Soprano Operatic Arias
Giacomo Puccini was born in 1858 into a family ofmusicians. His first opera, Le Villi, won Verdi's approval, but it was with ManonLescaut, in 1893, some ten years later, that he won signal sucress. Therefollowed La Boheme in 1896, Tosca and Madama Butterfly, in a successful careerthat ended with Turandot, an opera that he started in 1921 but was unable tocomplete before his death in 1924. Turandot, based on an eighteenth centurydrama by Gozzi, deals with the story of the Chinese Princess of the title, whoproposes riddles to her suitors, the penalty for failure to find a solutionearning immediate execution. Calaf, son of the exiled King of Tartary, in spiteof the persuasive insistence of the slave-girl Liu, who urges him to give upthe attempt in her aria Signore, ascolta (Sir, listen), answers Turandot'sriddles, but agrees to release her if she can discover his name. This she endeavoursto accomplish by torturing Calat's loyal slave-girl Liu, who remains faithfulto her beloved master, addressing Turandot in the aria Tu che di gel sei cinta(You, who are girdled with ire). At the end of the aria, which comes at theemotional climax of the opera, Liu seizes a dagger and stabs herself. All endsapparently happily for
Calaf and Turandot, when the latter finally understandsthe meaning of true love.
The short opera Gianni Schicchi forms part of II trittico,The Triptych, a group of three operas, first staged at the Metropolitan Operain New York in 1918.
Gianni Schicchi is called in by the family of therecently dereased Buoso Donati, who has left all his money to a monastery.
Gianni Schiochi impersonates the dead man and dictates a new will in which heleaves everything to himself, except the house, which he bequeathes to Buoso's nephewRinucdo, the lover of his daughter Lauretta, whose lack of dowry has earliermade the match impossible. She first pleads with Gianni Schiochi for help inthe aria O mio babbino caro (O my beloved daddy).
The dominant figure in Italian opera in the second halfof the nineteenth century was Giuseppe Verdi, a man of humble origins, whoestablished his reputation first with the opera Nabucco in 1842. Rigoletto,based on Victor Hugo's Le roi s'amuse was first staged in Venire in 1851. Itdeals with the seduction of Gilda, daughter of the court jester Rigoletto, bythe Duke of Mantua, and Rigoletto's search for vengeance, which ends in thedeath of his daughter, murdered in place of her seducer. Gilda, wooed at firstby the Duke disguised as a student, is abducted and dishonoured, with the helpof her father's courtier enemies In Tutte le feste al tempio (On every festivalmorning) she tells Rigoletto what has happened, how the Duke in disguisecourted her and how he has now brought disgrace on her and her father.
Bellini enjoyed a brief career but exercised considerableinfluence over contemporaries and sucressors not only in the field of opera. LaSonnambula, The Sleepwalker, was first performed at the Teatro Carcano, Milan,in 1831. Amina, foster-daughter of Teresa, owner of the village mill, is tomarry Elvino, but walks in her sleep and is discovered in the bedroom of Count Rodolpho,who eventually puts matters right by convincing the villagers and Elvino that Aminais a sleepwalker. In the first act Amina sings in Come per me serena (See howthe day serenely) of her happiness at her betrothal to Elvino.
In I Puritani, The Puritans, Bellini sets a text based onthe French play Tetes rondes et Cavaliers, Roundheads and Cavaliers, firstproduced in Paris in 1835, the year of the composer's death. Set in thesouthern English town of Plymouth, Queen Henrietta, widow of King Charles I, isheld prisoner by the Puritan Lord Walton, whose daughter Elvira is in love withthe Royalist Lord Arturo Talbot, who helps the Queen escape disguised inElvira's bridal veil. Elvira loses her reason, thinking herself betrayed, butis restored to sanity and eventual union with her lover, who is pardoned byCromwell. In Qui la voce sua suave (Here in sweetest accents) Elvira sings inmadness.
In La Rondine, The Swallow, first performed in Monte Carlo in 1917, Puccini takes a light comedy, the story of Magda, mistress ofthe rich Parisian Rambaldo and her love for the aristocratic young Ruggero,whom she eventually leaves, to return to her old mercenary life of pleasure. Inthe first act the poet Prunier is entertaining Magda and Rambaldo, telling thestory of Doretta, who dreamed once that the King one day showed favour to her. Prunieris unable to finish the tale, whid1 Magda takes up in Chi il bel sogno di Doretta(Who can solve the fine dream of Doretta).
Gaetano Donizettiwon his first success in Venice in 1818,continuing a highly successful career as a composer of opera. Lucia de Lammermoor,staged first in Naples in 1835, was based on Sir Walter Scott's novel The Brideof Lammermoor. The heroine of the title, Lucia, is induced, by the trickery ofher brother, to marry Lord Arturo BuckJaw, rejecting her true lover Edgardo,the rightful Master of Ravenswood. Lucia goes mad and kills her husband, while Edgardo,learning what has happened, kills himself. II dolce suono (The sweet sound)appears in the famous mad scene of Act 111, the climax of the piece.
Romeo and Juliet has provided material for manycomposers. Vincenzo Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecd1i treats with Some freedomthe story of the ill-starred lovers in a version successfully mounted for thefirst time in Venice in 1830. In Oh quante volte, oh quante (0 how many times,how many) Juliet (Giulietta), in a romanza; sadly considers her coming weddingto Tybalt (Tebaldo), a touch of librettist's licence, and her true love forRomeo.
Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix was first performed at theKiirntherthor Theatre in Vienna in 1842. Set in Savoy in the eighteenthcentury, the plot tells of Linda's love for Carlo, a nobleman disguised as apenniless painter Seeking refuge from the machinations of another nobleman, shemoves to Paris, where a number of misfortunes lead her into madness, apredicament from which she is rescued, restored to sanity and to her lover inconclusion. In O luce di quest' anima (O light of this soul) Linda sings of herlove for Carlo, before anything has happened to cloud her happiness.