Opera Daily 🎶 — “Without music, life would be a mistake.”
This week's Opera Daily features Luciano Pavarotti singing “Ingemisco” from Verdi's Requiem
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Musicians and Writers.
Before we get into our selection for this week, I want to talk about two groups of creative people that bring us so much joy: Musicians and Writers.
It’s no surprise that they admire each other.
The critic John Ruskin wrote, “Singers and singing is a preoccupation of plenty of writers, with many seeing it as an emblem of vitality and verve. It will show itself in your singing if you have any soul worth expressing.”
Leave it to the writers and philosophers to express what we cannot say ourselves about music.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” —Plato
“If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.” —Kurt Vonnegut
“The only truth is music.” —Jack Kerouac
“What passion cannot music raise and quell!” —John Dryden, poet
“The effect of music is so very much more powerful and penetrating than is that of the other arts, for these others speak only of the shadow, but music of the essence.” —Arthur Schopenhauer
“Music is at once the most wonderful, the most alive of all the arts and the most sensual.” —Susan Sontag
“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” —Victor Hugo
“If music be the food of love, play on.” —William Shakespeare
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corn cribs, and don't do anything but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” —Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
“Music is the shorthand of emotion” —Leo Tolstoy
“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.” —Kahlil Gibran
“Without music, life would be a mistake.”—Friedrich Nietzsche
“Ingemisco” from Verdi's Requiem
Verdi’s Requiem has 7 sections: “Requiem’, “Dies irae”, “Offertory”, “Sanctus”, “Agnus Dei”, “Lux aeterna” and “Libera me”. “Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath) is perhaps the best-known passage from any of Verdi’s non-operatic works.
The Requiem has one tenor solo, “Ingemisco”, where the singer pleads to God that on the last day of judgment, God will forgive him of his sins and place him at God’s right hand.
Many tenors have tackled Verdi’s Requiem, but I couldn’t resist sharing Luciano Pavarotti singing “Ingemisco” from 1967 at La Scala.
🎧 Listening Example: (4 minute listen): Luciano Pavarotti singing “Ingemisco” from Verdi's Requiem, 1967 at La Scala to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of Toscanini, Herbert von Karajan (Conductor)
I groan as a guilty one,
and my face blushes with guilt;
spare the supplicant, O God.
You, who absolved Mary Magdalen,
and heard the prayer of the thief,
have given me hope, as well.
My prayers are not worthy,
but show mercy, O benevolent one,
lest I burn forever in fire.
Give me a place among the sheep,
and separate me from the goats,
placing me on your right hand.
Thank you for reading (and listening),
PS. If you missed last week's selection, we featured “Amor ti vieta” from the Italian opera Fedora—check it out here!
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While the Requiem is powerful and moving as I heard LaScala sing it from memory at the Kennedy Center. Music has a counter refrain as Mussolini coddled Respighi with his inflated Pines of Rome, or the torch by Hitler with Wagner with the Nazi and WWII. Music can be abused as well for nefarious purposes.
Here is a complete Requiem, Abbaddo conducting, with Scotto, Horne, a young Pavarotti, and I think Ghiaurov - https://youtu.be/fYwmcVvB6xQ Pavarotti is glorious. Never it is more apparent that for the great composers Everything truly is in the music that they write, no histrionics required. The sound that comes out of him is astounding. I try sometimes to imagine an audience at the Met in a frenzy because of a singer, and this man comes to mind--imagine being there the night of that famous Fille du Regiment! He sang too long, didn't let it go before he became a characiture of himself, but there is no denying what this is, IMO the greatest tenor of my prime. Few can raise goosebumps on my arms like he can. A visceral response to a human voice is a truly magical & mysterious thing.