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Opera Daily 🎶 — Luisa Miller
This week's Opera Daily features the tenor and mezzo-soprano duet from Act 1 of Verdi's Italian opera Luisa Miller
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Quick announcement: I will be taking off until July 9th due to some traveling. But don’t worry; I am leaving you today with something beautiful. We will be back after July 4th, inspired and refreshed!
Let’s get to it!
Today we’re listening to…
“Dall'aule raggianti” the tenor (Rodolfo) and mezzo-soprano (Federica) duet from Act I of Verdi’s Italian opera Luisa Miller.
Federica arrives, and the count leaves Rodolfo and Federica alone. Rodolfo tells Federica that he loves another woman, but Federica, who has worshipped him since childhood, refuses to break off the engagement.
🎧 Listening Example: (6 minute listen): Placido Domingo and Florence Quivar singing “Dall'aule raggianti” the tenor and mezzo-soprano duet from Act 1 of Verdi’s Italian opera Luisa Miller.
Luisa Miller was Verdi's 15th opera, and it is regarded as the beginning of the composer’s “middle period.” He wrote it in 1849 in his mid-thirties, with the premiere in 1849 at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. The opera marks the inflection point from the early Verdi style, strongly influenced by the formal structure of bel canto (for example, the double aria, cavatina, and cabaletta), to a more mature Verdi.
In Luisa Miller, he turns away from kings and princes to a new environment that is far more intimate, familiar, every day. Despite the opera's more down-to-earth setting, it's about big emotions—love, jealousy, rage, desire—all of them.
“This is what Verdi expected from singers: emotions so strong that they become ideas. To study archival recordings is to realize how deliberately the old singers marshaled their resources toward the few notes that truly mattered.”
Verdi used a more refined composing style with Luisa Miller than the opera’s predecessors. Many of the colors in Luisa Miller show up in his later operas like Il Trovatore, La traviata, and even Otello. Because of this, Luisa Miller is considered the proving ground for the polished musical style he perfected four years later with one of his greatest works, La traviata.
Luisa Miller is Verdi’s tragedy based on a play by German playwright Friedrich Schiller. Luisa falls in love with Rodolfo, unaware he is the son of a powerful Count. When Rodolfo's father learns his son is in love with Luisa, he does everything he can to destroy the relationship.
“The appeal of Italian opera is difficult to put into words, but it has something to do with the activation of primal feelings. Operatic characters have a way of laying themselves bare, and they are never more uninhibited than at the climax of a Verdi tragedy.”
Verdi followed convention in casting the essential roles; the soprano and tenor are the young lovers, and the father is a baritone. The “other woman” is, of course, a mezzo-soprano. Sound familiar? 💃
Verdi was a perfectionist. It wasn’t uncommon at the end of rehearsal for the scores of his conductors to be covered in their own sweat.
“The greatness of Verdi is a simple thing. A solitary man, he found a way of speaking to limitless crowds, and his method was to sink himself completely into his characters. He never composed music for music's sake; every note has a precise dramatic function. The most astounding scenes in his work are those in which all the voices come together in a visceral mass—like a human wave that could carry anything before it.”
Thank you for reading (and listening),
PS. If you missed last week’s selection, we featured the quartet from Act 3 of the Italian opera Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi.
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