Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday Music: Puccini

Until I met my husband, I had only seen one opera. For the last eight or nine years, I've attended full seasons of both the Lyric and the Chicago Opera Theatre. Although I've enjoyed most of the things I saw, it's clearly too late to turn me into an opera snob. First of all, I hated "Die Meistersinger," I mean, really, really hated it. It was like sitting through the world's longest travel slideshow with your most boring relatives, who also sing. I never want to see anything by Wagner ever again. John Adam's "Nixon in China," which is lauded as one of the great contemporary operas, was also disappointing. The only good thing in it was the aria "I am the wife of Mao Tse-Tung," which was so great that it sounded like it was by a different composer.

The final piece of evidence: I cried when I first saw "Madame Butterfly." You see, Puccini is too middlebrow, too corny, my dears. Allowing his operas to move one to tears is so declasse. Puccini created beautiful, sensual melodies, and his librettos are shameless tear-jerkers. However, even cynics like me need to let down their defenses and have a good cry, now and then.

Today's selection is Angela Gheorghiu performing the aria "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta," from "La rondine" (The Swallow). In the opera, it's sung by Magda, a kept woman, improvising during a party. She tells of a choice made by Doretta, a character created by a poet friend, a choice much different from her own.

Chi il bel sogno di Doretta
potè indovinar?
Il suo mistero coma mai finì?
Ahimè! un giorno uno studente
in bocca la baciò
e fu quel bacio
fu la passione.

Folle amore!
Folle ebbrezza!

Chi la sottile carezza
d'un bacio così ardente
mai ridir potrà?

Ah, mio sogno!
Ah, mia vita!

Che importa la ricchezza
se alfine è refiorita la felicità?
O sogno d’or poter amar così!

Who could guess the beautiful dream Doretta had?
Why her mystery came to an end
One day a student kissed her on the mouth
and that kiss was a revelation:
It was passion.

Mad love!
Mad joy!

Who will ever be able again
to describe the light caress
of a kiss so burning?

Oh, my dream!
Oh, my life!

Who cares for wealth
If at last happiness comes?
Oh golden dream
To be able to love thus!

La Rondine at the San Francisco Opera [Link]
Performance of I am the Wife of Mao Tse-Tung Houston Grand Opera [Link]

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