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“Where words fail, music speaks.”
— Hans Christian Andersen
I remember when the Metropolitan Opera mourned the victims of the attacks on November 13th, 2015, in Paris, and the city’s northern suburb, Saint-Denis, with an unscheduled performance of the French national anthem.
Ahead of a matinee of Puccini's Tosca, Plácido Domingo conducted the orchestra in "La Marseillaise" as the Metropolitan Opera Chorus sang the words in French on stage.
A sheet of paper was put into all the programs explaining the song was “a show of our solidarity with the citizens of France.”
Another sign of solidarity happened earlier this week before the opening night performance of Verdi's Don Carlos.
The audience observed a moment of silence, followed by the Ukrainian national anthem, performed by the Met Orchestra and Chorus and conducted by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
This is the magic of music — it can carry such emotional weight across various cultures and nations. Doing so transmits power, messages, and feelings where words cannot.
Glory to Ukraine | Слава Украине! 🇺🇦
“Addio del passato”
“Addio del passato” is Violetta’s aria from Act 3 of the Italian opera La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi. I know, I am going out of order here.
But why can’t we treat opera arias the way we do songs off of albums?
If you listen to songwriters talk about their albums, they very much thought of them as a collection, unit, and story. For some reason, when arias are taken out of the production and done on their own, they become less valid. Why? The popularity of The Three Tenors was not by accident.
This very well may be a justification for me sharing the pieces I want, when I want. Still, it got me thinking of our marriage today to producing an opera in full and how it could be holding us back from newcomers experiencing and enjoying the music.
🎧 Listening Example: (9 minute listen): Soprano Lisette Oropesa singing Violetta’s aria “Addio del passato” from Act 3 of the Italian opera La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, El Teatro Real (The Madrid Royal Opera House), Madrid, 2020
What is happening?
Violetta is about to die. She receives a letter from Alfredo’s father saying that Alfredo has discovered why she lied about her love for him and is coming to her. She knows that it is too late, though, and sings a farewell to her happiness with Alfredo.
English Lyrics to “Addio del Passato”
Farewell, happy dreams of the past,
The rosiness in my cheeks has already gone pale;
The love of Alfredo I will miss,
Comfort, support my tired soul
Ah, the misguided desire to smile;
God pardon and accept me, all is finished.
The joys, the sorrows soon will end,
The tomb confines all mortals!
Do not cry or place flowers at my grave,
Do not place a cross with my name to cover these bones!
Ah, the misguided desire to smile;
God pardon and accept me,
All is finished.
Did you catch this incredible moment between Lisette Oropesa and Liu Jianwei, a student and long-time fan, during “Sempre Libera” from La Traviata?
Lisette Oropesa was asked for an encore, but her aria choice required a male partner not present on stage. Liu Jianwei, a student and fan, stood up in the audience and sang the male lead in accompaniment with her.
As someone in the YT comments mentioned, her genuine reaction is how Violetta was written to react when she heard Alfredo sing as he walked down the street. An incredible moment, for sure.
Thank you for reading (and listening),
PS. If you missed last week’s selection, we covered Fidelio and how art reflects society and the times. Nina Simone said it best, “It’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live.”
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Moving to listen to the Ukrainian national anthem. I adored the sweet moment when Lisette Oropesa was surprised by the fan in the audience who joined in singing the male part
I have been enjoying "songs" since I took up drawing in old age -- a sketch should be finished within an aria or an orchestral piece. Thanks for the Traviata presentations!