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8.553030 - Operatic Duets for Tenor and Baritone
Operatic Duets for Tenor and Baritone
Gioachino Rossini (1792 - 1868)
Georges Bizet (1838 - 1875)
Gaetano Donizetti (1797 - 1848)
Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901)
Giuseppe Verdi dominated the world of Italian opera for some fifty years, from his first significant success in 1842 with the opera Nabucco to his last opera, the Shakespearian Falstaff in 1893. His career coincided with the rise of Italian nationalism, and his very name provided a patriotic acronym for the king of the unified country, Vittorio Emanuele, rè d'Italia. Although most of his operas were written primarily for performance in Italy, Les vapres siciliennes (I vespri siciliani) was composed for Paris, where it was first staged in 1855. The opera has a French libretto by Scribe and Duveyrier and a story based on the thirteenth century massacre of the Sicilian Vespers in Palermo. The plot deals with the patriotic attempts by Arrigo, further provoked by the zealous Procida, to defeat their French overlords. The French governor Monforte reveals himself as the father of Arrigo, presenting the latter with a dilemma of divided loyalties that comes to ahead in the Act III duet Quando al mio sen per te parlava. In an earlier scene, at the end of Act I, Arrigo has rushed towards his beloved Elena, whose brother has been executed by the French, not seeing Monforte, who then questions him, Ebben? Non mi lispondi tu?, in a passage fraught with dramatic irony, since neither then realises the relationship that binds them. Arrigo declares, when questioned, that he has no father. Monforte seeks to persuade Arrigo to join the French, against the rebels. The two part with each threatening the other.
La forza del destino (The Force of Destiny), based on a Spanish original, is a complex story of love and vengeance. The opera was first performed in St. Petersburg in 1862. Don Alvaro, the lover of Leonora, causes the death of her father and, believing her lost to him, takes refuge in foreign wars and finally in a monastery. At war he falls in again with Leonora's brother Don Carlo, who has determined on revenge, but, not recognising Don Alvaro, helps him when he is wounded, and thus discovers, through letters entrusted to him, Don Alvaro's true identity as the lover of his sister Leonora and killer of his father. Dawn breaks over a military camp near Velletti. Don Alvaro muses alone, seeking peace and thinking of lost happiness. In a tavern men are gambling and a fight breaks out. Don Alvaro rushes in and rescues Don Carlo from the fracas, neither one recognising the other. They swear friendship and rush off together into battle, as the sound of fighting is heard. From this Don Alvaro will return wounded, then entrusting Don Carlo with the key to his strong-box, the contents of which will reveal his identity. In the following scene Don Alvaro is briefly alone and sad, Nè gustare mèb dato. Don Carlo reveals himself and demands vengeance for the dishonour to his family, while telling him that his sister Leonora is still alive. Now, however, he swears that Don Alvaro and Leonora must both die. They are separated and Don Carlo is restrained, while Don Alvaro casts aside his sword for ever. In Act IV Don Alvaro has taken refuge in a monastery, abjuring violence. Here Don Carlo finds him and proves inexorable, Invano Alvaro ti celasti al mundo. When Don Alvaro realises he cannot placate Don Carlo, he is finally provoked to a duel that will in the end bring about Don Cario's death and, at her brother's dying hand, that of Leonora.
Verdi contemplated a number of operas to be based on Shakespeare and in fact wrote three, Macbeth, Otello and Falstaff. The second of these, first performed in 1887, deals with the well known story of the jealousy of Othello, provoked by the wicked lago, himself jealous of the success of his master Othello. The latter is induced to harbour growing suspicion of his young Venetian wife Desdemona, Desdemona rea, confirmed when lago can produce apparent evidence of her falseness. This he does by his tale of Cassio's dream, claiming he has heard the young lieutenant, on whose behalf Desdemona has already pleaded with her husband, talking of her in his sleep. To this he adds the evidence of the handkerchief, a present to Desdemona from Othello that lago has seized from his wife Emilia, a waiting-woman to Desdemona, who had let it fall, after seeking to soothe her husband's brow with it. Othello is now convinced and swears revenge.
Opera of an earlier generation is represented in the work of Gioachino Rossini, who enjoyed a relatively short and extremely successful career as a composer, from his first opera in 1812 to his final work for the stage, Guillaume Tell (Guglielmo Tell). This last was written in 1829 for Paris, where Rossini had settled for the moment, after a reverse of fortune with his opera Semiramide in Venice in 1823. Other operas had been commissioned in Paris, but the fall of the Bourbon monarchy in 1830 put an end to these plans, although Rossini lived another 39 years, dividing his time between Italy and Paris and enjoying continued popularity. Elements of the story of William Tell, the Swiss patriot, are well enough known. Here again there is a conflict between love and duty, a common theme of opera. Arnold must abjure his love for Mathilde, a Habsburg princess, if he is to join Tell in his attempt to establish freedom from Austrian domination for Switzerland. In the duet between William Tell and Arnold (Guglielmo and Arnaldo), the former tries to persuade the young man to join the rebels.
Gaetano Donizetti, with Bellini, is of the generation of Italian opera composers between Rossini and Verdi. In common with other composers of the period, he found inspiration in the novels of Sir Walter Scoff, and his opera Lucia di Lammermoor is based on The Bride of Lammermuir, a story that has the necessary elements of love, revenge, and in this case madness. The plot concerns the dispossessed laird, Edgardo, who has lost both his ancestral Ravenswood Castle and his beloved Lucia, sister of his enemy Enrico, who is to be married more advantageously to another. Act III opens at Wolfscrag Castle, where Edgardo lives. It is a stormy night, Orrida & questa notte, and Edgardo is plunged in thought. Horses approach and Enrico bursts in, resolved to avenge his honour, after his threats, delivered at the news of the betrothal into which Lucia has been forced. Enrico tells Edgardo that Lucia is now married and challenges him to a duel, to be fought at dawn.
The best known opera of Georges Bizet is Carmen, staged in Paris in the last year of his life. There is another form of exoticism, of a geographically remoter kind, in his earlier opera Les pêchaurs de perles (The Pearl-Fishers), first staged in Paris in 1863, and with a setting in Ceylon that might have appealed to Gauguin. In Act I of the opera Nadir, once a pearl-fisher, but now a huntsman, sings, with Zurga, the chief of the pearl-fishers, of the appearance in the temple, Au fond du temple saint, of a beautiful girl, priestess and goddess, Leila, loved by both of them, turning their earlier friendship to hatred. Now, however, they are brothers once more. Later events in the story involve Nadir in the sacrilege of a relationship with Leïla, that is to be punished, until Zurga realises that he has a debt of gratitude to Leïla, who had once saved him from death.
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
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