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.

LEONCAVALLO: I Pagliacci: Act I, Nedda-Tonio scene
When NEDDA finishes her Ballatella, she is startled out of her reverie by the discovery that TONIO is 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!
You'll have time to tell me that again tonight,
if you want. Ha ha ha!
TONIO: Nedda!
NEDDA: Tonight! When you're making your faces
out there, out there on the stage! Ha ha ha!
TONIO: Don't laugh, Nedda!
NEDDA: You'll have time!
Making faces out there! Ha ha ha!
TONIO: You don't know what tears
grief forces out of me! Don't laugh, no!
NEDDA: For then such sorrow!
TONIO: I've suffered enchantment!
I've been conquered by love! Nedda!
[NEDDA laughs. TONIO implores.]
Nedda!
NEDDA: Such sorrow you can save up!
TONIO: No! It's here that I want to tell you,
and you will hear me,
that I love you and desire you,
and that you will be mine!
NEDDA [with studied insolence]:
Ha, tell me, master Tonio,
does your back itch today?
Or is it a box on the ears
that's necessary for your ardor?
TONIO: You mock me! Wretch!
By the cross of God!
Watch out, you'll pay dearly for that!
NEDDA: You threaten? Do you want me to go call Canio?
TONIO [moving toward her]: Not before I've kissed you!
NEDDA [drawing back]: Watch out!
TONIO: Oh, soon you will be mine!
[He rushes at her. She picks up the whipe that BEPPE threw down and strikes TONIO in the face.]
NEDDA: Wretched creature!
[He screams and draws back.]
TONIO: By the Holy Virgin of mid-August,
I swear, Nedda, that you'll pay me for this!
[He goes off sobbing. NEDDA stands motionless, watching him.]
NEDDA: Viper! Go! You've at last revealed yourself, Tonio the idiot!
You have a soul just as deformed as your body! Filthy!

Victoria de los Angeles (s), Nedda; Leonard Warren (b), Tonio; RCA Victor Orchestra, Renato Cellini, cond. RCA-EMI, recorded Jan. 10-29, 1953

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

Maria Callas (s), Nedda; Tito Gobbi (b), Tonio; Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Tullio Serafin, cond. EMI, recorded June 12-17, 1954

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


THE ABRUPT ENDING . . .

. . . happens because Nedda is at this moment interrupted by a new caller, which is where we'll pick up next time.

In the meantime, I thought it might be useful to remember why Leoncavallo hoped we might be interested in this little story he has to tell us. Which means, as I suggested Friday, returning to the Prologue, and thinking now how it might apply to the unfolding stories of Nedda and Tonio.

LEONCAVALLO: I Pagliacci: Prologue
The action takes place in Calabria, near Montalto, on the feast of the Assumption in the late 1860s. During the Prelude, TONIO, the clown, pokes his head through the curtains to ask the audience for permission to speak, then advances to the front of the stage, announcing that he is the Prologue.

If I may? If I may?
Ladies! Gentlemen!
Excuse me if I present myself thus alone.
I am the Prologue.
Because the author is putting
the old-style masks
onstage again.
In part he wants to revive
the old customs, and to you
once again he sends me.

But not to tell you, as before,
"The tears that we shed are false,
by our agonies and our suffering
don't be alarmed."
No! No!
The author has sought
to paint truly for you
a slice of life.
He has for maxim only that the artist is a person,
and that he must write for people,
and draw inspiration from what's true.

A nest of memories in the depths of his soul
sang one day, and with real tears
he wrote, and his sobs beat time for him!

So then, you'll see loving, yes, the way
real human beings love; you'll see hate's
sad fruits, miseries' agonies.
Cries of rage you'll hear, and cynical laughter!

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!

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

Riccardo Stracciari, bartone. American Columbia, recorded 1917

Now here's a performance I'm not so crazy about, as you may perhaps have gleaned from the sample we heard Friday. Though it's not really badly sung, it seems to me to skate across the surface of the music. Juan Pons doesn't do much by way of "interpretation" except an occasional clumsy emphasis. So, you say, what about Robert Merrill, whose Prologue we've also heard? Yes, Merrill offered clumsy emphases too, but they were in the context of some real feel for and commitment to the music, and in the context of some real baritone vocal effects, which counts for something, maybe even a lot. For what it's worth, the solo part is performed without those high interpolations at the end -- the second Pagliacci recording in which Riccardo Muti had his Tonio sing it this way. You can judge for yourself the difference in effect.


Juan Pons (b), Tonio; Philadelphia Orchestra, Riccardo Muti, cond. Philips, recorded live, February 1992

And again, in sort-of-fairness to Juan Pons, as we did Friday, let's go back to his his earlier Pagliacci recording:


Juan Pons (b), Tonio; Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Georges Prêtre, cond. Philips, recorded 1983
#

No comments:

Post a Comment