Opera Daily 🎶 — Great Operatic Duets
Before we get into this Sunday’s selection, we want to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an extraordinary woman, accomplished jurist, and opera lover. You can read about her favorite opera recordings here and more about her performance with Washington National Opera featuring Larry Brownlee here.
This week’s theme is Great Operatic Duets
“Suzel, buon dì…Tutto tace,” (popularly known as “The Cherry Duet” ) from Act II of the Italian opera L’amico Fritz by Pietro Mascagni. Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti are singing the roles of Suzel (soprano) and Fritz (tenor) here. Sweet, delicate, charming—these are the words that come to mind when I hear this duet. If you listen closely, you can hear the cherries being plucked from the tree 🍒
🎧 Listen here (4 minute listen):
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L’amico Fritz is a simple but beautiful love story and this duet is the heart of the opera both musically and structurally. You will often hear this duet on the concert stage; the full opera is rarely performed. You might attribute that to its simple storyline (some say weak), but I think the light-hearted nature makes it charming.
Fritz Kobus is an affluent landowner who has vowed to remain a bachelor. However, Fritz’s friend, David, bets him his vineyard that within a year, he will get married. On Fritz’s birthday, Suzel, the daughter of Fritz’s tenant, arrives with a gift of flowers.
Suzel is out picking cherries one day, and Fritz joins her, and they sing this duet, which marks the beginning of the love (or at least the awareness of love) between Suzel and Fritz. (Eventually, with the help of David, Fritz and Suzel are married)
The singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright uses the melody from “The Cherry Duet” in his piece Greek Song. Can you hear it? 🍒
Tito Schipa and Mafalda Favero are also worth a listen, and if you are curious, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli recorded this duet with Pavarotti in 1997.
If you are looking for a full version of the opera, the EMI recording with Pavarotti, Freni, and Vincenzo Sardinero as David with the Covent Garden Orchestra is fantastic. It was recorded in 1968, and both Pavarotti and Freni are in amazing voice.
Pietro Mascagni is an Italian composer who died in 1945. In 1890, he wrote the one-act opera, Cavalleria Rusticana (often paired with Leoncavallo's Pagliacci). In 1891, L’amico Fritz premiered in Rome (the opera is short and also sweet—1 hour and 30 minutes).
Which “Cherry Duet” 🍒 is your favorite?
If you missed Wednesday’s post on Great Operatic Duets, you can find it here. And don’t worry, we will be revisiting duets at another time—there are too many great ones!
Thank you for listening,
Mascagni also made a LaScala recording of Cavalleria Rusticana as conductor in the 1930's.
He gives a charming introduction to his opera on Seraphim records. Not sure if it is on CD but was an LP transfer from 78's.
Ginsburg's list was a good one and we would have agreed on most of her selections.