Saturday, June 30, 2012

Great Historical Singers (Regine Crespin)

Regine Crespin was a French soprano who had a career in opera and on the concert stage spanning nearly forty years. I call her the female Jose Van Dam, because she had a unique elegance, and sensitivity in her singing, which was similar to his. Her voice was clearly very large, but she still was very skillful at singing softly. The Decca recording company called her "the French canon" because of the size of her voice. Crespin was a very versatile singer, who sang both operas and recitals very effectively. She was primarily known for her interpretations of Wagner and Strauss heroines on the opera stage, but she sang various repertoire in French, German, Italian, Russian and English throughout her career. Crespin was born in 1927 to parents who owned a shoe store. She had a difficult upbringing partially due to her mother's alcoholism and the fact that it was World War 2. Initially, Crespin intended to be a pharmacist, but failed to pass the baccalaureat, which is a test taken at the end of secondary education. Following that, Crespin began taking singing lessons, and won a competion. She went on to study at the Conseevatorie de Paris where she was very successful. She made her professional debut in 1949 as Charlotte in Massenet's "Werther." She began her career by singing in opera houses in the French provinces, before becoming a star at the Paris opera in the mid 1950s. While at the Paris opera, she took part in the Paris premiere of Poulenc's "Dialogues of the Carmellites" as Lidoine. Crespin recorded Lidione to great acclaim under Pierre Deveraux at around the same time. She is absolutely stunning in that role, so I highly recommend that recording. In 1958, Crespin was invited to sing the role of Kundry in Wagner's "Parsifal" by Wagner's grandson, Wieland Wagner, which launched Crespin's international career. In 1962, Crespin joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera, where she would remain on and off for 27 years. She sang in 129 performances in all at the Met with many international stars. In the 1970s, Crespin began to have some vocal trouble, and therefore, switched to Mezzo roles. Her timbre did not change much when she made this switch, but her low range was very strong. In fact, her low range was atypical for a soprano. There is a video of her singing Schubert's "Der tod und das madchen" in which she sings a low D at the end. While she was at the Met Crespin sang internationally ad opera companies throughout the world, and also she was a top knotch recitalist. She was famous for German lieder, and the songs of Debussy, Berlioz and Poulenc. What made Crespin so great was her beautiful voice, musicality, and versatility. She was a singer who excelled in a lot of different repertoire. She took part in many great recordings, including several different recordings of Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen." She recorded both Sieglinde and Brunnhilde to great acclaim under Solti and Karajan. She also recorded the Marschallin in Strauss's "Der Rosenkavalier" under Solti. She was featured in a video of "The Dialogues of the Carmelittes" in English. Believe me her voice is huge. Regine Crespin was an artist above all else. She could sang Debussy's "Chanson de Billitis" in which the character is a sixteen year old convincingly, and also sing Brunnhilde and Sieglinde. All I can say is wow to that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The German Version of Falstaff

     The most popular musical setting of "Falstaff" to my knowledge has to be Verdi's last opera "Falstaff" premiered in 1893.  Verdi's setting has quick moments of beauty that pass by quickly, and the words are all sung.  The play Verdi's "Falstaff" is based on is Shakespeare's "The Merry Wive's of Windsor."       There are several musical settings of "The Merry Wives of Windsor." I'm sure there are settings I do not know. Antonio Salieri set his own version called "Falstaff." There is a German version by Otto Nicolai, "Die Lustigen Weiber Von Windsor" which is a Singspiel, a German opera with spoken dialogue.  Before each musical number except the overture there is spoken dialogue.  Nicolai's version of "The Merry Wives of Windsor" was his most popular work, and it was premiered in 1849, the year of his death.  The overture is a popular number in concert.  It is a delightful opera, which follows the story in a different sequence than Boito's version for Verdi.  This version has a libretto written by Salomon Hermann Mosenthal (born in Kassel, 14 January 1821; died in Vienna 17 February 1877.  This opera is the best known libretto he wrote.  He also wrote librettos for Anton Rubenstein.     Otto Nicolai wrote five other operas plus, two symphonies, lieder, and some chamber works.  A random interesting fact about Nicolai is that he supposedly hated Giuseppe Verdi's "Nabucco." Considering that they both set the same play to music, that is kind of a wild fact.  Never the less, Nicolai's life was cut short when he collapsed and died of a stroke at the age of 39.  He was elected as a member of the Prussian Arts Academy on the day of his death.  Verdi and Nicolai could have had a big rivalry, had he lived a normal life span.  It is interesting to have two different settings of "Falstaff" which could not be more different from one another.    The main difference between the two versions is the pacing musically and dramatically.  First of all, Nicolai's version as a long overture, whereas, Verdi goes right into the drama on stage.  Also, Falstaff sings a drinking song, and there are a lot more separate arias and duets in Nicolai's version.  There is spoken dialogue in Nicolai's version, whereas, in Verdi's, the ideas go by very quickly.  There is no overture and Verdi goes from one idea to the next without stopping.  Its brilliance can be overlooked because of the fast pace. Verdi's "Falstaff" is really an ensemble opera, although there are a few arias.  Ford's jealousy is a lot less pronounced in Nicolai's version.  Ford has an aria, but not a rage aria. Also, there are no horns signifying his jealousy, like in Verdi.  My final words for this are to suggest listening to both versions, since they are so different from one another.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Great Historical Singers (Ezio Pinza)

Ezio Pinza was perhaps the most famous basso-cantante of all time.  He was one of few opera giants who also was famous on Broadway.  Pinza was born In 1892 in Rome.  He was the seventh born child to his parents, but only the first to survive.  Pinza's voice was a very natural gift from an early age, and with his father's urging, he studied at Bologna's Conservatorio Martino.  Interestingly, Pinza was never able to read music, but he was excellent at learning music by ear. In 1914 he debuted as Oroveso in Bellni's "Norma", which began his operatic career.    Pinza was very athletic, and he served in the military during World War I, so his career in opera was put on hold for a couple of years.  In 1922, he was engaged by La Scala in Milan under the baton of the great maestro Arturo Toscanini.  He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1926, and was associated with the Met until his operatic retirement in 1948. He was famous for roles such as Figaro in "Le Nozze di Figaro", Boris Godunov in "Boris Godunov", Don Giovanni in "Don Giovanni", and a large number of  roles from operas by Verdi, Bellini and Donizetti.  Aside from singing at the Met which was his main home, he sang in houses such as Covent Garden, Royal Opera House and the Salzburg Festival. The famous conductor Bruno Walter hired Pinza for the Salzburg Festival from 1934-1939.   Pinza's legacy is so remarkable, because he had a successful career on Broadway after he retired from opera.  In 1949, Pinza premiered the role of Emil de Becque in "South Pacific."  Pinza was famous for singing the very popular tune "Some Enchanted Evening" very expressively.  He won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Emil de Becque as a leading actor.  Pinza also stared in the show "Fanny" opposite Florence Henderson a few years later. There are recordings of Pinza singing Broadway songs on record and on film. He was also very famous for his recording of "September Song" by German composer Kurt Weill.    What a voice Pinza had, especially when he was younger. When in doubt about which recordings to get of a particular singer, just check the years on them.  Pinza had one of the most beautiful and Romantic sounding voices throughout his career. His timbre was exquisitely beautiful. He was a true basso-cantante.  The term basso-cantante literally means a singing bass.  It is a lighter and higher bass voice than the deep bass (basso-profondo).  However, it is a bass, not a bass-baritone.  During Pinza's early days he was solid from low D2, the second D on the piano to high F sharp 4, the forth F sharp on the piano.  He had a beautiful mezza-voce which he used to great effect.  Pinza was really revolutionary as a singer.  He set the bar very high for basses who followed him.  In additon he was so unique because he sang opera, songs, starred on Broadway and in movies and TV shows.  He had a wonderful personality on camera.  It can be seen in the video "Six Great Basses." He sings the duet "La ci darem la Mano" from "Don Giovanni", and the French song "Le Cor" by Fleger.  Both are just incredible.  Pinza's voice is one that is very worth listening to.  He was one of the only bass singers I know of who was successful in so many things.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Few Thoughts On The Bullying Incident

 This bullying story about the kids bullying the older lady on the school bus is unreal.  I'm glad the lady is doing okay, and people are really supporting her.  It seems that bullying is being more noticed these days, and that's thanks to technology.  As a child I was bullied.  I even regretfully bullied a few times just to protect myself and make myself feel better.  I did it very few times, and was always quick to apologize, because I just could not go through with it.  I knew it was the wrong thing to do.  But these kids took it to another level, by calling her poor, and poking fun of her because her son committed suicide.  The lady was crying for crying out loud.  Knowing what it feels like to be bullied, I was very disturbed by the video I saw of these kids calling her fat ass and what not. It's a shame bullying has to go on at all.  The person who is the target of bullies is often a person who is not a fighter.  Defenseless, like this elderly lady.    Fortunately, the positive support by people, and outpouring of love has put a positive spin on the story.  Money was raised for her, and she got an expense paid trip to Disney.  The woman found out about that on Anderson Cooper.  I am very glad.  Since she was riding that bus every day, this bullying must have been going on constantly.  The kid who video taped it had a lot of courage.  Now I hear that the kids who were bullying Karen are getting death threats.  That kind of shit will only increase bullying.  Bullying is an unfortunate thing.  I do not know the answer to stopping it.  Despite the taunting and harassment that this woman went through, she is lucky.  So many people are being bullied, and the incidents are not caught on video like this one was. I always wonder how bullying ever started in the first place. It makes no sense to me. The real nature of people is to be good to one another. Babies aren't born bullies, because that is not possible. The way kids are being raised needs attention. Someone is teaching these kids how to bully. I believe that behavior is modeled, and that kids copy their parents. Or, kids may use bullying as a defense mechanism. I am just left with the question of why people get off on hurting another person. This bullying was outrageous. Unfortunately sensitive people have the big target on their backs, which makes even less sense, since they do not bother anyone. I will never understand bullying. People make mistakes and hurt others sometimes. Maybe these kids were making a mistake. I sure as hell hope they do not bully like this again.    

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Look to this day

A cool proverb. I'm sure a lot of people know it, but worth a read for people who do or do not. Look to this day: For it is life, the very life of life. In its brief course Lie all the verities and realities of your existence. The bliss of growth, The glory of action, The splendour of achievement Are but experiences of time. For yesterday is but a dream And tomorrow is only a vision; And today well-lived, makes Yesterday a dream of happiness And every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well therefore to this day; Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tonality in Mozart's Don Giovanni

In Mozart’s "Don Giovanni" the use of keys is important in describing the dramatic situation in the plot, the personalities of the characters, and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. First of all the use of keys indicates the characters’ social classes. For example the key of F major is used for lower class characters such as Leporello, Masetto and Zerlina. The noble key of B flat major is Don Giovanni’s key because he is a nobleman, and also because he generates a lot of excitement. The key of B flat major also indicates when the women in the opera are in distress. Donna Anna’s key is d minor because she is mourning her fathers death, and because she is a cold person. Donna Elvira’s key is E flat major which indicates her passion for Don Giovanni. Key changes occur in Don Giovanni to indicate that the emotions of the characters have changed. The use of tonality is important in several of Mozart’s operas which precede "Don Giovanni"; such as "Idomeneo", "Die Entfuhrung aus den Serail", and "Le Nozze di Figaro". As Mozart developed as a composer the use of keys became more and more important as far as describing the dramatic situation in the plot, the characters’ personalities, and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. Mozart’s use of tonality was already evident when he was very young. When Mozart was nine years old he wrote a piece in A major which is a love song. Daniel Heartz says “More within Mozart’s powers, as far as sustaining a piece from beginning to end, was an aria d’affetto, or love song, such as Mandane’s first aria in Metastasio’s Artaserse ‘Conservati fedele,’ for which Mozart chose 2/4 time, Andante grazioso , and the key of A major(K. 23). Already evident is his later preference for this key when it came to amorous outpourings, such as love duets.” This is an important example because the use of A major in love duets is significant in "Le Nozze di Figaro", "Don Giovanni", "Idomeneo" and "Cosi fan Tutte". The key of A major is used for the same reason in all four of these operas to indicate an outpouring of love. Mozart began using keys as a descriptive tool at an early age. As a result his use of keys became more and more significant as he got older. The use of keys is important in Mozart’s opera seria "Idomeneo", which was premiered January 29, 1781 in the Court Theater in Munchen. The use of tonalities is important in "Idomeneo" because of the way it describes the action and the characters. A good example of how the use of keys is significant in Idomeneo is the love duet Principessa "a’ tuoi sguardi affirmi" between Illia and Idamante. In this duet Illia and Idamante are expressing their love for each other, which is is a problem because Illia is not Greek. Idamante is the son of Idomeneo, the King of Crete and Illia is the Princess of Troy. This foreshadows the tragic ending. Another important use of keys in Mozart’s works is the foreshadowing of what is to come. The importance of foreshadowing is especially significant in Don Giovanni. There is an interesting switch to a minor in this duet. Daniel Heartz discusses this in Mozart’s Operas. He says “Particularly effective is Illia’s rejoinder, in which duol and lamenti are rendered by passing from A major to a minor. (The composer has two options when the text says ‘no more grief’- either to paint the grief or to convey its absence. Mozart chose the first.”) This shows how the use of keys indicates an emotional change for the characters. Illia is saying that she had grief. Therefore the change to a minor occurs to describe her grief. In "Idomeneo" the use of tonality describes the personalities of each character. Unlike Don Giovanni each character does not get a specific key for an identification tag. However the keys do indicate the emotions that the characters are feeling at particular moments in the opera. Also the tonal schemes used by Mozart are really effective in describing the plot. Illia’s opening aria Padre, germani, addio! is a good example because it is in g minor. She is upset because she loves Idamante but feels grief for Troy at the same time. The problem she is facing is that Idamante is the son of the King of Crete and she is Trojan. Idamante is a noble character, so therefore he is associated with B flat major. The key of B flat major is associated with noble characters in Mozart’s operas. For example, The Count and Don Giovanni sing in the key of B flat because they are noblemen. The tonic chord in B flat major is significant for Idamante’s character as far as indicating his presence. Daniel Heartz says “Not only does he enter Act I, Scene 2, with a chord on B-flat and sing his first aria, “Non ho colpa” (No. 2), in the same key (which is adumbrated already in the second section of Illia’s ‘Padre, germani’ when she dotes on his image- thus there is a symbolic relationship between them in tonal terms even before he appears in person), but he also enters the scene with his father (act I, Scene 10) to the same chord, and likewise Act 3, Scene 2.” This tonal relationship is an indication of Idamante and Illia’s love for one another. Even when Idamante is not present in the action, the key of B flat indicates his presence and links the two characters together. The key of g minor has the same key signature as the key of B flat major. Therefore, Idamante’s presence can be felt in Illia’s aria when it switches to B flat major. Mozart takes this even further with Tamino and Pamina, and Papageno and Papagena in "Die Zauberflote". In "Die Entfurung aus den Seraglio" the use of keys is also important as far as describing what is going on in the plot and describing the characters and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. One interesting point is the fact that there are two keys that rival each other in this opera. The key of the overture is C major, which is the key in which the opera is centered on. The rival key is D major, which is the key of joy. In this case it is a key of joy for the villain Osmin. Osmin sings in D major when Belmonte, Blonde, Constanze and Pedrillo are captured. This is similar to the Count’s aria "Vedro mentrio sospriro" in "Le Nozze di Figaro" . The use of rival keys is important in "Le Nozze di Figaro" and "Don Giovanni" as well. In "Die Entfurung aus dem Seraglio" Mozart also begins to use the key of F major to indicate rage. When he uses F major for rage it is often associated with lower voices. In this opera it is associated with Osmin’s rage in Solche hergelaufne Laffen. In this aria he wants Pedrillo put to death. The half step trill between E and F is especially significant in describing his rage. Thomas Bauman says “By sliding down from F at the end of the first coda to the E beginning the second, Osmin echoes the important half-step which had opened the aria.” This half-step can also be hear in arias from Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni. The tonal scheme in this opera is important because it begins and ends in C major. Thomas Bauman says “Mozart has clearly organized the opera around the colour of his ‘Turkish’ key, C major, heard in a full third of the opera’s numbers. He deploys it in much the same way he had used D major in Idomeneo. As in all his mature operas, both of these works begin and end in the ‘home’ key, and additionally the first act (comprising thedramatic exposition) also begins and ends in this key.” This is important because it shows how Mozart organized keys. In Mozart’s next opera, Le Nozze di Figaro, this becomes even more significant. There are several similarities between "Le Nozze di Figaro" and "Don Giovanni" as far as the use of tonality. In "Le Nozze di Figaro" each character does not have a specific key. However the keys serve the same purpose as far as describing the action, the characters personalities, and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. This is because the two operas were premiered within a year of each other. The significant change in "Le Nozze di Figaro" as far as tonality is concerned is the concerted finale. This opera has the first example of the use of the concerted finale. The term concerted finale means that every character is on stage. The tonality in the Act II finale of "Le Nozze di Figaro" is organized in a specific way which is designed to describe the action. The breakdown of the tonality of the Act II finale is as follows: E flat, B flat, G, C, F, B flat and E flat major. In the Act I finale of "Don Giovanni", Mozart’s use of tonality is basically the same. The tonality of the Act I finale is as follows: C, F,(d minor), B flat, E flat and C major. Both finales begin and end in the same tonality for the same reason. Both finales end in the rival keys of the overtures because the characters are rivaling each other in both of these finales. Mozart does this because it shows the listener that there are unresolved conflicts that need to be resolved. Also these two finales are identical to the tonal structure of "Idomeneo" and "Die Entfuhrung aus den Serail" in that they begin and end in the same key. In "Don Giovanni" Mozart’s brilliance becomes more evident as he becomes more complex as far as tonality. Mozart uses tonality brilliantly as far as describing the action and the characters. In "Don Giovanni" the characters have specific keys, which tell the audience about their personalities and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. There are several musical examples that show why the use of keys is so important in "Don Giovanni". The beginning of the opera has several examples of why the use of keys is important in terms of the characters. Following the overture Leporello begins singing Notte e giorno in F major which is his main key. He is complaining about having to serve Don Giovanni. In the orchestra there is a march rhythm which indicates Leporello’s frustration. This march rhythm can be heard in several places throughout the opera. This can be compared to Figaro’s cavatina Se Vuol Ballare in "Le Nozze di Figaro". He also sings in F major and is complaining. Following Leporello’s complaining the tonality changes to B flat major in the trio "Non di Sperar" because Don Giovanni and Donna Anna enter. Don Giovanni is trying to seduce her, therefore B flat major is used. The tonality then changes to g minor when the Commendatore enters in Lasciala indegno. The key of g minor represents Don Giovanni’s anxiety, and it is the relative minor of B flat major. He is feeling anxiety because Donna Anna’s father enters the scene. Don Giovanni and the Commendatore duel and the tonality is constantly moving. The harmony in this passage represents Mozart going ahead because it moves a lot. In the other operas mentioned, the tonality does not move as much. When Don Giovanni stabs the Commendatore there is a b diminished seven chord. The tonality then ends up in f minor to indicate the darkness of the rare trio for three low male voices. For Don Giovanni this indicates regret, Leporello is terrified, and the Commendatore is mortally wounded and dying. The key of f minor is brilliant in describing the action. Charles Gounod says “Here occurs a short Trio of incomparable majesty, a masterpiece of tragic expression, and one of the most imposing pages of musical drama that it is possible to concieve.” This trio not only describes the action effectively. It also foreshadows the death of Don Giovanni. In "Ma qual mai s’offre, o Dei" the tonality is unstable in the recitative. Although there are no flats or sharps in the key signature at this point one can hear the tonality moving by fourths from g minor to c minor to f minor. The duet is in d-minor. In the duet the key switches between d-minor and the relative major. The switch to the relative major occurs when Don Ottavio expresses his love for Donna Anna and promises to be a good husband. The tonality changes to d minor to indicate vengeance. But it also indicates Donna Anna rejecting Don Ottavio. There is no tonality that is shared between Donna Anna and Don Ottavio. This is because he loves her, and she does not love him. The scene ends with the two characters seeking vengeance on Don Giovanni. The aria and trio Ah! chi mi dice mai is the introduction to Donna Elvira’s character. In the orchestral introduction Mozart really tells the listener how Donna Elvira is feeling. Charles Gounod describes this in "Mozart’s Don Giovanni". He says “Indignation, jealousy, rage all of these are expressed by the orchestra from the first bar of the symphony which precedes this marvelous number.” The running string passages are especially effective in describing her attitude. This aria and trio is in E-flat major, which is Donna Elvira’s key. Donna Elvira’s emotions are caused by her passion for Don Giovanni. Leporello’s catalogue aria Madamina closes the scene. To me D major is used here for sarcasm. In different music a lot of composers use D major as a heroic key. In this aria Leporello is telling Donna Elvira how many women Don Giovanni has been with. There are a couple of interesting tonal passages in this aria. Hermann Albert discusses this aria in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. He says “As there are no modulations at all in this first section, the sudden move now into A major is all the more stricking. It affects everything; the whole melodic line surges upwards, accompanied by a glittering concertino of flutes and horns against oboes and bassons, until the almost brutal ‘d’ogni forma, d’ogni eta.” This excitement in the music at this point is an indication that Leporello is like Don Giovanni. There is even a B flat chord towards the end of this aria which indicates Don Giovanni’s presence. Hermann Albert says “Already by the eight bar the music has diverged significantly, an interrupted cadence leading to B flat major.” This proves that Leporello is somewhat proud of Don Giovanni’s conquests. The scene changes to where Zerlina and Masetto are celebrating the fact that they are going to get married and the tonality is G major. Mozart often used G major as a key for celebrating. Mozart also does this in Act III of Le Nozze di Figaro when the two couples are getting married. Masetto’s aria Ho Capito is in F major and can be compared to Se Vuol Ballare. In both of these arias the characters are angry, and are peasants. Figaro and Masetto are angry for the same reason. The Count and Don Giovanni both want to seduce their fiancees. The duet La ci darem la mano between Don Giovanni and Zerlina has Mozart using A major because it represents a false outpouring of love from Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni is trying to seduce Zerlina. Therefore A major represents his urgency to seduce her. In this duet Mozart uses the V key of E major to make Don Giovanni sound even more urgent. Hermann Albert says “Now Don Giovanni follows up his attack in the more intense key of E major, supported by the wind in an expansive, glowing melodic style; her reply is a touching, though brief, thought for poor Masetto.” This duet is similar to Crudel perche finora, which is the duet between the Count and Susanna in Act III of Le Nozze di Figaro. Mozart uses A major as an outpouring of love in both of these examples. Notice the similarity between Susanna and Zerlina, and Don Giovanni and the Count. The scene ends with Don Giovanni’s aria Finch’han dal vino. This is in B flat major to indicate Don Giovanni’s sexual drive. One interesting modulation occurs relatively early in the aria. The modulation is to b flat minor. Hermann Albert says “A fascinating effect is achieved by the appearance of the minor key at ‘Ed io frattanto’: here speaks all the daemonism of a mastermind.” The use of the parallel minor is a brief passage that describes what kind of man Don Giovanni is. It tells the audience that his main intention in having the party is to seduce Zerlina or whoever else might come along. In the finale of Act I the use of keys is important for describing the dramatic situation in the plot. The finale begins in C major with Presto, Presto, pria ch’ei venga. The first fifty bars indicate Masetto’s agitation toward Zerlina. He thinks that Zerlina is going to be unfaithful to him. The key of C major is important because it is the rival key in Don Giovanni. Dramatically at this point Masetto is trying to get Don Giovanni because he has been flirting with Zerlina. Don Giovanni then fasely welcomes the peasant guests who are in the garden. Of course he is having this party in order to seduce women, especially Zerlina. The tonality then changes to a minuet in F major. The key of F major is used to indicate that Don Giovanni is dancing with a peasant and dancing in the peasant style. At this point Masetto is hiding. When Don Giovanni discovers Masetto the key changes briefly to d minor to indicate the surprise. This is not a modulation because the change is so brief. The key quickly changes back to F major, and the three of them go inside. The three maskers enter and the tonality changes to d minor because Donna Anna begins singing about vengeance. Protegga, it giusto Cielo is in B flat major because the three maskers are praying that they will be avenged. Act I ends with Riposate, Vezzoze ragazze in E flat major. Up to this point Mozart has used a specific pattern as far as the use of tonality. He has structured it so that the first key has become the dominant of the second key. For example C major is the dominant of F major. The purpose of this is to make the scene change smooth. When the maskers enter the pattern changes. Julian Rushton says “This progression into flat keys covers the scene change, whose possible disruptiveness is thus minimized (its dramatic signifigance is slight). But when the maskers enter, the pattern changes; the music goes down a third, from E flat to C, which inevidably sounds bright because it involves sharpening the previous key-note to E natural within the new tonic chord.” This indicates the shock of their entrance to Don Giovanni and Leporello. Zerlina sings coloratura passages because she is nervous that Don Giovanni is going to try to seduce her. After the maskers enter the same minuet is heard but it is in G major instead of F major. Don Giovanni then tries to seduce Zerlina, and she screams. At this point the key is still C major but the singing is in b flat minor, c minor, and d minor as a result of Zerlina’s scream. Julian Rushton says “But the asymetry is more important, and is created by the abrupt shift from E flat to C, with its reminder of the tonic sound, and the only passage of tonal instability(13.9), a break in musical decorum exactly matching the action.” This shows Mozart going ahead. It is interesting that Le Nozze di Figaro was premiered just one year earlier. Although the Act II finale of Figaro is better because of the way it flows, the tonality is more complex in Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni is then confronted by the guests. In order to escape he threatens Leporello. Act I ends in the rival key of C major, and Don Giovanni barely escapes. At this point all of the other characters except Leporello are confronting Don Giovanni. That is why the rival key is used. The first important musical number in Act II as far as the importance of tonality is concerned is the trio "Ah taci ingiusto core". By this time Don Giovanni has disguised himself as Leporello in order to get rid of Donna Elvira so he can seduce her maid. The key of A major represents urgency for Don Giovanni and Donna Elvira. Donna Elvira thinks that Don Giovanni has come to be with her. It is a false outpouring of love from Don Giovanni. There is a modulation to E major which is similar to La ci darem la mano. This modulation is used to increase the urgency. This duet is also an outpouring of love on Donna Elivira’s part. Hermann Albert says “Now that Elvira believes herself to be alone and undisturbed by the stresses of the outside world, she gives voice to her most intimate emotion: her love for Don Giovanni which, as an immediate witness of his unfaithfulness, she has so far only been able to show in the form of hatred.” Masetto and other peasants then enter the scene with muskets looking for Don Giovanni. Don Giovanni sings Meta di voi qua vadano disguised as Leporello. This is interesting because the aria is in F major. Therefore Don Giovanni and Leporello switch keys. There is an interesting switch to C major in this aria which indicates the fact that Don Giovanni is describing himself. Hermann Albert says “Then, in C major, comes Don Giovanni’s ironic description of himself in which, as throughout the aria, the lion’s share falls to the orchestra.” The half step trill in the passage “e spada al fianco e gli ha” is similar to the E to F passage in Osmin’s rage aria . The Act II sextet "Sola, sola inbuio loco" represents Mozart going ahead in his compositional style, because he explores more complex harmonic areas. Donna Elvira begins the ensemble in her key of E flat major. In the book Mozart’s Operas Daniel Heartz says “Elvira begins the piece in E flat, singing rather simply of her hopes and fears, with well-founded misgivings about the man(the disguised Leporello, whom she takes for Giovanni) who has lead her to the darkened courtyard.” In addition, she is singing in the key of E flat because she still has hope that she will marry the Don. At this point, Leporello is looking for the door so he can escape. The tonality then moves to the dominant which is B flat major while Leporello is singing his lines. When Don Ottavio and Donna Anna enter the key changes to D major because he is singing about his love for her. She interrupts him in d minor because she is mourning the loss of her father and because she is once again rejecting him. Daniel Heartz says “ Anna cuts off Ottavio’s beuatifully delayed cadence. At the same time, she turns the music from D major to d minor, a gesture that already tells us her answer is another refusal.”204 At measure forty nine the key moves to an even darker c-minor. There is a Neapolitan harmony on “il mio pianto.” The switch to c minor can be compared to Electra’s first aria in Idomeneo. Daniel Heartz once again describes the use of tonality effectively. He says “In the course of Anna’s lament the music moves from d-minor down to the darker realm of c minor. At the first ‘il mio pianto’ Mozart resorts to a half bar of neopolitan harmony as Anna works her way up to the melodic peak note, high A-flat.” Masetto and Zerlina enter and C major is used to indicate their arrival. However the key is still c minor and it switches right back. Mozart then uses chromaticism in Donna Elvira’s vocal line because she is pleading for him to be spared. This is foreshadowing Don Giovanni’s death because chromaticism is used at the end of the opera. The tonality moves a lot in the next few passages. There is a cadence to a III chord when they say “morra.” Leporello pleads for mercy in a very dark key of g minor. This passage is about as dark as Mozart ever got musically. Albert Hermann says “Then as Leporello raises his voice, the music moves at last into the key of G minor, prepared long before but delayed again and again by interrupted cadences. And now he too is in such desperate straights that, like Elvira, his inmost nature is revealed.” Remember Don Giovanni and Leporello have switched keys. The sestet ends in E flat major. The focus becomes more on Don Giovanni and less on Leporello at this point. Albert Hermann says “Leporello, who created the whole situation, becomes less and less important, while their sense of disillusionment and impotence in face of this new and uncanny example of Don Giovanni’s scheming breaks through all the more strongly.” There are so many emotions in this number that cause the tonality to change constantly. The finale of "Don Giovanni" begins in D major with "Gia la mensa e preparata". First of all D major is used because it is a celebration. It is also used because it is a comic scene. Hermann Albert says “From the very beginning a glittering D major envelopes us in the festive atmosphere of a grand banquet of the time.” The key switches to B flat major in order to keep the scene comic. At this point Leporello takes some of Don Giovanni’s food. The aria "Non piu andrai" is sung a step lower. This is an inside joke because the person who premiered Figaro also premiered Leporello. Elvira enters in "L’ultima prova dell’amor bio" because she loves Don Giovanni. This changes the tone of the finale. The key of B flat is used to indicate Elvira’s distress. The statue of the Commendatore then knocks at Don Giovanni’s door. Elvira and Leporello both scream when they see the Commendatore. When the Commendatore knocks at the door the b diminished seven chord that was heard when he was mortally wounded can be heard here. Except in this scene there is a G sharp instead of an A flat in the chord. Albert Hermann discusses the Commendatore’s rise from the dead. He says “The death-blow for the Commendatore was a powerful diminished seventh of a B natural, leading to F minor(Ex. 6B). That same diminished seventh chord, but with G sharp for A flat, brings him back from the dead.” The key then changes to F major and in a march rhythm Leporello describes the statue. The statue of the Commendatore then comes in with Don Giovanni! a cenar teco m’invasti. This section is in d minor and echoes the overture. The key of d minor is the vengeance key and the Commendatore has come for vengeance. Don Giovanni’s interjections are in g minor at this point because he is nervous. Leporello is so terrified that he is hiding. There is chromaticism through out this whole scene to show how dark it is. The keys move a lot especially when Don Giovanni takes the statues hand. There are many points of unsteadiness in the tonality of this section. Julian Rushton says “As the statue refuses mortal food his modulation from D to A minor seems to traverse the tonal universe(Ex. 10 A); after going first to G minor(Harmonized), the line takes the simple step to an implied E flat, but treats it as the Neopolitan of D, in which key C sharp stands as dominant.” This finale shows Mozart experimenting with tonality like he never has before. In his previous operas modulations were very straight forward in Don Giovanni they are more obscure. This is especially true in this finale. These musical numbers from "Don Giovanni" show how Mozart’s use of keys is important in describing the dramatic situation in the plot, the characters personalities and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. The operas preceding Don Giovanni show how Mozart developed as far as his use of tonalities in describing the dramatic situation in the plot, the characters personalities and their emotions at particular moments in the opera. The use of keys for the characters indicates the social status of the characters. For example Masetto, Leporello and Zerlina all sing in F major because they are peasants. Don Giovanni sings in B flat major because he is a nobleman and because of his energy. The key of B flat is also used for when the women are in distress. Donna Anna’s key is d minor because she is grieving the death of her father, and because she is a cold person. The key of E flat major is used for Donna Elvira because of her passion for Don Giovanni. In Mozart’s mature operas he centered the action around the keys. Every opera composed in Mozart’s later years begins and ends in the same key. The finales are organized in the same way. Mozart did this intentionally, and as a result stood in a class by himself. Mozart’s use of tonality would influence composers that would follow such as Beethoven, Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, Verdi, Weber, Wagner and many more. Therefore, Mozart’s use of tonality in these operas changed the course of Western Music. Daniel Heartz, Mozart’s Operas(London: University of California, 1990), 38-39. Ibid., 48 Ibid., 59-60 Thomas Bauman, W.A. Mozart: Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail.(New York, Cambridge University Press, 1987), 68 Ibid., 73-74 Charles Gounod, Mozart’s Don Giovanni.(New York, Da Capo Press, 1895), 8 Ibid., 21 Hermann Albert, Mozart’s Don Giovanni.(London, Eulenburg Books, 1976) 73 Ibid., 74 Ibid., 77 Ibid., 84 Julian Rushton, Mozart’s Don Giovanni.(London, Cambridge University Press, 1981) 111 Ibid., 111 Hermann Albert, Mozart’s Don Giovanni.(London, Eulenburg Books, 1976) 99 Ibid., 103 Daniel Heartz, Mozart’s Operas(London, University of California Press, 1990), 204 Ibid., 204-205 Ibid., 109 Ibid., 109-110 Ibid., 121 Julian Rushton, W.A. Mozart: Don Giovanni( Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1981) 119 Ibid., 119-120 PAGE PAGE 5

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Great Historical Singers (Mirella Freni)

Mirella Freni is a retired Italian Operatic Soprano who sang professionally for 50 years.   Like Luciano Pavarotti, Freni was born into a working class family.  Freni's mother worked with Pavarotti's mother.  Freni's talent was immediately apparent at the early age of 10, when she sang the aria "Un bel di vedremo" from "Madama Butterfly" in a radio competition.  Historical tenor Beniamino Gigli heard her performance, and advised her to not sing until she was an appropriate age.     Freni made her operatic debut at the age of 19.  Her debut role was Micaela in Bizet's "Carmen."  Her international debut outside of Italy was at Glynbourne as Adina in "L'elisir d'amore." This is especially significant because the stage director was Franco Zefferelli.  Freni would go on to star in several of Zefferelli's films.  In the early 1960s Freni made her La Scala debut under the baton of Herbert Von Karajan.  Karajan loved Freni's singing, and they had a long working relationship until Freni refused the title role of "Turandot." Freni was nicknamed "the careful one."  Turning down the role of Turandot" was a wise decision, since it could have ruined her voice.  She belonged in the lighter role or Liu, which she performed to great acclaim.  There are many great recordings which demonstrate Freni and Karajan collaborating magnificently artistically.  Especially notable are her portrayals of Butterfly in "Madama Butterfly", and Desdemona in "Otello" which are both spectacular.     The voice Freni had was in one word gorgeous.  She sang from her heart through and through.  Also, based on my long distance encounter of her as a boy, she seemed to have a good heart as well.  I encountered her twenty one years a go when I was in the American Boychoir, and we were recording "Pique Dame" by Tchaikovsky.  She waved to us with a smile and in a friendly fashion.  I remember being blown away by her voice in person.  If only I had gotten to hear it a second time.     Freni has been married twice in her life.  Her second husband was the great bass Nicolai Ghiaurov.  She was married to him from 1978 until his death in 2004.  They sang together multiple times, up until when he died.  They recorded "Simon Boccanegra" under Claudio Abbado. That recording is one of the greatest of any opera recordings.  Freni recorded well into the 1990s with all of the three tenors Carreras, Pavarotti and Domingo.  Currently, Freni continues to teach and give master classes in Italy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Great Historical Singers (Tancredi Pasero)

Tancredi Pasero was a bass who was a contemporary of the better known Ezio Pinza.  Pasero had one of the greatest bass voices of all time.  His bass was a true basso-cantante, which means singing bass in English.  A singing bass is a higher bass voice than a basso-profondo, which is a deep bass.  Pasero had a very solid top voice for a bass.  He even recorded Count Almaviva's aria "Vedro mentrio sospiro" from "Le Nozze di Figaro" complete with a solid f sharp at the end.  Any low male voice who haw studied that aria knows that the high f sharp at the end is an especially tough one.  This is especially true for a bass.  None the less, Pasero's timbre was clearly that of a bass.  Pasero's timbre was darker than Ezio Pinza's.  However they sang very similar repertoire, and both had fast vibratos in their younger years.  A successor to Pasero was Cesare Siepi, who had a similarly dark timbre, and an excellent upper range for a bass.  Pasero spent a good portion of his career singing at La Scala in Milan.  He did, however sing T the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.  As a matter of fact, he sang in a broadcast of "Don Giovanni" as Leporello with Ezio Pinza as Don Giovanni.  It is quite unfortunate that no recording survives of that broadcast.  Be that as it may, Pasero left a strong legacy of recordings.  One of his greatest is in the famous 1941 recording of "La Forza del Destino" in the role of Padre Guardano.  Pasero's singing in that recording is hard to top.  He also recorded many arias, and other operas such as "Aida", Un Ballo in Maschera",  and "Norma".  He even left some video footage.  He is featured in the video "Six Great Basses" singing the aria "La Calunia" from "Il Barbiere di Sivglia." Despite the poor sound quality one can hear the tremendous cut his voice had.  If I had to recommend one recording of Pasero, I would go with the recording of "La Forza del Destino" which I mentioned above.  This recording also features the great tenor Masini, and Verdi baritone de force Carlo Tagliabue.  Pasero's singing in this recording demonstrates his art at its finest.    Pasero's singing career lasted from 1917-1950.  He sang in many of the world's most famous opera houses.  After he ended his singing career, he devoted the rest of his life to teaching.  He died in 1983 at the age of 90.

I am teaching voice

Teaching Philosophy: In addition to being a perfomer, I am also a vocal teacher offering voice lessons for Opera & Broadway songs. Will teach in-homes NYC Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Soho, and in New Jersey. As a teacher my philosophy of teaching is to instruct in a positive manner which makes my students feel at ease during their lessons. I focus on what the student’s strengths are, and work on things that need to be addressed in a positive way. I teach students of all levels and abilities, because I sincerely believe that the purpose of taking lessons is for the enjoyment of it. Every student has a different set of goals when studying, and I am here to help them achieve those goals. What makes a good teacher is a teacher who is positive, uplifting, does not put students down, and who will make students want to keep coming back and learning more. I have learned to incoorporate those qualities into my teaching. Any time that I have gone to various teachers who teach in a positive way, I feel inspired by that teacher. It is my job to inspire students, because I want students to be turned on to music versus turned off to it. Technique: My philosophy on vocal technique is to help singers sing with there true voice. Singing needs to be genuine versus manufactured. We all must sing with our true instrument, because everyone of us is given our own unique instrument. Also, I am big on freeing voices, by helping singers breath properly, so they can use their breath versus their throats to produce sound, which results in healthy singing. Music is a wonderful gift that the world needs, so I am here to help people enjoy it. To set up lessons please contact me at, or call 609-577-6773.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Great Historical Singers (Christa Ludwig)

    Christa Ludwig is a mezzo-soprano who graced the operatic and concert stages for nearly fifty years.  She was born in 1928 to two famous opera singers in Berlin.  Christa Ludwig studied with her mother for years and made her operatic debut as Prince Orlovsky in "Die Fledermaus." Ludwig's first husband was the late Austrian bass-baritone Walter Berry.  This powerful duo was featured on several great recordings. Afew of them were the recording of "Cosi fan Tutte", with Karl Bohme conducting, various Mahler songs with Leonard Bernstein at the piano, "Die Frau Ohne Schatten" with Bohme conducting, and "Blue Beard's Castle" with Kertesz conducting.  These are great recordings which show Ludwig's great range, musicality and versatility.  Christa Ludwig was a highly intelligent singer who was able to sing lieder, opera, oratorio, and even musical theatre.  She sang until she was in her mid sixties, with her final performance as Klytemnestra in "Elektra", by Richard Strauss.      My first time hearing Christa Ludwig was on Herbert Von Karajan's recording of "Der Rosenkavalier" by Richard Strauss. I was blown away.  Soon after that, I received videos of "Die Walkure" and Götterdämmerung from Wagner's Ring Cycle.  These videos were made around 1990, so Ludwig was over 60 in them.  She sounds very youthful in them, because she always sang with her true instrument.  As Ludwig got older, she sang heavier roles such as Ulrica, Carmen, Mistress Quickly, and Lady Macbeth, and she did so with her true voice which had matured very naturally.  Ludwig's longevity can be attributed to the fact that she sang in a natural and lyrical manner.  I highly recommend listening to the live recording of Ludwig as Lady Macbeth in Verdi's opera "Macbeth." Her portrayal of Lady Macbeth is chilling, and sung brilliantly.  Sherill Milnes sings the title role of Macbeth in this recording, and he and Ludwig are a great combination.     I decided to write about Christa Ludwig, and introduce her to people because she was so versatile.  Above all she was a true artist.  I cannot name one recording I have heard with Ludwig in which she does not sing with conviction.  She sang convincingly in several genres, and that is impressive.  She even recorded Leonard Berstein's "Candide" with Bernstein himself conducting.  She was a great Bach soloist and lieder performer in French, German and Russian.  She was a performer to be reckoned with, when she was performing.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Great Historical Singers (Fernando Corena)

Fernando Corena was perhaps the greatest basso-buffo to ever grace this earth, because of his comic flare, great coloratura technique, and ability to sing many different types of roles. His main strength was in the real character buffo roles such as Don Bartolo in "Il Barbiere di Siviglia", Don Magnifico in "La Cenerentola",and Dr. Dulcamara in "L'elisir d'amore" to name a few. He also excelled in more noble buffo roles such as Mustafa in "L'Italiana in Algeri", and more serious roles such as Rodolfo in "La Sonambula." He was good in serious roles, but the comic roles were his real bread and butter. Stefan Zucker describes two types of buffo basses in his article "Fernando Corena" from the Belcanto Society. The "buffo nobile" (noble buffo), and "buffo caricato" (exagerrated comic or character buffo). Basso-Cantante singers often cross into "buffo nobile" parts because those parts require more lyrical and noble singing than "buffo caricato" parts. The quality of the voice in "buffo caricato" roles is not as important as it is in "buffo nobile" parts. Both types of buffo parts have pattering, but "buffo caricato" parts has more pattering and faster pattering. A great example of some quick pattering is in "Un dottor della mia sorte" from "Il Barbiere di Siviglia." Corena was an absolute master at singing that particular aria. The character who sings this aria is Don Bartolo, who is a prime example of a character buffo. Whereas, the role of Don Basilio is a "buffo nobile", because the singer has to sing with a noble sound. A lot of bassi profondi, and bassi cantanti sing Don Basilio. Fernando Corena was the quintessential character buffo. In addition, he also had a really beautiful voice which I listen to frequently. I first heard his voice when I was a senior in High School. I picked up this cd called "Ten Top Baritones and Basses 2", and heard him sing Dulcamara's monster entrance aria from "L'elisir d'amore." It is magnificent. The aria is very high, and he makes it sound easy. Buffo roles whether they are character or noble, sit very high for bass singers. Many of them actually go higher than the typical bass range of approximately low E2 to high F4. Corena was able to sing up to high G4, which is the g above middle c with good ease. Also, he was able to sing below a low E2 down to a D2. There are many recordings which represent this great artist in a great light. His cd of various arias by Mozart, Paisello, Saint-Seans, Cimarosa, Lully and Donizetti, which is available on Amazon is the best introduction to Corena that I can think of. It shows his versatlity, and also his ability to sing into old age. He is 64 years old in some of the recordings. He was a magnificent singer. There have been many fine buffo basses who followed him, but I cannot think of a true successor.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Great Historical Singers (Nicolai Ghiaurov)

Nicolai Ghiaurov had one of the most beautiful bass voices of all time.  The male voice parts are counter-tenor, tenor, baritone, bass-baritone and bass.  There are subcategories for each voice part, but those are the basic voice parts for men.  Nicolai Ghiaurov was a true bass which is rare, with a wide range and an awesome sense of line in his singing.  He was at home in Russian, French and Italian repertoire.  His portrayals of so many characters are immortal, and will remain that way.  He was also first rate in Russian song repertoire.  Ghiaurov is one of the most recorded bass singers in history, and he left many great recordings.  He sang for over forty years in the worlds major opera houses such as La Scala, Vienna State Opera, The Metropolitan Opera and many more. He was married to star soprano Mirella Freni from 1978 until his death.  He kept singing as late as 2001,  just so he could be with her according to Wayne Connor.  For a really good introduction to Ghiaurov, check out "The Singers" series released by Decca.  The cd with Ghiaurov in that series is a winner.  It features him singing repertoire in French, Italian and Russian, all with him singing at a young age. Ghiaurov was always great, but at a young age he had power, easiness at the top, and a rock steady vibrato. Among my favorites on the cd are the last two tracks, which are Gremin's Aria from "Eugene Onegin", and Aleko's Cavatina from "Aleko." Aleko is an opera that Rachmoninoff composed in his teens.  Ghiaurov was all about the musical line and phrase, and therefore a great artist. Another recording which represents the art of Nicolai Ghiaurov at his best is the double cd of Russian songs on Decca. The recordings were made in 1971 and 1974, so he is in his prime.     

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Birthday Tribute To An Awesome Kiitty

 So today is my cat Leonora's birthday.  Even though she is two in human years, I have only owned her since January.  I have no knowledge of what her history was before then, but things happen for a reason.  I was about to choose a male tabby cat that I had found in Philly.  I was all set to name a male cat Wagner.  However, I had remembered searching pet finder and finding another cat of interest which was at the Petsmart in Hamilton, NJ.  Then I found this beautiful looking tuxedo Mainecoon mix. Not the other cat I was searching for.  I asked if I could meet Leonora, who was then named Hussy. The name came from my love of Leonora,s aria "Pace mio dio" from Verdi's "La Forza del destino.". Also, the name Hussy sucks. Anyway, back to my story. So, here was how our first meeting played out because it was awesome. I asked the volunteer at Res q pets if I could check out the black and white Mainecoon mix. They said sure, and then when I stuck my hand out with my wrist pointing down, she picked me.  It was fate. So, I applied, and the application was approved.  She was scared when I first took her home of course. She was very good natured in the car ride home. She literally did not let out a peep, which shocked me.  I didn't know what to expect because she is my first cat.  I thought I was going to be hissed at, which she has not done to date by the way.  She loosened up pretty quickly, and became interested in playing with her treats and the squeaky mouse toy. I put food, water and liter out, and she immediately identified me as the owner. As proof of this, she came up to my bed and chirped in the middle of the night. I am sure she was disoriented by her new surroundings.  We have had an awesome relationship.  Of course, being a diva, she has her likes and dislikes.  But, despite all that, her greetings when I come home are priceless.  Plus, she has gratitude.  I bought her a scratching post, and she came in my bed to thank me by siting right in front of me.  When Leonora meows, she has a soft voice, which is like music to my ears.  That is of course except when I try to put her in the carrier.  She is smart, and sometimes blocks the door when I try to leave.  All that being said, I write about her, and post a lot of pictures because she is simply adorable.  That, and the fact that she has really helped me.  She always gives me something joyful to come home to.  This cat had just arrived at petsmart on Hamilton when I went there, she was not on pet finder, and I was not consciously looking for her.  I think that's a cool story.  But think about how much the unexpected happens in a lot of different situations.  Life is pretty cool in that way.