Friday, October 4, 2013

Preview: In "I Pagliacci," is it so surprising that Nedda would choose the mysterious Silvio over her husband?

Tonight we hear a chunk of the 1934 recording of Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci built around the great tenor Beniamino Gigli.

by Ken

In last week's Pagliacci post, we left Nedda in a state, after fending off the unwelcome advances of her troupemate, the hunchback clown Tonio. As unpleasant as that surprise was, she's now in for a pleasant one: the unexpected arrival -- scaling a wall! -- of a gentleman she immediately identifies as "Silvio."

WE ALREADY KNEW THAT NEDDA HAS A SECRET

When we took our close look at the monologue Nedda sings after her husband and Beppe go off to have a drink with the hospitable villagers ("Pagliacci and the woman who understood the birds' song"), in which we learned that Nedda has a secret. Here's the start of the recitative again.

LEONCAVALLO: I Pagliacci: Recitative, Nedda, "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

WE'VE ALREADY HAD A TANTALIZING TASTE OF SILVIO

At least I hope it was tantalizing. For sheer beauty of sound, the Merrill and Lisitsian versions are hard to beat. (I've tried to clean up some of the clicks from the LP-derived Russian clip since we first heard it.)

I Pagliacci: Act I, Scene, Silvio-Nedda, "E fra quest'ansie in eterno vivrai?" ("And amid this anxiety you'll live forever?")

I originally thought we'd hear only the earlier of Rolando Panerai's recordings, with Maria Callas as Nedda, but it's kind of a pokey affair, and I thought we should hear the later one as well, with Herbert von Karajan's gorgeous accompaniment (as in the Nedda-Tonio scene). So then I thought I would throw in the Lisitsian-Yakovenko recording (dubbed, I'm afraid, from my Soviet-pressed LP copy).
SILVIO [approaching NEDDA sadly and tenderly]:
And amid this anxiety you'll live forever?
Nedda! Nedda!
[He takes her hand and leads her downstage.]
Decide my fate, Nedda! Nedda, stay!
You know that the festival comes
to an end and everyone will leave tomorrow.
Nedda! Nedda!
And when you say that you will be gone from here,
what will become of me, of my life?
NEDDA [moved]: Silvio!
SILVIO: Nedda, Nedda, answer me!
If it's true that you never loved Canio,
if it's true that you hate this wandering,
and the profession you ply,
if your immense love isn't just a fancy,
this night let's leave!
Fly, fly with me!

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

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

Rolando Panerai (b), Silvio; Joan Carlyle (s), Nedda; Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Herbert von Karajan, cond. DG, recorded October 1965

[in Russian] Pavel Lisitsian (b), Silvio; Alexandra Yakovenko (s), Nedda; Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Samuel Samosud, cond. Melodiya, recorded c1956

NOW LET'S RETURN TO CANIO -- COMPARE AND CONTRAST

Let's review the events that caused Nedda to reflect in the recitative we resampled earlier, when she alluded to her husband as "brutal as he is." Note that I've added a third version of this chunk of the opera, dipping back into the 1934 recording built around the great tenor Beniamino Gigli.

I Pagliacci: Act I, 2nd Villager, "Bada, Pagliaccio" ("Watch out, Pagliaccio"_ . . . Canio, "Un tal gioco" ("Such a game") . . . "Bell Chorus" . . . Nedda, "Quel fiamma avea nel guardo!" . . . "Stridono lassù"
2nd VILLAGER [jokingly]: Look out, Pagliaccio, he only wants to stay
to pay court to Nedda!
CANIO: Hey, hey . . . you think so?
Such a game, believe me,
it's better not to play
with me, my friends, and that goes
for Tonio, and a bit for all of you too!
The theater and life are not the same thing!
No, they're not the same thing!
[Pointing to the stage] And if up there
Pagliaccio should surprise his wife
with a gallant lover, he gives a comic sermon,
then calms down or submits to being thrashed!
And laughing heartily the public applauds!
But if I were really to catch Nedda,
the tale would have a different ending,
as sure as I'm standing here!
Such a game, believe me, it's better not to play!
NEDDA [aside]: I'm befuddled!
VILLAGERS [to CANIO]: Did you take it
seriously then?
CANIO: Me? You think so? Excuse me!
I adore my wife!
[The sound of bagpipes offstage.]
BOYS: The pipers! The pipers!
MEN: They are on their way to church.
[The church bells sound vespers.]
OLD PEOPLE: They are accompanying the happy train
of couples as they go to vespers.
WOMEN: Come, everyone. The bell
calls us to the Lord.
CANIO: But be sure to remember,
at eleven tonight.
CHORUS: Let’s go, let’s go!
Bell Chorus
CHORUS: Dong, ding-dong!
Ding-dong, vespers sounds,
girls and boys, ding-dong!
In pairs let's hurry to the church,
ding-dong, yonder the sun
kisses the western heights.
Our mothers watch us --
look out, companions.
Ding-dong, the world is gleaming
with light and love.
But our elders keep watch
over bold lovers!
Already the world is gleaming
with light and love.
Dong, ding-dong, etc.
[During the chorus, CANIO has gone behind the theater to take off his Pagliaccio costume. He returns, nods a smiling farewell to NEDDA and leaves with BEPPE and five or six villagers. NEDDA remains alone.]
NEDDA: Recitative
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!

Oh, what a beautiful mid-August sun!
I'm brimful of life
and all languishing
with mysterious desire -- I don't know what I wish!
Oh, how the birds fly up, and what a screaming!
What are they asking? Where are they going? Who knows?
My mother, who used to tell fortunes,
understood their song,
and to me as a child she would sing:
Ah! Ah!

Ballatella
They scream away up there to their hearts' content,
hurled into flight like arrows, the birds.
They defy the clouds and the fierce sun,
and go about the paths of the sky.
Let them roam the air,
these creatures thirsty for blue skies and bright splendor!
They too follow a dream, a mirage
and soar among the gilded clouds!
Wind may pursue and storm bray,
with wings outspread, they can defy all;
rain, the lightning flash, nothing ever stops them,
and they soar above the abyss and the sea.
They fly far off there to a strange country
of which perhaps they dream, and seek in vain.
But the gypsies of the sky follow the mysterious power
that drives them on, and go! And go! And go!
-- English translation (mostly) by Peggie Cochrane

Arnaldo Borghi (bs), only villager credited; Beniamino Gigli (t), Canio; Iva Pacetti (s), Nedda; Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Franco Ghione, cond. EMI, recorded July 1934

2nd Villager (t), uncredited; Mario del Monaco (t), Canio; Gabriella Tucci (s), Nedda; Chorus and Orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia (Rome), Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, cond. Decca, recorded 1958

2nd Villager (t), uncredited; Jon Vickers (t), Canio; Joan Carlyle (s), Nedda; Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Bruno Bartoletti, cond. Live performance, 1968


IN THIS WEEK'S SUNDAY CLASSICS POST

As suggested, it's Nedda and Silvio, and perhaps some surprises.
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