Celebrating its third anniversary and next week’s Met opening, “Trove Thursday” offers a sumptuous banquet of the third and final chapter of divas in the “wrong language.” These live performances feature (in alphabetical order) Josephine Barstow, Teresa Berganza, Gré Brouwenstijn, Joan Carlyle, Maria Chiara, Gloria Davy, Brigitte Fassbaender, Angeles Gulin, Ingeborg Hallstein, Elizabeth Harwood, Kerstin Meyer, Alessandra Marc, Annick Massis, Birgit Nilsson, Magda Olivero, Marcella Pobbe, Irmgard Seefried, Luciana Serra, Teresa Stratas, Joan Sutherland, Carol Vaness, Shirley Verrett, Galina Vishnevskaya, Ljuba Welitsch, Virginia Zeani and Teresa Zylis-Gara.
Having put together this and two previous wide-ranging anthologies of arias in translation, the challenges and rewards of singing in one’s own language was on my mind when I read in the August issue of Opera News Anya Harteros bemoaning that she’ll never sing any Russian or Czech opera. Why? because she doesn’t speak the languages!
“I would need to learn these roles purely phonetically, and no matter how many notes I made for myself, I would never be able to really feel the music.” Understood but perhaps we are fortunate that not everyone is quite so scrupulous about learning roles.
However, many of the 78 (!) performers included in these three anthologies are indeed performing in their native tongues even to the extreme of Vishnevskaya’s Russian Cio-Cio-San in an otherwise Italian Butterfly. Perhaps the oddest exception would be the delicious Sutherland excerpt in which she shines in “Let the Bright Seraphim” in Italian as an encore after a performance of Alcina at La Fenice in Venice. However, if you can decipher a single word, you have better ears than I!
Maybe two of the arias included this week are “cheats”—the Idomeneo comes from Richard Strauss’s adaptation and the Freischütz from Berlioz’s. The Zylis-Gara Bolena and Barstow Salome finales, by the way, are quite extended and involve other soloists—and a chorus in the Donizetti.
I was startled to realized that over the past three years “Trove Thursday” has posted so many operas in translation beginning with its very first week:
- Berlioz’s Les Troyens in English
- Spontini’s La Vestale in Italian
- Handel’s Imeneo in English
- Smetana’s Dalibor in German
- Nicolai’s Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor in English
- Dvorak’s Rusalka in German
- Janacek’s Jenufa in German
- Gluck’s Alceste in French (this may be entirely fair as this is Gluck’s own French version of the Italian original)
- Cimarosa’s Il Marito Disperato in German
- Handel’s Giulio Cesare in English
- Cherubini’s Ali Baba ou Les Quarantes Voleurs in Italian
- Verdi’s Don Carlos in Italian (and the original French)
- Massenet’s Cendrillon in English
- Cherubini’s Médée (Lachner version) in both German and Italian
- And most recently two versions Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in English and Italian
There are yet two more scheduled before the end of the year and likely even more in 2019!
As before, to facilitate listening these 26 excerpts have been divided (in no particular order) into three groups. Please be warned that the sound quality of these clips can vary wildly from crystal-clear broadcasts to iffy in-house “pirates” so you may occasionally need to fiddle with the volume from piece to piece.
Wrong Language Part 7
Joan Sutherland / Handel: Samson/ English -> Italian / Venice 1960
Carol Vaness / Verdi: Les Vêpres Siciliennes/ French -> Italian / San Francisco 1993
Teresa Zylis-Gara / Donizetti: Anna Bolena/ Italian -> German / Cologne 1967
Marcella Pobbe / Tchaikovsky: Orleanskaya Deva/ Russian -> Italian / Perugia 1956
Galina Vishnevskaya / Puccini: Madama Butterfly/ Italian -> Russian / Vienna 1972
Alessandra Marc / Mozart: Idomeneo/ Italian -> German / NYC 1984
Annick Massis / Weber: Der Freischütz/ German -> French / Paris 2002
Gloria Davy / Verdi: Aïda/ Italian -> German / Berlin 1961
Maria Chiara / Bizet: Carmen/ French -> Italian / Venice 1971
Wrong Language 8
Brigitte Fassbaender / Mussorgsky:Boris Godunov/ Russian -> German / Munich 1971
Elizabeth Harwood / Mozart: Così fan Tutte/ Italian -> English / Glasgow 1967 / Virginia Zeani
Massenet: Werther/ French -> Italian / Lecce 1972
Shirley Verrett / Donizetti: La Favorite/ French -> Italian / Dallas 1971
Birgit Nilsson / Strauss:Ariadne auf Naxos/ German -> Swedish / Stockholm 1949
Ljuba Welitsch / Puccini: La Rondine/ Italian -> German / Vienna 1952?
Josephine Barstow / Strauss: Salome/ German -> English / London 1976
Irmgard Seefried / Mozart: Don Giovanni/ Italian -> German / Vienna 1955
Wrong Language 9
Magda Olivero / Tchaikovsky: Mazeppa / Russian -> Italian / Florence 1954
Joan Carlyle / Dvorak: Rusalka/ Czech -> English / London 1968
Teresa Berganza / Cherubini: Médée/ French -> Italian / Dallas 1958
Teresa Stratas / Tchaikovsky: Pikovaya Dama/ Russian -> English / NY 1966
Ingeborg Hallstein / Meyerbeer: Le pardon de Ploërmel/ French -> German / Munich 1967
Gré Brouwenstijn / Beethoven: Fidelio/ German -> Italian / Rome 1952
Luciana Serra / Donizetti: La Fille du Régiment/ French -> Italian / Turin 1981
Angeles Gulin / Wagner: Die Fliegende Holländer/ German -> Italian / Catania 1970
Kerstin Meyer / Handel: Alcina/ Italian -> Swedish / Stockholm 1971
Each of these three podcasts can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player and the resulting mp3 files will appear in your download directory.
Many other “Trove Thursday” podcasts remain available from iTunes for free, or via any RSS reader.