Showcase Sep-Nov 2014 - page 28

threatening presence. A graceful
andantino
for flute, oboe
and clarinet is later sung by Alvaro in Act IV, Scene 1.
Violins playing very softly in octaves announce Leonora’s
rapturous “Deh, non m’abbandonar”; then comes a theme
in the clarinet with harp accompaniment—the duet for
Leonora and the Father Superior. Grandiose brass writing
brings the overture to a thrilling conclusion.
Giacomo Puccini
Born:
December 22, 1858, Lucca
Died:
November 29, 1924, Brussels
“O mio babbino caro,” from Gianni Schicchi
onight’s program continues with four arias that
perfectly underscore Renée Fleming’s reputation as a
consummate musician and vocal actress. They range
in character from the tender and touching to the coy
and capricious, each a miniature world unto itself, each
brought vividly to life, each entirely appropriate for an
evening of gala fun and adventure.
The one-hour, one-act
Gianni Schicchi
holds an esteemed
place in the annals of opera as one of the half dozen or
so truly great comedies. It happens also to be Puccini’s
only comedy. He conceived it as the final installment of a
trilogy whose other components are
Il Tabarro
and
Suor
Angelica
.
Il Trittico
(as they are collectively known) had
its premiere at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House on
December 14, 1918.
The title character of
Gianni Schicchi
is based on an
actual historical figure who lived in medieval Florence.
In his predilection for roguish tricks and pranks, he may
be considered as a kind of southern Till Eulenspiegel.
Lauretta, daughter of the cunning and resourceful Gianni,
wants to marry Rinuccio but Rinuccio’s family opposes
the union. Lauretta’s aria “O mio babbino caro” (O my
dear papa) is a simple, heartfelt plea from a young girl,
begging her father to help overcome the barriers that
separate her from Rinuccio. So naively touching is her
prayer that it melts the heart of Gianni, just as it melts
those in the audience.
avalleria rusticana
(1890) is not Pietro Mascagni’s
only opera, but it is the only one in the popular
repertory today. And how popular it is! Usually
paired with Leoncavallo’s
Pagliacci
(“Cav and Pag” to
operaphiles), this short, one-act opera packs a wallop in
emotional voltage. The title means “rustic chivalry,” but
there is little chivalry in this story of illicit love, volatile
temperaments, uninhibited emotions and violence.
The story, set in a small Sicilian town, involves two
tangled love affairs. Turiddu, engaged to Lola before
he went off to serve in the army, returns home to find
her married to another. He takes up with another girl
but abandons her to renew his affair with Lola, whose
husband is often away on business. The principal
characters confront each other in turn, hurling
accusations, threats and scorn in every direction. At a
moment when everyone’s emotion is at the boiling point,
the orchestral Intermezzo provides welcome relief. The
sweetly lyrical music is heard while the lovers Turiddu
and Lola attend church—and for those who know that
the quiet devotion will be followed by a deadly fight, the
music carries an even great impact.
Giuseppe Verdi
Born:
October 10, 1813, Le Roncole, Italy
Died:
January 27, 1901, Milan
Overture to La forza del destino
y the time Verdi wrote his 22nd opera,
La forza del
destino
, he had long been rich and famous, and
the premiere of any new opera by him was a gala
event. So famous, in fact, was Verdi by now that faraway
St. Petersburg had commissioned
Forza
, which premiered
there in 1862. However, the overture we hear now, one
of Verdi’s most famous and most developed, dates from
seven years later, when the opera was revived in Milan’s
La Scala at another gala affair.
A number of the opera’s most important themes are
presented, hence providing an evocative synthesis of the
drama. After three loud unison brass chords (repeated),
the ominous “destiny” motif associated with the heroine
Leonora is heard. Underneath the potpourri of tunes
which follow, this “destiny” motif continues to impose its
28
MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA SHOWCASE
Program Notes
sept
5
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