Inspired by the “5 Minutes That Will Make You Love …” New York Times music series and playlists and the premise of this newsletter(!), which five minutes of opera would you play to convince someone to fall in love with opera?
I’ll go first: Mirella Freni singing "Io son l'umile ancella" a soprano aria from the opera Adriana Lecouvreur by composer Francesco Cilea.
Was hard to not include this one too!
What five minutes of opera would I play to convince someone to fall in love with opera?
It was fun to revisit some of my favorites, and a challenge to narrow many wonderful choices down to one. I've settled on: Renée Fleming singing the exquisite aria "Air du Miroir 'Dis moi que je suis belle'" from "Thaïs" by Jules Massenet. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTDeuWc8Iww&list=PLu__K53OQ44SOycbcFNAjZx4ixApQ3Xb5&index=52]. Her extraordinary soprano voice soars, swoops and lingers on some amazing notes. Her acting also perfectly conveys the vanity and insecurities of a courtesan who, amid fears of losing her youthful beauty, begs her mirror to assure her that she is pretty.
I also think the uninitiated among us would not be able to resist Lawrence Brownlee's virtuoso performance of "Ah! Mes amis" from Gaetano Donizetti's "La fille du régiment" [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIQjnJqNuU8]. His rendering is festive, energetic, melodious and displays the absolute perfection of his gorgeous tenor voice. In my book, Brownlee can do no wrong.
I look forward to seeing what other suggestions come through. Thanks for a chance to pause and listen once more to some really great opera.
I can almost guarantee - the five minutes hearing this piece will definitely make anyone fall in love with opera - O sole mio sung by Pavarotti - so uplifting, cant help but smile whilst listening to it. Oh did I mention its impossible not to sway to it?
This is a tough one! I will give several that move me...
First, I personally have an obsession with Mirella Freni so of course I have to include her singing Un bel di from Butterfly
Next I would have to say something that shows the sexy side of opera like the Cherry duet from L'amico Fritz. Which oozy sexy...Here is my favorite recording with Freni (of course) and Pavoratti. Interestingly they grew up just blocks from each other in Modena, there must have been something in the water.
Now I'm going to stray a little bit, or quite a bit, from Italian opera and have to say one of my all time favorite arias from The Rake's Progress by Stravinsky. Tom Rakewell sings this right near the beginning of the opera when the world is wide open to him. This is written in Neo-Baroque style so it almost sounds like a Handel aria. The last lines of the aria always get me jazzed
"Til I die then by fever,
or by lightening am I struck,
Let me live by my wits
and trust to my luck.
My life lies before me;
The world is so wide
come, wishes, be horses
this beggar shall ride!"
Here is a recording with Stravinsky himself conducting.
Also there is an INCREDIBLE duet from The Rake between Nick Shadow and Tom Rakewell. Nick (the devil) has convinced Tom to marry Baba the Turk (The bearded lady....one of my favorite roles to sing). The energy in the duet is just so infectious. I love with when Tom sings "my heart, my heart beats faster!" Here are Bryn Terfel as Nick Shadow and Ian Bostridge as Tom Rakewell.
And then I HAVE to include this recording of Corelli singing Cavaradossi in Parma in 1967. This is my favorite part of Tosca when Cavaradossi has been brought in to see Tosca in Scarpia's room after being tortured and one of Scarpia's henchmen comes in to say they have been defeated. Cavaradossi sing "Vittoria VITTOOOOOOORIIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAA". This recording shows what opera is like for Italians. They GO INSANE after he holds the second one for about 25 seconds. It's like a rock concert. It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear the excitement.
I have so many others...but back to online school with my son.
So much great new music to enjoy this week-end! I've got my listening ears on, my mind open, and my heart ready for each and every offering here. I'm also happy to learn that "Thaïs", starring Nicole Chevalier, will be streamed on April 3. What a perfect Easter gift for opera lovers! I'm eager to pursue Heather's and Ayten's choices, too. We have a great photo in a past newsletter of Heather Johnson as Baba The Turk. If there's a link to the full opera in which she performs, I'd like to bookmark "The Rake's Progress". First, though, I have to let go of "Tosca", which doesn't want to let go of me!🤗
FRENI was always first rate; Cilea another matter entirely.
My dear Mr. Quinn, our opera loving friend! I've missed your comments. Glad you're back again!
I finally sat down to finish watching "Tosca", the version with Roberto Alagna and Catherine Naglestad today (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oezH8Ty79I). I was so excited to have recognized the beginning strains of "Vittoria Vitorria", "Vissi d'arte" and "E lucevan le stelle", and almost sang along😮. For the first time I saw where the music fit in the grim romance between Floria Tosca and Mario Cavaradossi, as it moved toward its bitter end. For me - at least today - these are the most beautiful love songs in all of opera. I understand now why this is such a beloved classic. I intend to explore some of the other productions on YouTube. Meanwhile, in just a few hours, let's see what final "Tosca" delight the authors have in store for us.❤
Happy Passover (Pesach Sameach!) to all who are celebrating this week. Be safe!