[7/13/2012] Preview: A decidedly unorthodox musical tribute (if you can call it that) to Italy (continued)
Luciano Pavarotti as the Singer in Der Rosenkavalier
It is what we're presumably meant to take as a typical morning at home in Vienna with the Feldmarschallin (i.e., wife of the Field Marshall) Princess Werdenberg. We're in her boudoir, where a veritable circus of personal-service providers, purveyors of diversions, and supplicants have found their way, and are singly and overlappingly doing whatever it is they came to do in the great lady's presence.
Also on hand, to the Marschallin's considerable annoyance, is unpleasant cousin, Baron Ochs of Lerchenau (whom we met briefly in the February 2010 post "Glimpses of the musical depths of Richard Strauss"), leaning on her for assorted assistance in the planning for his impending nuptials. As our scene begins, an Italian tenor, accompanied (in both senses) by a flutist, sets up to sing. Meanwhile the Baron has commandeered the Marschallin's Notary, and is dictating greed-besotted, not to mention illegal, terms for a wedding settlement outside the actual wedding agreement.
R. STRAUSS: Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59: Act I, Italian Singer, "Di rigori armato"
Sorry, but I didn't have the time, energy, or stamina do texts and translations -- I mean, for a preview! My bad. Anyway, here's the gist of it:[A]
After the Singer has managed to get in an entire stanza of his song, we hear the exchange between the Baron and the Notary, which becomes increasingly unpleasant. At a propitious moment the Singer launches a second stanza, but the quarrel between the Baron and the Notary becomes so heated that the startled Singer breaks off.
Plácido Domingo (t), Italian Singer; Walter Berry (bs-b), Baron Ochs; Ljubomir Pantscheff (bs), Notary; Vienna Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, cond. CBS/Sony, recorded 1971
Nicolai Gedda (t), Italian Singer; Otto Edelmann (bs-b), Baron Ochs; Harald Pröglhöf (bs), Notary; Philharmonia Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan, cond. EMI, recorded 1957
Anton Dermota (t), Italian Singer; Ludwig Weber (bs), Baron Ochs; Franz Bierbach (bs), Notary; Vienna Philharmonic, Erich Kleiber, cond. Decca, recorded June 1954 (mono)
Luciano Pavarotti (t), Italian Singer; Manfred Jungwirth (bs), Baron Ochs; Alfred Jerger (bs-b), Notary; Vienna Philharmonic, Sir Georg Solti, cond. Decca, recorded November 1968
JUST A FEW MORE WORDS ABOUT THIS QUESTION
OF HOW WE'RE MEANT TO REACT TO THE SINGER
With Richard Strauss, however, it's not entirely unknown for him to have written music that's more indelibly beautiful than the situation calls for. In this very opera, for example, I raised the question here when we dipped into Act II and met Baron Ochs's (monstrously) intended bride, young Sophie von Faninal. A lot of her music is of such astounding beauty -- a level of splendor probably obtainable by maybe two or three other composers -- that it's hard to believe it doesn't tell us something about an inner radiance. I certainly experience that, but I have to acknowledge the possibility, at least, that Strauss may simply have overshot.
IN THIS WEEK'S SUNDAY CLASSICS POST . . .
Quite apart from this exercise in Italianness, the young Strauss himself had an idyllic Italian experience, which inspired his first symphonic poem, appropriately titled Aus Italien (From Italy). Sunday we're going to listen to Aus Italien.
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