Friday, February 24, 2012

Sunday Classics preview: En route to our final operatic storms, we hear two famous tenor tunes sung by a very famous tenor


(aka: Musical storms, part 4)

by Ken

We've come finally, as promised in our last session on musical storms (in which we focused on the openings of Wagner's Die Walküre, the opening of the last act of his Siegfried, and the opening of the next-to-last act of Puccini's La Bohème), to two operatic storms, both taking place in their operas' final acts, which become central to the dramatic developments that take place in and around them.

The events of Act III of Verdi's Rigoletto might happen more or less the way they do even in less melodramatic weather (we'll never know, will we?), but the storm in Leoš Janáček's Act III of Kátya Kabanová does more than create an emotional atmosphere that affects the outlook of the various characters who are party to this climactic scene; it certainly does that, but as we'll see Sunday it really does seem to trigger the revelation that, well, changes everything. After that dramatic scene the storm rages on for a while, as we've already heard.

JANÁČEK: Kátya Kabanová: Act III, The storm

Vienna Philharmonic, Charles Mackerras, cond. Decca, recorded December 1976

Meanwhile, before we hear a bit of Verdi's storm, let's remind ourselves of some of what has happened earlier in this act. Notably, we've had two of the best-known of all tenor tunes, which occurred within minutes of each other. Both tunes recur importantly the Storm Scene, as we'll hear in the click-through (and again on Sunday), and no. 2 will recur a final time farther on in the act, providing one of the great musico-dramatic coups de théâtre.

I had planned to confine this audio bit, like the above Janáček clip, to the purely orchestral end-of-tempest portion (which would have meant starting at about 1:41 of this clip), but for various reasons, some of which I hope will become clearer Sunday, I couldn't resist starting earlier. (The dramatic situation should become clear in the click-through.)

I expect that a lot of listeners will recognize the singer. This is one of the more recognizable of tenor voices, in pretty stunning shape. (It's a role that should have been ideally suited to him, which he didn't always -- or even often -- sing this well. You'll note that even at this relatively early date, the big ascending phrase in no. 1 involves him in some heavy lifting.)

Famous tenor tune no. 1

Famous tenor tune no. 2

(We'll hear these musical numbers in full, and identify this very famous tenor, in the click-through.)


There are English texts in the click-through, accompanying the fuller version of this scene which we hear there. I've indicated there the point at which this excerpt begins (it's bar 4 of the full-score page above); it runs then to the end of the Storm Scene.

(We'll identify the performers in the click-through.)





At 11:57 AM, Anonymous robert dagg murphy said...

More storms? Not what I hoped for. If it isn't something more up lifting I can't handle it. Although I guess it's always darkest before every storm and I'm hearing a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

I guess I'm coming down with perandte fjuseau. I understand all robots get it. Making money and making sense are mutually exclusive.

Sorry, it turned out to be ventrifo izibe.

At 6:16 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Well, Robert, we did have our one comical storm, from The Barber of Seville.

Otherwise I guess we're left to draw inspiration from the observation of the merchant Dikoj in Janáček's Kátya Kabanová:

"Storms are punishment, sent to us
to make us realize the power of the Almighty!"



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