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Opera Daily 🎶 — Old Music vs New Music & Zeani/Rossi-Lemeni duo
“Virginia, I have to tell you, you are one of the very few sopranos my wife (Maria Callas) is frightened of!”
Apparently, I'm not the only one that prefers “old music”!
According to MRC Data, old songs now represent 70% of the US music market.
The opera canon became frozen in amber a hundred years ago, and it looks like the same is happening to pop music now.
In Ted Gioia’s recent essay, “Is Old Music Killing New Music” he shares how we got here, and if there is a way back:
As I was reading his piece, I wondered if the volume of music created today is one of the reasons why I can’t remember songs (or movies!). Nevermind, the names of all the artists. There is so much darn music coming out every day that it’s easy to move on to the next.
Or is the music just not that good?
In the pop realm, some would say that '‘new music’ is cookie-cutter junk that is derivative and simplistic.
Did you know that The Grammys were postponed this year? I didn’t! And I didn’t hear a peep from anyone that they were bothered.
Has the audience today had enough of it? Have their tastes been broadened, and are now mining the music of older eras?
I don't know what to make of this in the pop world, but this is not a new phenomenon in opera.
Virginia Zeani and Nicola Rossi-Lemeni
Today, we are listening to the husband and wife duo Soprano, Virginia Zeani and Bass, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni.
After retiring from the opera stage, they became senior professors at Indiana University, School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana.
(Virginia Zeani was my voice teacher at Indiana University, and so I will do a longer form piece on Zeani soon. Think of this as a teaser!)
L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love) was one of a handful of operas Zeani and her husband performed in together.
Written in the bel canto style, L’Elisir d'Amore (translated from Italian as “The Elixir of Love”) is the most popular of Donizetti's works and was first performed in 1832 in Milan.
🎧 Listening Example (8 minute listen): Soprano Virginia Zeani is joined by her husband, Bass Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, in the duet “Quanto amore” (What affection!) for Adina and Doctor Dulcamara from Act II of Gaetano Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, Orchestra Sinfonica della RAI Torino, 1958
The Elixir of Love gives us a happy ending! Nemorino is in love with Adina, but Adina won’t give him the time of day. After hearing the legend of Tristan and Isolde, Nemorino wonders if a love potion might do the trick to get Adina (ah-DEE-nah) to love him, and he finds a man (Doctor Dulcamara) who sells him a “potion” (that’s just wine).
Before Adina and Nemorino finally come together at the end, in the duet “Quanto amore”, Adina expresses to Doctor Dulcamara her realization of the death of Nemorino’s affection for her.
"Bel canto really is, in the end, a way to make every single person in the opera house, including yourself, feel the most beautiful things in the world." — Virginia Zeani
Giovanni Battista Meneghini, former husband of Maria Callas, in conversation with Virginia Zeani said, “Virginia, I have to tell you, you are one of the very few sopranos my wife is frightened of!”
L'Elisir d’Amore premiered at The Metropolitan Opera in 1904 starring Enrico Caruso. Caruso singing the tenor aria “Una furtiva lagrima” is not to be missed.
Thank you for reading (and listening),
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