Friday, August 17, 2012

Sunday Classics preview: Simon Boccanegra, "Il lacerato spirito"


Bass Ferruccio Furlanetto as Fiesco in Verdi's
Simon Boccanegra in Madrid, 2010

[without chorus; see below for text] Samuel Ramey (bs), Jacopo Fiesco; Munich Radio Orchestra, Jacques Delacôte, cond. EMI, recorded April 1988

by Ken

In last week's initial installment of our look at the two great operatic recognition scenes ("Together again, and all's right with the world -- more or less") we heard a snatch of the scene from Verdi's Simon Boccanegra in which Simon, now doge of Genoa, figures out that the young woman known as Amelia Grimaldi is in fact his long-ago-abducted daughter Maria. Just as we did last week with the great Elektra scene in which Elektra and Orest, two of the children of the murdered king Agamemnon, are reunited, this week we're going to take a closer look at the Simon-Maria scene.

Tonight, however, we're backing up -- or perhaps backing forward, since the Prologue -- which contains "Il lacerato spirito," one of Verdi's supreme bass arias -- didn't exist until Verdi undertook a late-life revision of this problematic middle-eriod opera, working with a much younger writer-composer who was trying to prod him into resuming composition. That, of course, would be Arrigo Boito, the eventual librettist of Verdi's final masterpieces, Otello and Falstaff.

The aria is one of the most powerful of all musical expressions of grief, and is if anything that much more effective for coming from a gentleman who isn't really a terribly nice fellow, the Genovese Patrician Jacopo Fiesco, sworn enemy of the Plebeian corsair Simon Boccanegra. Fiesco is in fact Maria Boccanegra's maternal grandfather, and he has just left the bedside of his just-deceased daughter Maria -- yes, the mother of our Maria.

VERDI: Simon Boccanegra: Prologue, Fiesco, Recitative, "A te l'estremo addio" . . . Aria, "Il lacerato spirito"
[comes out of the palace and turns to look at it]: To you the ultimate farewell, proud palace,
cold sepulcher of my angel.
Nor was I able to protect her!
Oh cursed one! Oh vile seducer!
[He turns to the Madonna.]
And you, Virgin, suffered
her virginal crown to be ravished from her?
Ah, what was I saying? Madness!
Ah, forgive me!
The wounded spirit
of a despairing father
has been subjected to the tortures
of infamy and pain.
[Lamentations are heard from inside the palace.]
WOMEN: She is dead! She is dead!
The spheres open to her!
Never again! Never again will we see her on earth!
MEN: Miserere! Miserere!
FIESCO: Out of pity Heaven has given her
a martyr's crown.
Risen to the splendor of the angels,
pray, Maria, for me.

Alexander Kipnis (bs), Jacopo Fiesco; Berlin State Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Erich Orhmann, cond. EMI, recorded Apr. 13, 1931

Giorgio Tozzi (bs), Jacopo Fiesco; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic, Gianandrea Gavazzeni, cond. Live performance from the Salzburg Festival, Aug. 9, 1961

Peter Mikuláš (bs), Jacopo Fiesco; BRTN Philharmonic Choir, Jaak Gregoor Chorus, BRTN Philharmonic Orchestra, Alexander Rahbari, cond. Discover International, recorded Mar. 7-15, 1994


A closer look at the reunion of father and daughter.

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