👋🏽 Hello! I know we said only one update for this week, but I couldn’t resist saying 👋🏼! I thought we’d compromise by bringing back a piece that felt appropriate for today.
At this moment in La Traviata, Violetta hosts a party to essentially treat her illness with a good time (despite being very ill). Violetta sings “Al piacere m’affido, ed io soglio con tal farmaco I mali sopir” (“I give myself to pleasure, since pleasure is the best medicine for my ills.”) The chorus responds by singing “Let’s drink from the joyful glass, resplendent with beauty, drink to the spirit of pleasure, which enchants the fleeting moment”.
I'll raise my glass to that! 🥂
Today we’re listening to “Libiamo ne’lieti calici” (popularly know as “The Drinking Song”) the famous duet with chorus from Act I of the Italian opera La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi. Sung by Alfredo (Luciano Pavarotti) and Violetta (Joan Sutherland) here when they first meet, it is probably the most famous drinking song in opera (this type of song is also known as a brindisi which is “toast” in Italian).
🎧 Listen here (3 minute listen):
A story of sickness, love, and death, La Traviata follows Violetta, a young courtesan who is sick with tuberculosis, as she falls in love with Alfredo. While she struggles with the fact that she is dying, she falls for him and they leave the city to live together in the French countryside. Alfredo’s father who does not approve of their relationship, comes and guilts Violetta (vee-oh-LET-tah) into leaving Alfredo and returning to her old life. Thinking she has betrayed him, Alfredo is heartbroken. A few months later, Violetta is close to death and Alfredo, who has learned why Violetta left him, goes to her. They vow to be together forever, but she soon collapses and dies in his arms.
La Traviata (lah-trah-VEE-ah-tuh) was the most performed opera worldwide during the 2015/16 season with a total of 4,190 performances across 869 separate productions.
While the events take place in and around Paris during the 1840s, La Traviata’s plot has been repurposed in movies like Pretty Woman and Moulin Rouge. Music from this opera can also be heard in The Godfather and In the Line of Fire.
Joan Sutherland was an Australian (dramatic coloratura) soprano known for her contribution to the bel canto repertoire from the late 1950s through to the 1980s. Bel canto literally translates to “beautiful singing,” and it was a popular singing style in Italian opera from the mid-18th to early 19th centuries. If you want to hear more from Joan, I recommend this. We’ve also profiled her many times on OD. Keeping with the theme for this week of Great Opera Ensembles, here’s Joan singing the role of Gilda in the quartet (“Bella figlia dell'amore”) from Act III of the Italian opera Rigoletto (also by Verdi).
If you want more Traviata, listen to Sutherland and Pavarotti sing “Parigi o cara” from Act III.
We’ll leave Paris, my dearest,
Together we’ll go through life.
In reward for your past sorrows,
You’ll bloom into health again.
Breath of life, sunshine you’ll be to me,
All the years to come will smile on us.
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Thank you for listening, and see you in a couple of days,
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