|About this Recording
8.572438 - Opera Arias (Baritone): Ataneli, Lado - VERDI, G. / ROSSINI, G. / MOZART, W.A. / DONIZETTI, G. / LEONCAVALLO, R. / MASSENET, J. / BIZET, G.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901):
The early opera Attila (1846) sees the beginning of Verdi’s dramatic and orchestral development which will later lead to the so-called trilogy Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata. Considered by many the most political of his works, based on his involvement in the Italian Risorgimento, Attila was composed in a difficult period of his life. In the Act II aria Dagli immortali vertici, Belli di gloria (From the proud, immortal heights), after reading a letter from Emperor Valentine commanding him to return to Rome now that there is a treaty with the Huns, Ezio declares his love for his country and shows his courage and willingness to die for his compatriots, if necessary.
Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868):
The popular Il barbiere di Siviglia needs no introduction. Rossini’s ability to translate the comic plot into a brilliant musical comedy, together with his very refined compositional technique, go towards the creation of a true masterpiece. Every single gesture becomes integrated in the musical and dramatic plot, with a perfection that leads audiences to continuing new discoveries. It was not surprising to hear the famous conductor Arturo Toscanini say he would not conduct this opera often, because it was “too difficult” to perform as it should be done, given the complexity of the work. In the cavatina Largo al factotum (Make way for the city factotum!) Figaro declares his skills and talents and explains why he is the “factotum” of the town.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791):
Le nozze di Figaro (1786) was Mozart’s first opera written with the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, who later came to play such an important part in the Composer’s operas. Based on the comedy La folle journée by Beaumarchais, it represents a milestone in the history of opera, owing to the incredible development the genius of Mozart gave to the genre of opera buffa, with structural, orchestral and vocal virtuosity never experienced before. Despite the brilliant libretto and music, the opera had to wait for its Prague performance to earn unlimited success. The powerful Act III aria Vedrò mentr’io sospiro (While I suffer, shall I see) shows the Count’s attitude in his efforts to seduce Figaro’s betrothed, Susanna. It is preceded by the accompanied recitative Hai già vinta la causa! (You’ve already won the case!), as the Count overhears Susanna’s remark to Figaro, telling him that she has settled the problem he had with accusations of breach of promise, and suspects a plot.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
The enormous success that Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni (1787) enjoyed, had already been pointed out in a letter from Goethe to Schiller, telling him: “You would have seen all your hopes realised in Don Giovanni”. The Overture was supposedly written in three hours on the eve of the première. The opera owes part of its popularity to the unique blending of the comic and the serious, as much as to the speed of its dramatic and musical action. The decisive factor is the fascinating figure of Don Giovanni himself, oscillating between libertine and blasphemer, with a concatenation of human characteristics all rolled into one. In the Act II canzonetta Deh vieni alla finestra, o mio tesoro! (Ah, come to the window, my love), Don Giovanni wants to seduce Donna Elvira’s maidservant, and sings his serenade.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
The Act I aria Fin ch’han dal vino (Until their heads are warmed with wine) from Mozart’s Don Giovanni could be considered a perfect symbolic representation of the main character’s philosophy. Wine, women and pleasure are sought as means to complete life’s fulfillment. Unaware of the tragedy that awaits him, Don Giovanni throws himself with exuberance onto this sort of merry-go-round. An immaculate technique and vocal dexterity are absolutely required from the singer for this unique aria.
Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848):
Gaetano Donizetti, considered by many to be one of the main exponents of Italian bel canto, saw in his opera Lucia di Lammermoor the realisation of his finest work. In the years following Beethoven, Italian opera started a slow development, which, through the brilliance of Rossini and the melodic refinement of Bellini, was striving for enhanced drama. In this process Donizetti’s music could be seen as the one that most nearly achieved the combination of Italian melody with developing drama that would later lead to the style of Verdi. The sextet in Lucia di Lammermoor is still today considered one of the finest pieces of dramatic music in all opera, rivalled only by the quartet in Rigoletto. In the Act I aria Cruda funesta smania (What alarm and foreboding) Lord Enrico Ashton, Lucia’s brother, expresses his anger towards her lover Edgardo and his desire for revenge. This is a very dramatic piece which requires vocal strength and technique of the first order.
Donizetti’s La Favorita, first performed in Paris in 1840, has a special place among his operas. Still under a measure of influence from French Grand Opera, it represents, nevertheless, an important step in the development of the composer’s dramatic vein. Slowly we can see the blending of melodic elements with rhythmic accents, leading to a very clear defined musical style, which very much reminds one of some of Verdi’s early operas. At the beginning of Act II, in the garden of Alcatraz, Alfonso XI, King of Castile, sings in the aria Vien, Leonora a’ piedi tuoi (Come, Leonora! At your feet) his passion for Leonora, without knowing of the love between Ferdinand and her.
Ernani is, with Nabucco, the earliest work by Verdi that keeps a place in modern repertory. Early in its career the opera experienced various vicissitudes. The conspiracy scene had to be toned down for political reasons. In Paris Victor Hugo, as author of the drama on which the libretto is based, raised objections to its representation, and it was produced in the French capital as Il Proscritto with the characters changed to Italians. The opera, however, is accepted by audiences as a thrilling and rewarding experience. Its vibrant melodies have the energy of youth, and put the genius of the composer very much in evidence. In the Act III aria Oh! de’ verd’anni miei sogni e bugiarde larve (O dreams and illusory spirits) Carlo, King of Castile, comes in front of the tomb of his ancestor Charlemagne in the Cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle. In this sombre but grandiose place he sings his soliloquy about his life and his feelings about the plotting of conspirators against him.
Verdi’s I vespri siciliani was commissioned for the Great Exhibition in Paris in 1855. Verdi did not like the conditions of work in Paris very much, but still he could not but find it an honour to be asked to write music for so great an occasion in the artistic capital of the world. Apart from the disappearance during rehearsals of the primadonna Cruvelli who was supposed to sing the rôle of Elena, the opera was a success, and reached a secure place in major repertoire of the last century. In the Act III aria In braccio alle dovizie (Surrounded by riches), Monforte, alone in his palace, gives expression to his indecision and agony of mind and reflects on the injustice he did years before to the woman who would become the mother of his son.
Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1857–1919):
Leoncavallo is considered by many one of the most representative exponents of Italian verismo, which finds in the Prologue to his Pagliacci a sort of manifesto. Coming from a very intellectual and artistic background, he was able to bring his ideas to a very refined orchestral realization, while also giving space to a vast range of emotional and dramatic impulses in his music. His opera Zazà (1900), although not as popular as Pagliacci, was very much appreciated in Paris, where it met the praise of Gabriel Fauré. It represents his best sentimental vein, and his affection for French “Bohemian” life. In the famous aria Buona Zazà (Good Zazà), Cascart asks Zazà to end her affair with Milo, a moment of sincere emotion and a true vocal “highlight”.
Jules Massenet (1842–1912):
The opera Hérodiade (1880) by Jules Massenet was for quite a long time criticized for its subject: the beauty of the melodies was in contrast with the biblical plot and did not agree with the due solemnity that the libretto seemed to require. This actually shows Massenet’s attitude towards French Grand Opera. Although he made many compromises, he was able to retain a very personal note of integrity in his musical language. In the well-know aria Vision fugitive (Fleeting vision) Herod expresses his passion for Salome in the most sensitive and romantic way, while showing Massenet’s pure lyricism, devoid of any rhetoric.
Georges Bizet (1838–1875):
At its first representation at the Opéra Comique, Bizet’s Carmen (1874) did not win the great success that came only later in Vienna, four months after the composer’s death. After that it became one of the most popular works in the history of opera. Based on a play by Prosper Mérimée, Carmen is set in Seville, its plot dominated by love and jealousy. The gypsy girl Carmen lures the soldier Don José from his duty and from his beloved Micaela, persuading him to follow her to the mountain hide-out of her smuggler companions, after he has been demoted and punished for allowing her to escape from prison. Carmen then deserts him for the bull-fighter Escamillo, introduced in all his vainglory in Votre toast.
Dimitri Arakishvili (1873–1953):
Dimitri Arakishvili was a Georgian composer and ethnomusicologist regarded as one of the founding fathers of modern Georgian music. He helped in founding the People’s Conservatory in Moscow, and was actively involved in collecting and popularising Georgian folk-music. The aria Madloba Gmerts is taken from the opera Tkmuleba Shota Rustavelze (The Legend of Shota Rustaveli), 1914, one of his major compositions. This aria was chosen by Lado Ataneli as a tribute to his country, Georgia.
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