Remembering Giuseppe Giacomini

Giuseppe Giacomini, the celebrated Italian dramatic tenor, passed away on Wednesday. He was 80. Giacomini, known as Bepi” among his fans, made his professional debut in 1966 in Vercelli, performing the role of Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. He went on to appear on the stages of the world’s leading opera houses. Additionally, Giacomini performed for numerous world leaders and for the opening of the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. He continued to …

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Mendelssohn’s “The Marriage of Camacho” Overture: Music for a Fleeting Opera

Felix Mendelssohn was 15 when he began work on the two-act comic opera, Die Hochzeit des Camacho (“The Marriage of Camacho”) in 1824. The young composer had already written four previous singspiele operas which received private family performances. The Marriage of Camacho, based on an episode from Cervantes’ Don Quixote, was premiered at the Berlin Schauspielhaus on April 29, 1827. Although the work was well-received by the audience, it was met with a hostile reviews. Mendelssohn was …

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Leontyne Price: Canzone di Doretta from Puccini’s “La Rondine”

Giacomo Puccini’s 1917 opera, La Rondine (“The Swallow”), tells the story of Magda, a Parisian courtesan who falls in love with the handsome young Ruggero. Ultimately, Magda is haunted by her past and leaves Ruggero, returning to her old life like a swallow returning to the nest. The opera’s most famous aria, Chi il bel sogno di Doretta, comes in the first act. At a party, the poet Prunier affirms the power of romantic love. …

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Remembering Christa Ludwig

Christa Ludwig, the German dramatic mezzo-soprano, has passed away. She was 93. Ludwig was one of the most significant and distinguished singers of the twentieth century “with a voice of exquisite richness and, when needed—breathtaking amplitude.” (Ted Libbey, NPR) She made her debut in Frankfurt at the age of 18, shortly after the Second World War. Her celebrated roles included Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Kundry in Wagner’s Parsifal, Leonora in Beethoven’s …

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Weber’s “Oberon”: The Romantic Orchestra Springs to Life

Oberon, the final opera of Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826), was premiered at London’s Covent Garden on this date in 1826. The three act opera, set in English with spoken dialogue, was described as “one of the most remarkable combinations of fantasy and technical skill in modern music.” Based on a thirteenth century French epic poem by Huon of Bordeaux, it tells the story of Oberon, the Elf King, who has argued with …

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Remembering James Levine

James Levine, the American conductor and pianist, has passed away from the effects of Parkinson’s Disease. He was 77. Levine served as music director of the Metropolitan Opera for 40 years from 1976 to 2016. He is widely credited with raising the artistic level and profile of that company. He was also music director of the Ravinia Festival (1973–1993) and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (2004–2011). Levine’s personal and professional reputation will be …

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“Possente Spirto” from Monteverdi’s “Orfeo,” Scherzi Musicali

Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo was created in 1607 at the dawn of opera. It remains the earliest work in that rich genre to be performed regularly. Set in five acts, it is based on the Greek legend of Orpheus, who descends into Hades in an unsuccessful attempt to bring his dead bride, Eurydice, back to the living world. The aria, Possente spirto, e formidabil nume (“Mighty spirit and formidable god”), comes from the opera’s third act. Orfeo …

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