Afro Poli (b), Tonio; Orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia (Rome), Alberto Erede, cond. Decca, recorded 1953

Gabriella Tucci (s), Nedda; Cornell MacNeil (b), Tonio; Orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia (Rome), Francesco Molnari-Pradelli, cond. Decca, recorded 1958

Arta Florescu (s), Nedda; Nicolae Herlea (b), Tonio; Bucharest National Opera Orchestra, Mircea Popa, cond. Electrecord, recorded 1966

by Ken

The YouTube clip has the full Nedda-Tonio scene, which as you can see isn't a long one. In Friday night's preview, we got only as far as the audio clips above, through Tonio's declaration of love to Nedda, and at that we left out the first couple of lines.


IT'S NOT A PRETTY SCENE

We've reached the point in our look at the situation of poor Nedda in I Pagliacci, where she has to deal with this unwelcome suitor. I don't think we need to say much more about the scene, but just let it unfurl. It's not a pretty scene, and while Nedda can certainly be understood for her actions, since Tonio really leaves her little choice, refusing to abandon his suit. Still, one remembers that her immediate reaction to his pouring his guts out is ridicule and scorn.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Preview: Finally we hear two-minute samples from Nedda's encounters with the two baritones of "I Pagliacci"


Lawrence Tibbett sings the Pagliacci Prologue from the 1935 film Metropolitan.

LEONCAVALLO: I Pagliacci: Prologue: conclusion
And you, rather than our poor
actors' costumes, consider
our souls, because we are people,
of flesh and bone, and since in this orphan
world, just like you, we breathe the air!

I've told you the concept.
Now hear how it worked out.
Let's go -- begin!

Leonard Warren (b), Tonio; RCA Victor Orchestra, Renato Cellini, cond. RCA-EMI, recorded 1953

Tito Gobbi (b), Tonio; La Scala, Tullio Serafin, cond. EMI, recorded June 12-17, 1954

Giuseppe Taddei (b), Tonio; Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Herbert von Karajan, cond. DG, recorded October 1965

by Ken

As best I can tell there doesn't appear to be much interest in my Pagliacci series beyond my computer. From which the obvious conclusion is that we must forge right ahead. The series began with the post "On our way to focusing on Nedda's scenes with the two baritones of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci," then continued with "Preview: 'He said, she said' in the opening scenes of I Pagliacci" and "Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and the woman who understood the birds' song."

When we left Nedda, half of her little itinerant theatrical troupe, meaning her husband, Canio, and their colleague Beppe, had gone off for a frinedly drink with some of the locals of the village where theye arrived as Act I opened, leaving her to ponder her situation. Tonight we're going to hear two-minute samples of the baritone characters with whom she's about to have dramatic encounters.

The first isn't new to us; it's Tonio, the troupe's hunchback clown, who stayed behind, he said, to groom the donkey. We've heard an odd, unpleasant line or two from him, but mostly we know his voice from the Prologue, as we've resampled above.

BONUS: 3 (OR 4) VERSIONS WE HAVEN'T HEARD

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci" and the woman who understood the birds' song


Elizabeth Futral does her best at singing while she histrionicizes Nedda's recitative and Balatella. The chunk of recitative below, the first of three, occupies the first 57 seconds of the clip.

(1) "Qual fiamma avea nel guardo!"
How his eyes did blaze! I turned mine
away for fear he should read
my secret thought!
Oh, if he should catch me,
brutal as he is! But enough,
these are frightening nightmares and silly fancies!

Claudia Muzio (s). Edison, recorded Jan. 21, 1921

Gabriella Tucci (s), Nedda; Orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, cond. Decca, recorded 1958


"Nedda is at best an unthinking creature who allows her basic desires to get the better of her."
-- from the London Records booklet for the 1967 Decca Pagliacci

by Ken

Now it could be that our commentator means that in describing Nedda as "at best an unthinking creature" he has in mind a comparison with her husband, Canio, the master of their little troupe of itinerant players (or pagliacci), who is well known as a student of the dialogues of Plato. Or it could be that he has simply embraced the popular view of the function of art as a medium for making people even stupider.

We've been working our way through the opening scenes of I Pagliacci, starting several weeks ago ("On our way to focusing on Nedda's scenes with the two baritones of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci") with some attention to the statement of the "author" in the Prologue and to Canio himself and then venturing into the monologue Nedda sings when the rest of the troupe goes off with a band of villagers to enjoy a drink or two, leaving her alone -- except, importantly, the hunchback clown Tonio, who's now off grooming the little donkey. Then in Friday night's preview ("'He said, she said' in the opening scenes of I Pagliacci") we began taking a closer look at Nedda's monologue, starting with the chunk of recitative we heard again above.

If it's fully imagined and experienced, it already tells us an awful lot about the character, I think: about the closed-in, fearful way Nedda lives; about her husband's brutality (whose exact form we're left to imagine for ourselves, though there seems to me no doubt that she fears the worst); about the dangerous secret she's keeping; and then about her way of dealing with all the above.


THIS SETS THE STAGE FOR --

Friday, September 20, 2013

Preview: "He said, she said" in the opening scenes of "I Pagliacci"


NEDDA: How his eyes did blaze! I turned mine
away for fear he should read
my secret thought!
Oh, if he should catch me,
brutal as he is! But enough,
these are frightening nightmares and silly fancies!
[A] - [C]

[D] - [F]


by Ken

This week we return to the troubled marriage of Canio and Nedda, the protagonists of Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci, whose acquaintance we made several weeks ago "On our way to focusing on Nedda's scenes with the two baritones of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci." Tonight we've plunged right into the recitative that Nedda sings when she's left alone at her traveling players' troupe's makeshift performance site for the night while Canio and the others head off to have a drink with the Calabrian villagers who have greeted the troupe's arrival with such excitement.

You'll recall that when Tonio, the troupe's hunchbacked clown, declined the invitation to join the others, saying he wanted to groom the little donkey, a villager jokingly warned Canio that Tonio was really staying behind to pay court to Nedda, Canio kind of went berserk, explaining at first calmly that "the theater and life aren't the same thing; no, they're not the same thing," that if onstage Pagliaccio should return home unexpectedly to find his wife Columbina being courted by Arlecchino, a fine theatrical scene would ensue, drawing rousing applause from the audience. But he became increasingly agitated as he noted that if the same thing were to happen in real life, it would end very differently. The crowd that had earlier been so thoroughly won over by Canio's gracious, charismatic charm, found itself befuddled -- and Nedda too, declaring herself (to herself) confounded.

In just a moment we're going to hear all of that again, along with the connecting material and the whole of Nedda's "Ballatella," but for tonight I really want to focus on Nedda's first utterances, less than a minute's worth of music. What we're hearing in these tiny clips is exactly what you see on the above printed page of vocal score, sung by six very differently distinguished sopranos. (Apologies for the noise level on the first. It's an acoustical recording, but I'm sure better transfers exist.) We're going to break down the rest of the recitative in Sunday's post, before moving on to the little aria itself. But I think each of these chunks continas such a remarkable sequence of mental events that it's all worth attending to carefully.


SO HERE ARE THE AUDIO CLIPS AGAIN,
BUT WITH THE PERFORMERS IDENTIFIED


Sunday, September 15, 2013

The First Symphony sets out the modus operandi for Mahler's symphonic career

MAHLER: Songs of a Wayfarer:
No. 4, "Die zwei blauen Augen" ("The two blue eyes")

Thomas Allen sings the last of Mahler's Wayfarer Songs, "Die zwei blauen Augen" ("The two blue eyes"), with Václav Neumann conducting the Mahler Youth Orchestra, in Frankfurt's Alte Oper, 1991.

Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano; Philharmonia Orchestra, Sir Adrian Boult, cond. EMI, recorded Oct. 18, 1958

Maureen Forrester, contralto; Boston Symphony Orchestra, Charles Munch, cond. RCA-BMG, recorded Dec. 28, 1958

Thomas Quasthoff, baritone; Vienna Philharmonic, Pierre Boulez, cond. DG, recorded June 2003

by Ken

In Friday night's preview, preparing for today's assault on the Mahler First Symphony, we heard, or rather reheard, the transformation Mahler wrought to transform the second of his four Songs of a Wayfarer into the exposition of the symphony's first movement, something we first heard in the March 2012 preview post "From song to symphony -- the journey of Mahler's lonely wayfarer," when we were tackling the Wayfarer Songs. In another preview post a couple of weeks later we listened to the transformation of the second section of the final Wayfarer Song, "Die zwei blauen Augen" ("The two blue eyes"), which we just hear complete, into the haunting central section of the third movement of the First Symphony. As I also mentioned, we've also heard the second movement of the First, meaning that the only thing that will be (mostly) new for us is the Finale.


LET'S DIG RIGHT IN WITH THE FIRST MOVEMENT

Friday, September 13, 2013

Preview: Preparing to attack Mahler's First Symphony


The young Gustav Mahler

Start

Finish

Concertgebouw Orchestra, Bernard Haitink, cond. Philips, recorded September 1962

Start

Finish

New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, cond. CBS/Sony, recorded Oct. 4 and 22, 1966

by Ken

Every now and then I remind myself that, while we've "done" a bunch of Mahler symphonies, including the whole of the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth, and while we've had posts that took us inside the first, second, and third movements of the Mahler First, we still haven't properly done the symphony.

So we've started, above, by hearing how the Mahler First starts and finishes. That's the introduction and exposition from the first movement (the Bernstein version, you'll note, takes the first-movement exposition repeat), and the final five-minute-plus chunk of the finale.

AND THEN, AS LONG AS WE'VE ALREADY HEARD
THE EXPOSITION OF THE FIRST MOVEMENT . . .


Sunday, September 8, 2013

In "Patience," "The pain that is all but a pleasure will change for the pleasure that's all but pain"

"The soldiers of our Queen are linked in friendly tether" -- at the Gilbert and Sullivan Very Light Opera Company, Minneapolis, 2002
The officers of the DRAGOON GUARDS enter, right, led by the MAJOR. They form their line across the front of the stage.

Chorus of Dragoons, "The soldiers of our Queen"
DRAGOONS: The soldiers of our Queen
are linked in friendly tether;
upon the battle scene
they fight the foe together.
There ev'ry mother's son
prepared to fight and fall is;
the enemy of one
the enemy of all is!
The enemy of one
the enemy of all is!
[On an order from the MAJOR, they fall back. Enter the COLONEL. All salute.]
Solo, Colonel Calverley, "If you want a receipt"
COLONEL: If you want a receipt for that popular mystery,
[Center] known to the world as a Heavy Dragoon,
DRAGOONS [saluting]: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!
COLONEL: Take all the remarkable people in history,
rattle them off to a popular tune.
DRAGOONS: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!
COLONEL: The pluck of Lord Nelson on board of the Victory,
genius of Bismarck devising a plan,
the humor of Fielding (which sounds contradictory),
coolness of Paget about to trepan,
the science of Jullien, the eminent musico,
wit of Macaulay, who wrote of Queen Anne,
the pathos of Paddy, as rendered by Boucicault,
style of the Bishop of Sodor and Man,
the dash of a D'Orsay, divested of quackery,
narrative powers of Dickens and Thackeray,
Victor Emmanuel, peak-haunting Peveril,
Thomas Aquinas, and Doctor Sacheverell,
Tupper and Tennyson, Daniel Defoe,
Anthony Trollope and Mister Guizot! Ah!
DRAGOONS: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!
COLONEL with DRAGOONS: Take of these elements all that is fusible;
melt them all down in a pipkin or crucible,
set them to simmer and take off the scum,
and a Heavy Dragoon is the residuum!

COLONEL: If you want a receipt for this soldier-like paragon,
get at the wealth of the Czar (if you can),
the family pride of a Spaniard from Aragon,
force of Mephisto pronouncing a ban,
a smack of Lord Waterford, reckless and rollicky,
swagger of Roderick, heading his clan,
the keen penetration of Paddington Pollaky,
grace of an Odalisque on a divan,
the genius strategic of Caesar or Hannibal,
skill of Sir Garnet in thrashing a cannibal,
flavor of Hamlet, the Stranger (a touch of him),
little of Manfred (but not very much of him),
beadle of Burlington, Richardson's show,
Mister Micawber and Madame Tussaud! Ah!
DRAGOONS: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!
COLONEL with DRAGOONS: Take of these elements all that is fusible;
melt them all down in a pipkin or crucible,
set them to simmer and take off the scum,
and a Heavy Dragoon is the residuum!

Donald Adams (bs), Colonel Calverley; D'Oyly Carte Opera Chorus, New Symphony Orchestra of London, Isidore Godfrey, cond. Decca, recorded September 1961

John Shaw (b), Colonel Calverley; Glyndebourne Festival Chorus, Pro Arte Orchestra, Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond. EMI, recorded Oct. 17-20, 1961

by Ken

Friday night we encountered our three Dragoon Guards officers -- Colonel Calverley, Major Murgatroyd, and Lieut. the Duke of Dunstable -- in a state of the most extreme stress, attempting to be "Aesthetic" and "mediaeval" in order to regain the favors of the village ladies who once admired them unreservedly. We're going to spend some more time with that splendidly side-splitting trio, but in order to better understand what exactly is funny about it, I thought we should go back to the dragoons' first appearance in Patience, in Act I -- in full swaggering mode.


I DON'T KNOW THAT ANYONE CARES ABOUT
THE THOUGHT PROCESS AT WORK HERE, BUT . . .


Friday, September 6, 2013

Preview: "You hold yourself like this; you hold yourself like that; by hook and crook you try and look both angular and flat"

"You hold yourself like this; you hold yourself like that" -- from the Bournemouth G-and-S Society's 2011 production of Patience
Enter LIEUTENANT THE DUKE OF DUNSTABLE, COLONEL CALVERLEY, and MAJOR MURGATROYD, right. They have abandoned their uniforms, and are dressed and made up in imitation of Aesthetics. They have long hair, and other signs of attachment to the brotherhood. They walk to center. As they sing they walk in stiff, constrained, and angular attitudes -- a grotesque exaggeration of the attitudes adopted by BUNTHORNE and the young LADIES in Act I.

TRIO -- the DUKE, MAJOR, and COLONEL:
It's clear that mediaeval art alone retains its zest;
to charm and please
its devotees
we've done our little best.
We're not quite sure if all we do has the Early English ring,
but, as far as we can judge, it's something like this sort of thing:
You hold yourself like this [attitude];
you hold yourself like that [attitude];
by hook and crook
you try to look
both angular and flat [attitude].
We venture to expect
that what we recollect,
though but a part
of true High Art,
will have its due effect.

If this is not exactly right, we hope you won't upbraid;
you can't get high Aesthetic tastes, like trousers, ready-made.
True views on Mediaevalism Time alone will bring,
but, as far as we can judge, it's something like this sort of thing:
You hold yourself like this [attitude];
you hold yourself like that [attitude];
by hook and crook
you try to look
both angular and flat [attitude].
To cultivate the trim
rigidity of limb,
you ought to get
a marionette,
and form your style on him [attitude].
[Attitudes change in time to the music.]

Derek Oldham (t), Lieut. the Duke of Dunstable: Martyn Green (b), Major Murgatroyd; Darrell Fancourt (bs), Colonel Calverley; D'Oyly Carte Opera Orchestra, Malcolm Sargent, cond. EMI, recorded Sept.-Nov. 1930

Alexander Young (t), Lieut. the Duke of Dunstable; John Shaw (b), Colonel Calverley; Trevor Anthony (bs), Major Murgatroyd; Pro Arte Orchestra, Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond. EMI, recorded Oct. 17-20, 1961

by Ken

Do we really need an excuse to conjure this immortal trio from Act II of Patience? In it we see our three Dragoon Guards officers -- Lieut. the Duke of Dunstable, Major Murgatroyd, and Colonel Calverley -- making unholy fools of themselves, naturally over a woman, or rather three women, the Ladies Angela, Saphir, and Ella. Like all the women in this rural village, they're enraptured with their new local high priest of Aestheticism, the poet Reginald Bunthorne, and for his ethereal sake have thrown over their previous sweethearts, the dragoon officers. Here the officers try to show that they can be just as Aesthetic, just as Medieval, as any damned poet, though with conspicuous lack of success.

Actually, we do have a reason to be detouring through the Aesthetic shrubbery of Patience. But I think we can talk about that in this week's Sunday Classics post.
#

Sunday, September 1, 2013

On our way to focusing on Nedda's scenes with the two baritones of Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci"

Daniel Sutin as Tonio the clown in Austin, 2012
PROLOGUE (sung by the performance's Tonio) -- conclusion:
And you, rather than our poor
actors' costumes, consider
our souls, because we are people,
of flesh and bone, and since in this orphan
world, just like you, we breathe the air!

I've told you the concept.
Now hear how it worked out.
Let's go -- begin!

Leonard Warren (b), Tonio; RCA Victor Orchestra, Renato Cellini, cond. RCA-EMI, recorded January 1953

Giuseppe Taddei (b), Tonio; Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Herbert von Karajan, cond. DG, recorded Sept.-Oct. 1965

by Ken

The recordings by leonard Warren and Giuseppe Taddei are the ones we heard in the September 2010 post "The Prologue to Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci entreats, 'Consider our souls' " when we broke the Prologue down into chunks, culminating in this one. We should probably note that the high notes -- on "al pari di voi" ("just like you") and "incominciate!" ("begin!") -- aren't Leoncavallo's, but the music sounds pretty flat without them, and I can't imagine he would complain about the effect that Leonard Warren in particular achieves with them.

I was tempted to repeat that Prologue breakdown here, but especially now that I've imported it that series of posts into the stand-alone "Sunday Classics" blog, it's readily available via click-through. But I don't want to venture into the opera again without hearing the whole of the Prologue, so let's do that.

THE COMPLETE PAGLIACCI PROLOGUE