[2/26/2012] Musical storms, part 4 (continued): Verdi, "Rigoletto"
HOW TO MAKE MUSICAL WIND
Just put together tremolo violins near the bottom of their range with firsts and seconds playing in minor thirds (underpinned by trembling violas and cellos), plus a pair of bassoons -- plus a wordless chorus humming closed-mouthed behind the scenes. (This is from storm fragment 7 below, Sparafucile saying, "There's still half an hour"; Maddalena saying "Halt, brother"; and the watching Gilda saying, "What! A woman like that weeps, and I do nothing to help him!"
And by cultivating different balances among these components, you can create subtly (or even not so subtly) different wind effects.
AND YOU CAN GET LIGHTNING AND THUNDER . . .
. . . by punctuating upper-string tremolos with a darting flute figure for lightning, and having lower-string tremolos rumble for thunder.
NOW, ABOUT THOSE EIGHT RECORDINGS WE HEARD
OF THAT SNIPPET OF THE RIGOLETTO STORM SCENE
The "trick," in case you didn't guess, is that the excerpts were presented in alphabetical order by their Rigolettos. So Group A featurea Ettore Bastianini, Renato Bruson, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and Nicolae Herlea; Group B, Robert Merrill, Heinrich Schlusnus, Leonard Warren, and Giorgio Zancanaro. (Just to be absolutely clear: There was no significance to the separation into groups beyond the numerical, to make for two more manageable gulps of storm warnings.) Here they are again, but this time I would encourage you to focus on the storm effects of lightning, thunder, and wind.
VERDI: Rigoletto: Act III, "Egli è Delitto"
RIGOLETTO: He is Crime; I am Punishment.Group A
[He leaves; the sky darkens, it thunders.]
SPARAFUCILE: The storm is getting closer.
The night will be darker.
["Bella figlia dell'amore" tune sounded by clarinet]
DUKE: Maddalena? [Trying to embrace her]
MADDALENA [pushing him away]: Wait -- my brother is coming.
SPARAFUCILE [entering]: It's going to rain soon.
(1) Ettore Bastianini (b), Rigoletto; Ivo Vinco (bs), Sparafucile; Alfredo Kraus (t), Duke of Mantua; Fiorenza Cossotto (ms), Maddalena; Chorus and Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Gianandrea Gavazzeni, cond. Mercury/Ricordi/BMG, recorded 1960
(2) Renato Bruson (b), Robert Lloyd (bs), Neil Shicoff (t), Brigitte Fassbaender (ms); Chorus and Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Rome), Giuseppe Sinopoli. Philips, recorded September 1984
(3) Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (b), Ivo Vinco (bs), Carlo Bergonzi (t), Fiorenza Cossotto (ms); Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Rafael Kubelik, cond. DG, recorded July 1964
(4) Nicolae Herlea (b), Nicolae Rafael (bs), Ion Buzea (t), Dorothea Palade (ms); Romanian National Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Jean Bobescu, cond. Electrecord/Vox, recorded 1963
(5) Robert Merrill (b), Ezio Flagello (bs), Alfredo Kraus (t), Rosalind Elias (ms); RCA Italiana Chorus and Orchestra, Georg Solti, cond. RCA/BMG, recorded June 1963
(6) [in German] Heinrich Schlusnus (b), Josef Greindl (bs), Helge Roswaenge (t), Margarete Klose (c); Chorus and Orchestra of the Berlin State Opera, Robert Heger, cond. DG, broadcast performance, November 1944
(7) Leonard Warren (b), Nicola Moscona (bs), Jan Peerce (t), Nan Merriman (ms); Chorus, NBC Symphony Orchestra. RCA, recorded live in Madison Square Garden, May 25, 1944
(8) Giorgio Zancanaro (b), Paata Burchuladze (bs), Vincenzo La Scola (t), Martha Senn (ms); Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Riccardo Muti, cond. EMI, recorded June and Oct. 1988
MAYBE I'M OVERLY SUSCEPTIBLE, BUT LET'S HEAR HOW
VERDI USES THESE RESOURCES TO CREATE HIS STORM
VERDI: Rigoletto: Act III, storm fragments
MADDALENA [softly to the Duke]: Ah no! You must leave.
DUKE [to Maddalena]: In this weather?
SPARAFUCILE [softly to MADDALENA]: It means twenty gold scudi.
MADDALENA: God! What a night this is!
SPARAFUCILE: Sir, may God protect you.
GILDA: Ah, my reason has left me!
Love draws me back . . . Father, forgive me!
[Thunder] What a terrible night!
SPARAFUCILE [throwing MADDALENA a sack]: Mend this sack!
SPARAFUCILE: Because your Apollo, when I've cut his throat,
will wear it when I throw him in the river.
GILDA: I see hell itself!
SPARAFUCILE: Kill the hunchback?
What the devil do you mean?
Am I a thief? Am I a bandit?
What client of mine has ever been cheated?
This man pays me, and I shall deliver.
MADDALENA: Ah, have mercy on him!
SPARAFUCILE: He must die.
MADDALENA: I'll see he escapes in time.
[She runs towards the stairs.]
GILDA: Oh, merciful girl!
SPARAFUCILE [holding her back]: We'd lose the money,
MADDALENA: That's true!
SPARAFUCILE: Don't interfere.
MADDALENA: We must save him.
SPARAFUCILE: If someone else comes here before midnight,
they shall die in his place.
MADDALENA: The night is dark, the weather too stormy;
no one will pass by here at this late hour.
GILDA: Oh, what a temptation! To die for the ingrate?
To die! And my father?… Oh, Heaven, have mercy!
[A distant clock chimes half past eleven.]
SPARAFUCILE: There's still half an hour.
MADDALENA [weeping]: Halt, brother . . .
GILDA: What! A woman like that weeps, and I do nothing to help him!
Ah, even if he betrayed my love
I shall save his life with my own!
[She knocks on the door.]
MADDALENA: A knock at the door?
SPARAFUCILE: It was the wind.
[GILDA knocks again.]
MADDALENA: Someone's knocking, I tell you.
SPARAFUCILE: How strange! Who's there?
GILDA: Have pity on a beggar;
grant him shelter for the night.
MADDALENA: A long night will it be!
SPARAFUCILE: Wait a moment.
MADDALENA: Get on with it!
SPARAFUCILE: Open up!
GILDA: (God! Forgive them!)
MADDALENA, SPARAFUCILE: Enter!
Ivo Vinco (bs), Sparafucile; Fiorenza Cossotto (ms), Maddalena; Renata Scotto (s), Gilda; Chorus and Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Gianandrea Gavazzeni, cond. Mercury/Ricordi/BMG, recorded 1960
NOW LET'S GO STRAIGHT THROUGH THE
RIGOLETTO STORM SCENE (IN ENGLISH!)
We've already heard the Storm Scene straight through in Friday night's preview, and we've got a couple more performances available, which I'll direct you to in a moment. For now, though, I thought we'd listen to this English-language performance.
We pick up just after Rigoletto has sent Gilda home (with instructions to change and leave immediately for Verona), after dragging her out to the godforsaken dilapidated little inn where the assassin he's hired, Sparafucile, has had his sister (and business partner) Maddalena entice the Duke of Mantua. He thought by showing her the Duke's true colors she would get over her infatuation. It didn't work, though. (Just how badly it didn't work we learn when we discover that she's still in the area.
VERDI: Rigoletto: Act III, Storm Scene
[in English] John Rawnsley (b), Rigoletto; John Tomlinson (bs), Sparafucile; Arthur Davies (t), Duke of Mantua; Jean Rigby (ms), Maddalena; Helen Field (s), Gilda; English National Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Mark Elder, cond. EMI/Chandos, recorded 1983
As I mentioned, we've got two more performances of the Storm Scene ready for clicking, following two performances of the first third of Act III, as explained below.
FOR TODAY'S PERFORMANCES OF THE STORM
SCENE, WITH ENGLISH TEXTS, CLICK HERE
BACKING UP, LET'S HEAR JUST HOW WE
GOT TO THE SITUATION OF THE STORM
I don't know when we're going to get back to Rigoletto, in particular the last act. (There are some other things in the opera we might fix on first.) We've already had pretty decent coverage of the middle third of the act, the Storm Scene, and having heard both "La donna è mobile" and the Quartet, we've heard most of the first third. So I thought what we'd do is, first, to hear that first third with the gaps filled in, and then just take a flying leap and hear the whole act, adding on without further comment the final third,
THE FIRST THIRD OF ACT III
Since this isn't strictly speaking part of our subject unit today, and the English texts will take up a fair chunk of space, I've moved this section off-site.
TO HEAR THE OPENING SCENE OF ACT III, CLICK HERE
FINALLY, LET'S HEAR THE COMPLETE ACT III
We're going to hear two recordings from which we've already heard selections. As it happens, they're both recordings of broadcasts from 1944, which took place probably less than six months apart. They're pretty different, but both of sufficient interest, I think, to warrant continued attention and enjoyment. For the final scene of the act, the one we haven't talked about at all, we have two pretty potent, and again very differnt, teams, with Leonard Warren and Zinka Milanov as Arturo Toscanini's Rigoletto and Giilda and Heinrich Schlusnus and Erna Berger as Robert Heger's.
In Toscanini's Act III there is a high level of exactitude in the rendering of Verdi's musical notations, but not for the purpose of exactitude. Almost always Toscanini is finding the expressing necessity and human urgency of those instructions. His tautly dramatic realization of the storm figurations is an excellent example. Act III is, sadly, all of Rigoletto that was include in that June 1944 concert, whereas the 1944 Berlin broadcast performance, solidly conducted by the always dependable Heger (1886-1978) -- nearly 58 at the time, but with more than two decades of solidly dependable music-making still ahead of him.
Toscanini deployed a cast that would have been familiar to New Yorkers of the time, though I don't imagine that anyone would have expected to hear the great dramatic soprano Milanov in the lyric-coloratura role of Gilda. (She's really good, isn't she?) In the Berlin performance we re-encounter our old friend Schlusnus, whom we heard at length as Wolfram in Wagner's Tannhäuser, along with the singularly affecting Berger. I'm not an unalloyed fan of tenor Helge Roswaenge, but the voice has plenty of presence; this is about as un-namby-pamby a Duke as we're going to hear, and some of it is authentically terrific. The 1944 Berlin Rigoletto part of the large harvest of recordings from the later '30s and early '40s made possible by German engineers' widespread use of magnetic recording tape well before it came into use elsewhere.
VERDI: Rigoletto: Act III (complete)
You can find English texts here (and, separately, the Italian original). Just click on "E" for English (or "I" for Italian).
Leonard Warren (b), Rigoletto; Zinka Milanov (s), Gilda; Jan Peerce (t), Duke of Mantua; Nicola Moscona (bs), Sparafucile; Nan Merriman (ms), Maddalena; Chorus, NBC Symphony Orchestra, Arturo Toscanini, cond. RCA, recorded live in Madison Square Garden, May 25, 1944
[in German] Heinrich Schlusnus (b), Rigoletto; Erna Berger (s), Gilda; Helge Roswaenge (t), Duke of Mantua; Josef Greindl (bs), Sparafucile; Margarete Klose (c), Maddalena; Chorus and Orchestra of the Berlin State Opera, Robert Heger, cond. DG, broadcast performance, November 1944
TO PROCEED TO THE STORM FROM ACT III OF
JANÁČEK'S KÁTYA KABANOVÁ, CLICK HERE
RETURN TO THE BEGINNING OF THE POST