Friday, February 28, 2014

Entre l'amour et le devoir

This is from Berlioz's opera Benvenuto Cellini. Teresa must pick between following her father's expectations or her own desires.

I will be singing the middle section of the full aria.

Entre l'amour et le devoir
Un jeune coeur est bien à plaindre,
Ce qu'il désire il doit le craindre,
Et repousser même l'espoir
Se condamner à toujours feindre,
Avoir des yeux, et ne point voir
Comment le pouvoir?
Between love and duty 
A young heart is challenged, 
What desires to be feared, 
And repel even hope 
Always pretend to judge, 
Have eyes and not see 
How to decide? 

Atchevo eta prezdhe nie znala

This aria from Tchaikovsky's opera Iolanta is sung by the blind princes Iolanta. She wakes up and realizes the world is different from what she thought.

Why have I not known sorrow
or tears till now?
Why have I spent my days
amid heavenly sounds and roses?
Whenever I heard birds twittering,
or distant pine forests warming to life
and everywhere ringing with jubilation,
I felt I was standing in a triumphant choir.
But now every day I feel a mysterious,
deep reproach in everything,
which seems to rebuke fate for sending
the chorus of birds and the rushing stream.
Why are night's stillness and coolness
dearer to me now?
Why do I hear sobbing
whenever the nightingale sings?
Tell me why, Martha?

Alma del core

Imagine yourself in the court of the Ruspoli castle near Rome in 1710. Antonio Caldara is the choir master and he's written an opera, La costanza in amor vince l'inganno (Faithfulness in Love Defeats Treachery.) "Alma del core" is one of the still famous and often sung songs from that opera.

Three hundred years ago, love roused, reigned, ruined and redeemed the lives of men, as it does now and as it did three hundred years before 1710. Most people can relate to three generators of existence: the heart, the soul and the spirit. Heart holds all your emotions, soul sustains your life force, and spirit spins your personality, character and intellect.

What if someone said that each of the three elements than have the three divisions within? That the heart also has it's own mind, life force and emotion? That the spirit contains the inner workings of feelings, reason and drive to exist? That the soul blooms through expressing emotion, learning its value in the universe, and sustaining the heart and spirit in the creation of a human being?

What if you then find another person who through love, becomes part of these elemental, internal components?

The triple turn of this three part Venn diagram goes off in my mind when I sing this song.

Alma del core

Soul of my heart
Alma del core

spirit of my soul
Spirto dell'alma

always constant, I will adore you
Sempre costane t'adorero!

I shall be happy
Saro contento

in my torment
Nel mio tormento

if that beautiful lip to kiss I will be able
Se quel bel labbro baciar potro.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ebben? ... N'andro lontana

La Wally is short for Walburga, the heroine of this tragic opera. The opera is based on a book that fictionalizes the daring act of the real Anna Stainer-Knittel. She went down a cliff on a rope to take eagle hatchlings in order the raise them so they wouldn't feed on the village lambs.

In this aria, La Wally is threatened by her father to marry a man of his choosing or leave home. La Wally leaves to live far away in the mountains.

English translation from Cantolopera.

Well? ... I will go far away
Like the echo of the sacred bell ...
There, among the white snows!...
There, among the golden clouds!...
There, where hope
Is regret, is sorrow!...

O happy house of my mother,
Wally is going very far from you,
And perhaps she will never come back to you,
And you will never see her again!...
Never again, never again!
I will go alone and far away
Like the echo of the sacred bell,
There, among the white snows;
I will go alone and far away
And among the golden clouds...!

But firm and pious
I go that long way
I go.

The end of the opera has something to do with an avalanche. But much mischief weaves through the village before this end, so read the synopsis someday and watch or listen to the opera. I love Renata Tebaldi's version of Wally.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stranger in Paradise

Borodin is from Russia. That's close to Arabia, right?

Even if a geography lesson would show the distance and the many different cultures in between, the exotic Slavic music could profess its origins as somewhere near Baghdad on the unsuspecting audience, or that is what the composers and producers hoped half a century ago.

Robert Wright and George Forrest glamorized Alexander Borodin's music from his opera, Prince Igor, premiered another half-century previous, into the orchestral sounds of Broadway. Lucky for all involved, this combination made all of them more famous.

The lyrics for the song "Stranger in Paradise" change point of view from first person to third person and back. That warps my mind. When Marsinah sings to the Caliph, she takes the role of a narrator who speaks to him, "tell her that she need be a stranger no more." The pronouns are switched when the Caliph sings. But, when they sing the song as a duet, they both say, "tell me that I need be ..." That makes more sense to keep first person.

Also, there is a possessive that doesn't make sense. The singer is asking an angel to open its arms. The arms belong to the angel being addressed. The sentence prior is first person, so the command to "open your arms" shouldn't have another possessive modifier. That adjective is "angel." The lyrics are: open your angel's arms. That means the angel being addressed owns another angel and that angel's arms should be opened. That would put three people into the love song. I believe the lyrics should be: open your angel arms. An angel has angel arms. An angel has angel wings.

I reflect these editorial changes here:

Stranger in Paradise

Take my hand, I'm a stranger in paradise,
All lost in a wonderland, a stranger in paradise.
If I stand starry-eyed, that's a danger in paradise,
For mortals who stand beside, an angel like you.

I saw your face, and I ascended,
Out of the commonplace, into the rare.
Somewhere in space, I hang suspended,
Until I know, there's a chance that you care.

Won't you answer the (I think it should say "my") fervent prayer,
Of a stranger in paradise, (I think it should say "I'm a stranger...")
Don't send me in dark despair
From all that I hunger for. (Back to first person.)

So open your angel arms, to a stranger in paradise,
and tell me that I need be, an stranger no more.

On a side note, (sorry,) if I'm not concentrated more than 100%, angel - danger - and stranger substitute each other. That really changes the meaning ...

Peter, Peter

Bernstein's vocal music? Sigh of loveliness. Maybe you don't know his songs from Candide, Wonderful Town, On The Town, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or The Madwoman of Central Park West, but surely you would know West Side Story and the deeply touching sound of "Somewhere"?

Bernstein's version of Peter Pan reflects his holistic view of humanity and religion, an avant garde perspective for 1950 in the midst of the Cold War, the rise of McCarthyism, the American social awareness of Howdy Doody, the start of the Korean War and the end of the American Occupation and Reconstruction of Japan. Bernstein's influence and connections granted him a fat file in the vigilant walls of the CIA.

Oh, we musicians can be subversive elements hiding in a wrap-around tuba. It has happened before. I mean, who's to say those violin cases used to hide Tommy Guns weren't toted by concert masters?

And I am a fan of the CIA. Maybe I have a file?

"Peter, Peter" is another song with few recordings available for study. My purpose for singing this song is more utilitarian than artistic. Still, it's an ingenious piece, full of opportunities for expression.

Peter, Peter

Peter, Peter,
You've got a smudge on your face;
Allow me, Peter, Peter,
to wipe it away;
I know it's just an old excuse to feel your touch,
But I love you very much!

Peter, Peter,
Your hair is all out of place;
Allow me, Peter, Peter,
to fix it, I pray;
I have to touch you to make sure you're really real,
And I love the way you feel.

The touch of you, I'd cherish,
I long for it, night and day.
Without your touch, I'll perish,
So I've got to find, some way:

Let's see!
It's really true!
Believe me, Peter, Peter,
You've got a mosquito on you!
Of course, it's just a poor excuse to feel your touch,
But I want to feel your touch,
And I love you very much!

Words and music by Leonard Bernstein.

It's A Raggy Waltz

Search for images of Dave Brubeck and see him smiling through the ages, all next to music apparatus of some sort. What a man. What a life. What a legacy.

I'll let you learn about him and the specifics of this song on your own. I'll focus on why I chose to sing this song. A goal for my voice students is to have balanced and versatile voices. To promote this, I hold an annual dinner concert with a live band or karaoke and each singer sings four songs, one each in the country, jazz, popular and world genres. I scour through bookshelves of sheet music to find appropriate songs for each singer, sometimes an incredibly time-consuming task. In Ultimate Jazz Showstoppers I found "It's a Raggy Waltz." Bingo! I found a suitable jazz song for a young singer (no tearing heartache or pining over unrequited love.)

We only discovered one recording with vocals, the one on the record with Frederica von Stade. For a solo presentation, it wasn't a thorough guide, but we had fun with it. The notation in the sheet music has additional accents that I don't hear in the recording, so we performed it with our interpretation. The word "raggy" doesn't mean a piece of rag, but of ragtime music. Brubeck is mixing styles, playing around with composites of rags and jazz. Recall the spirit of your favorite Joplin rag and drop that into a triple meter swinging creation.

My student sang beautifully and we put it on YouTube. As a study for other singers, I thought I would do another version. Plus, her grandpa loves this song and what's better than spreading joy though singing and music?

It's a Raggy Waltz

It's a raggy waltz, a raggy waltz, a raggy waltz that I'm gonna dance with you.
Now that you've heard this very funny beat
Let me see if you can feel it in your feet.
Yeah, you've got it! Startin' to swing!
Just forget everything, raggy waltzin' with me.

It's not a waltz that's Viennese,
Johann Strauss 'twould never please.

It's a raggy waltz, a raggy waltz, a raggy waltz and no other dance will do.
And when the dance is through you're gonna say,
"Never stop romancin', dancin' in this way. Makes me love you."
Out on the floor you'll be askin' for more raggy waltzin' with me.
Come dance with me.

Words and music by Dave Brubeck.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Vilja's Song

Vilja's song is another mini story within a story. In The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar, the widow entertains guests at a big party by singing this song. This operetta is often sung in English but I like the German.
Here is a link to the song in English, but the English lyrics don't tell the real story. Most of the time, foreign lyrics can't keep the original translation and still fit the music.
This story has grabbed more the movie producers, it also affected Hitler enough to reverse an order to apprehend the composer's Jewish wife. Music is powerful.

These set of four postcards include the lyrics of Vilja Lied. I can't say that my vision of a wood nymph is portrayed, but I guess this model found period attire to pose for the painter?

Above the German is the English translation, not the English lyrics.

There lives a Vilja, a wood nymph
Es lebt' eine Vilja, ein Waldmägdelein.

A hunter saw it in the rocky cliffs
Ein Jäger erschaut' sie im Felsengestein.

The lad who has a distinct sense
Dem Burschen, dem wurde so eigen zu Sinn,

he looked and looked at the wood nymph's direction
Er schaute und schaut' auf das Waldmägdlein hin.

And a never known (before) shimmer
Und ein nie gekannter Schauer

Filled the young huntsman 

Faßt' den jungen Jägersmann.


Began he silently to sigh to: 

Fing er still zu seufzen an:

Vilja, oh Vilja, you wood nymph
'Vilja, oh Vilja, du Waldmägdelein,

Touch me and leave me your dear heart be 
Faß mich und laß mich dein Herzliebster sein!

Vilja, oh Vilja, what doing you me to 
Vilja, oh Vilja, was tust du mir an!'

Anxiously begs a lovesick man
Bang fleht ein liebkranker Mann.

 The wood nymph stretched her hand by him to
Das Waldmägdlein streckte die Hand nach ihm aus

And pulled him in to her rocky home
Und zog ihn hinein in ihr felsiges Haus.

The lad the senses gone almost by 
Dem Burschen die Sinne vergangen fast sind:

Thus loved and thus kissed at all no earthly child
So liebt und so küßt gar kein irdisches Kind!


As she herself then fully kissed

Als sie sich dann satt geküßt,

Vanished she to the same time. 
Verschwand sie zu derselben Frist.

Even while
Einmal noch

her arms are waving.
Hat der Arme sie gegrüßt. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Tree

Music by Gary William Friedman. Lyrics by Will Holt.
This musical is based on a collection of stories about life from school children. More info here.

With the setting of this musical in 1970s New York ghettos, singing the songs in a classical style doesn't fit, but I've seen and heard it. Adjudicating voice students for certificate programs and competitions, I become aware on the first syllable whether the teacher or student ever researched the show. If they had and still present any of these songs as lieder, I don't want to know. Not only would it reveal their inflexibility in vocal ability, but also in attitude.

"The Tree" is a cute mini-story. You can't ever re-enact the first time you hear it, so be ready to enjoy! This song is worthy of falling in love with - the words engage you, the melody lifts the words and the arrangement adds tension, motion and drive.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Till The End Of Time

I bought the Maury Yeston songbook for a student who was doing an advanced level evaluation. The December Songs met the song cycle requirements. The other songs in the songbook came from his musicals and "Till The End Of Time" comes from a short-lived play called In The Beginning.

I played through the songbook searching for what songs would fit my student. Some songs, especially "Till The End Of Time" are emotionally mature. A young teenager not having experienced love beyond infatuation wouldn't be a suitable candidate to perform this song. Rhapsody or YouTube doesn't have this song. I don't know why a recording wouldn't exist. The song is worthy enough to be printed in a composer songbook.

Well, that was several years ago and I hadn't thought much about this songbook since - not until I decided a song I really wanted to sing for my concert was too hard and I sounded horrible. That challenging song deserves a solid year of study. So, I went to my loaded bookshelf and pulled out songs I've always wanted to sing that had worthwhile interest and a measure of impressive vocal line. (Okay, more than one measure.)

The words in this song are powerful.

And let our love forever be,
Eternal as the soul I freely give you.

One likes to assume that the person receiving this big a gift would be a good person. Then, when that person is revealed to the audience, and he's done some awful things, should the gift be rescinded? But why? Shouldn't even Cain be loved?


If I could bring myself to tell you...
Here's the words that I would tell you...

Till the end of time
I'll be yours. Will you be mine?
We're forever joined to the last.
All that's gone before has passed.
I ask you to accept my heart.
I ask you to forgive my imperfections...
Give me breath to speak,
words to somehow find a way to tell you I will love you
till the end of time.

Let my soul take flight.
All my yearnings, wake tonight.
Let tomorrow's dreams have their day!
For that much I hope and pray...
And let our love forever be eternal as the soul I freely give you.
Feel my trembling heart
nearly break in two
from merely knowing I will love you
till the end of time!

For the full concert program, click here.

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 and Pronunciation

I first heard this song on Christopher Parkening's CD with Kathleen Battle. The melody and rhythmic accompaniment revolves around 5/4 meter and sounds mysterious, mesmerizing and cyclical. The lyrics fit the sound beautifully, but Heitor Villa-Lobos didn't write it with words in mind. I've read that fellow top musician and Brazilian, Bidu Sayo, convinced him he had written an aria, not a clarinet solo and proved it by singing him the melody.

I love the non-lyrics part: the beginning is vocalized on an "ah" and the end is hummed. I didn't understand the Portuguese and didn't like Battle's audible breathing or her singing. At some point I found the music at a music store and searched out other singers. This is before the period of internet searches. With my membership with BMG music, I used to buy loads of CDs and on one of the catalogs, Bidu Sayao's CDs were featured.

I consider her pronunciation the epitome to copy, since she convinced Villa-Lobos to add the lyrics. Pictured above is my husband while he lived in Brazil. I've always wanted to sing this song so he could hear Portuguese. When I would ask him for help with the pronunciation, he could never give a simple answer. "It depends on where you come from." Even after he listened to Bidu, he still said the same thing. He did give me two pointers: the single "o" is an /oo/ sound; and words that begin with "r" are pronounced as an /h/ sound. Some "r"s in the middle of a word are also /h/ sounds, like "terra." However, the "r"s at the end of a syllable seem to flip, like "tarde." The "ch" of "chora" is /sh/. In "sonhadora" the "nh" is a /ny/ sound.

I listened to the recording for the different "jeh" endings of words that end in "e" and the different "s" sounds, some being a /sh/ sound.

I found one other Brazilian classical singer on YouTube that I reference, but I find all the others sneak in Spanish sounds. This song sounds best sung with a classical style, especially as Bidu was the inspiration. Bidu was known as "The Bird" in the opera world. John Duke even composed a song for her with that title. I devoured the CD jacket about her - remember when CDs came with informative booklets? Bidu said her French vocal coach emphasized always singing light. That admonition translates to me as: don't thicken vocal cords and don't push.

The long phrases in this song are KILLER! I favor Anna Moffo's breathing placement. She has a consistent sound, her humming is beautiful and her phrasing works. Even Bidu breathed a lot in the humming section and her last hummed high A is on the verge of shaky. Renee Fleming has two different versions of the hummed section. There are actually two different approaches on what to hum, some of the notes either get picked up by the cello or is sung. But Renee hums a new melody which is refreshing when you know the piece well. As for the second phrase of the vocalized first section, Renee sings in one breath what everyone else does in three or four breaths. I've listened repeatedly to try and catch the breath sound and can not find it. I don't know how she does it. When I hear Renee's voice and ability on that section, all I can think is: unbelievable.

These are the lyrics by Ruth V. Correa and English version by Harvey Officer as printed in the Associated Music Publishers.

Tarde, uma nuvem rosea lenta e transparente,
sobre o espaco sonhadora e bela!
Surge no infinito a lua docemente,
Enfeitando a darde, qual meiga donzela
que se a presta e a linda sonhadoramente,
Em anseios d'alma para ficar bela,
Grita ao ceo e a terra, toda a Natureza!
Cala a passarada aos seus tristes queixumes,
E reflete o mar toda a sua riqueza
Suave a luz da lua desperta agora,
A cruel saudade que ri e chora!
Tarde uma nuvem rosen lenta e transparente.
Sobre o espaco sonhadora e bela!

Lo, at midnight clouds are slowly passing, rosy and lustrous,
o'er the spacious heav'n with loveliness laden.
From the boundless deep the moon arises wondrous,
glorifying the evening like a beauteous maiden.
Now she adorns herself in half unconscious duty,
eager, anxious that we recognize her beauty,
while sky and earth, yea, all nature with applause salute her.
All the birds have ceased their sad and mournful complaining;
now appears on the sea in a silver reflection
moonlight softly waking the soul and constraining hearts
to cruel tears and bitter dejection.
Lo, at midnight clouds are slowly passing rosy and lustrous
o'er the spacious heavens dreamily wondrous.

For the full concert program, click here.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Leise, Leise

Leise, Leise is an aria from Der Freishcutz by Carl Maria von Weber. I will be singing the end portion of it, the vivace con fuoco part. Info about the concert, here.
At the beginning of the aria, Agathe, the head forester's daughter, has a sense of foreboding over the next day's shooting competitions where she wishes Max will win to succeed her father and become her husband.

Der Freischutz: Agathe's Foreboding Giclee Print
Agathe doesn't know that Max had cast magic bullets with the Black Huntsman. Max had lost to a peasant at an earlier target shooting competition and was afraid of losing the whole contest.
Der Freischutz: Caspar and Samiel Giclee Print
At the competition, the magic bullet, controlled by the Black Huntsman, hits Agathe. She only faints, her bridal wreath having deflected the shot. The bullet instead strikes Caspar, the man the Black Huntsman was after, and the man who had tricked Max into making the magic bullets in the first place.
Der Freischutz: Max Shoots Agathe Giclee Print
The wise hermit who had warned Agathe of bad fate, reappeared and counseled the prince not to banish Max. Max had lived an exemplary life before and had succumbed to a bad influence because he loved Agathe and was afraid of losing.
Der Freischutz: the Wise Hermit Giclee Print
At the vivace con fuoco section of Leise, Leise, Agathe sings about her excitement of seeing Max the next day.
Here is the literal translation from German:
All my pulses beat,
And the heart surges wildly,
Sweet delighted to meet him.
Could I dare to hope?
Yes, it turned as luck
To the dear friend back
Will tomorrow be proven true.
Is not this deception? Is not this delusion?
Heavens, and give grateful tears
For this deposit of hope.

Here are English lyrics from the Schirmer opera score:
How every pulse is flying,
And my heart beats loud and fast,
We shall meet in joy at last,
Could I dare to hope such rapture?
Frowning fate at last relents,
and crown our love consents,
oh what joy for us tomorrow.
Am I dreaming? Is this true?
Bounteous heaven, my heart shall praise thee
For this hope of rosy hue.