About this Recording
8.225853 - Opera Arias (Soprano) - VERDI, G. / PUCCINI, G. / PONCHIELLI, A. / BOITO, A. (Ella Kiang)
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La Traviata: Prelude to Act I
Giuseppe Verdi

The opera La Traviata was based on the play La Dame aux Camélias of Alexandre Dumas, dealing with the love of the young Alfredo for the fashionable courtesan Violetta, her final sacrifice of happiness and death from consumption. The prelude leads to the first scene, in which Violetta and Alfredo first meet.

Madama Butterfly: Act II: Un bel di, vedremo • Act III: Tu? Tu? Piccolo iddio!
Giacomo Puccini

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly was first performed at La Scala, Milan, in 1904. It tells the story of the Japanese marriage of the American naval lieutenant Pinkerton to Cio-Cio-San, known to her friends as Butterfly, who renounces her faith and family for her husband but is deserted by him.

The second act of the opera opens to show Madama Butterfly and her servant Suzuki three years after Pinkerton’s departure. Butterfly still expects his return “when the robins nest”, in spite of Suzuki’s doubts, and in “Un bel di, vedremo” imagines her husband’s homecoming. This is particularly poignant in view of what follows immediately afterwards, when the American consul brings a letter from Pinkerton telling of his marriage to an American wife.

The second aria, “Tu? Tu? Piccolo iddio!”, is sung by Cio-Cio-San to her son by Pinkerton. The latter has returned with his new wife, to whom the boy is to be entrusted, while Butterfly has resolved to kill herself.

Gianni Schicchi: O mio babbino caro
Giacomo Puccini

The opera Gianni Schicchi concerns a plot to nullify the will of the rich Buoso Donati, who has just died, leaving all to charity. Gianni Schicchi, whose daughter Lauretta is in love with Rinuccio, a young relative of Donati, takes the place of the dead man and, as if on his death-bed, dictates to the lawyers a new will, in which the most valuable possessions are bequeathed to himself, Gianni Schicci.

The well-known aria “O mio babbino caro” is sung by Lauretta as she begs her father, Gianni Schicchi, to look at Donati’s will carefully, to find some way in which she may marry Rinuccio.

La Gioconda: Act IV Scene 2: Suicido!
Amilcare Ponchielli

Ponchielli’s La Gioconda is based on Victor Hugo’s Angelo, with a libretto by Boito. It was first produced in Milan in 1876.

The complex story is set in seventeenth century Venice, and is of love and intrigue. La Gioconda refuses the love of the wicked Barnaba who engineers an attack on her mother and revenge on Enzo Grimaldo, loved by La Gioconda but himself a lover of Laura, the wife of the Duke. Grimaldo’s love for Laura is revealed to the Duke, but Laura and La Gioconda escape to the island of Giudecca, where, in despair, the latter attempts suicide with the present aria. In this attempt she later succeeds, but only after she has helped Laura and Grimaldo escape together.

Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo
Pietro Mascagni

Cavalleria Rusticana is a one-act opera dealing with love and jealousy. The famous Intermezzo occurs at the climax of the opera, when Alfio has been urged by Santuzza to take revenge on Turiddu, the young soldier who once loved Santuzza, but has been increasingly attracted by Alfio’s wife. The Intermezzo foreshadows Alfio’s revenge which follows.

La Bohème: Act I: Si, mi chiamano Mimi • Act II: Quando me’n vo’
Giacomo Puccini

La Bohème is set in the Quartier Latin, the students’ quarter of Paris, where Rodolfo, a young poet and his artist friends share a garret. Schaunard, the musician of the group, has earned some money, and the others go out to spend it in celebration, while Rodolfo remains alone at his work. There is a timid knock at the door and a girl enters asking for light for her candle which has gone out. As the candles are lit, Rodolfo’s hand touches the girl’s—the cue for his famous song “Che gelida manina” (Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen). The girl introduces herself in the aria “Si, mi chiamano Mimi”, in which she tells of her work as a seamstress. It is clear that she is suffering from consumption, but this frailty makes her more attractive to Rodolfo. The couple live together, quarrel, and separate, but there is, in the final act, a sad reunion, when Mimi returns to Rodolfo only to die.

Musetta, in contrast to Mimi, is a girl of considerable strength and vitality. Her affair with the painter Marcello is strikingly different from that of Rodolfo and Mimi. Musetta’s Waltz Song “Quando me’n vo’” is sung to attract Marcello at the Café Momus, to the annoyance of her elderly paramour Alcindoro.

Mefistofele: Act III: The Death of Margherita: L’altra notte in fondo al mare
Arrigo Boito

Boito’s version of Faust, unlike Gounod’s, is based on both parts of Goethe’s drama. Faust, the old scholar, rejuvenated by his pact with the devil, Mephistopheles, has seduced and desserted Margherita, who has drowned her baby and is accused of having poisoned her mother. Act III opens with Margherita in prison, lying on a heap of straw and wandering in mind, as she tells of the murder of her child in the aria “L’altra note in fondo al mare”. After a visit from Faust and Mephistopheles, who opens the cell, she thinks of flight, but is recalled to reality by the voice of the latter. Praying to Heaven for mercy, she dies, while Faust, after further adventures, finally defeats the devil by repentance.

Turandot: Act I: Signore, ascolta!
Giacomo Puccini

Puccinn’s last opera concerns the Chinese Princess Turandot, who sets her suitors three riddles to solve, failure earning their death. Calaf, the son of Timur, the exiled King of Tartary, resolves to attempt to win the hand of the princess, and is begged by his father, and, in the aria “Signore, ascolta!”, by the faithful servant Liu, who loves him, not to enter the dangerous contest.

Calaf finally solves the riddles, but gives Turandot a chance to evade her promise if she can guess his real name, a discover she attempts by torturing old Timur and the servant Liu. The latter gives nothing away and kills herself, while Turandot, vanquished, marries Calaf.

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