Wednesday, March 28, 2018

H is Heavenly

I'm up to the letter H of the alphabet blog challenge. The task is to work through each letter of the alphabet by writing out five favorite things that begin with each letter. Some people have finished this challenge in a year. But not me. I've been working on this for several years now.

It's taking me a while to complete this challenge. Partly because I haven't really pushed myself to finish it quickly. But also, when I do write, I tend to write long essays. But I'm determined to finish the challenge. I hate unfinished business. I don't like wasting time. Loose ends have a way of untangling tapestry, of mangling weaves, and making things messy and unattractive.

This time around, I'm focused on keeping my writings short and sweet and to the point. Or at least keep on topic, keep things simple, and make things easy to follow. Believe it or not, this post was originally twice as long! Had to do some serious editing to keep things on track. But at least I garnered a few more writing ideas for future posts.

Back to the topic at hand. There are many great words that begin with the letter H, like Heaven, Humanitarian, Hospitality, Home, and Honey. I also like Humility, Hamburgers, Ham, Hip Hop, and Horses. And after much contemplating, I've narrowed it down to my top five favorite things that begin with the letter H.

1. Hawaii

The name says it all. Hawaii. There's no other place like it. I feel uplifted and joyful the minute I set foot on these loveliest of islands. It's one of my fave places to visit. It's absolutely stunning with the clear blue Pacific waters; golden soft warm sands; majestic mighty mountains; wild lush jungles; pristine glittering waterfalls; and the rich land nurturing all life--plants and animals blossom and thrive in this resplendent, colorful paradise.

Some people love winter and long for snow. There are people who work and thrive in frigid, frozen conditions and are at home among the ice and floes. Others embrace the metropolis and chaos of the urban life, making a living in the crowded cities of tall skyscrapers and concrete surroundings. Some people stay in their suburban enclaves, comfortable in their sheltered existence with their shopping malls, and country clubs, and backyard pools. Others live in deep, humid jungles or roam endless, dry desserts. But me, I'm a beach boy at heart, and Hawaii is paradise, a most extraordinary and wonderful place to experience and enjoy the fantastic, tropical thrills of island life.

The sunrises are stunning--the brightening light revealing the vibrant colors infused throughout the landscape; colorful birds sing enchanting songs to greet the new day. Rainbows paint the heavens in the wake of gentle falling rain. Flowers bloom and flourish, and bountiful harvests abound. Fish and corals enthrall and shimmer with splendiferous coloring and rich shades and vivacious patterns. The sunsets are striking--the sinking sun painting the heavens in hues of orange, gold, and lavender dotted with stars, slowly appearing in the shadows of the fading light.

Native history and arts are prominent. The locals are a dazzling mix of so many different peoples, immigrants from all over the world, with a native population still alive. The blending of traditions and customs created something new, familiar and exotic and all together splendid and unique. The culture is fascinating. The laid back, chill lifestyle appeals to me. Their songs and stories are haunting and mesmerizing. Their dances are entertaining and engaging. And the food is exotic and delectable and divine.

And as much as I revel in the welcoming company of these friendly people--loving the feasts, the dancing, and the luaus--it's the natural beauty and glamour of the islands that entice me. I love the beaches, feeling the soft sand between my toes, the gentle sea washing over my feet. I'm happy when I feel the waves as I play in those shimmering waters. The ocean is magical, the sight and sounds of the surf splashing over the shore is serene and calming. I welcome the caress of the winds cooling me down when I take a break from the invigorating, challenging treks or the intense, fantastic outdoors activities.

I am captivated by so much beauty. Moonlight and stars glitter in the skies and reflect on the dark waters in the ebony embrace of the night. The untamed wilderness and ancient ruins draw me and lure me with their ethereal charms. I love exploring the verdant valleys and lush jungles; hiking up the rugged mountains with stunning vistas of the islands encompassed by the vast Pacific. It's a thrill diving into the deep pools; bathing in the refreshing waterfalls; riding the waves into shore; feeling the warm sun upon my skin. It's wonderful to feel the gentle breeze cool me down as I sit with a drink, gazing at the wonders and beauty of this spectacular land.

I often wonder and fantasize about what it would be like to live on the islands. I like that it's remote but not isolated. It's far enough away from the distant mainland and other places. But it's still a hub for trade and travel--so many tourists and businessmen come to the islands--with big cities, a bustling port, a lively nightlife, and plenty of activities and people that make life interesting.

Volleyball on the beaches, surfing the waves, cruising the scenic highways, drinking at the Tiki bars, frolicking at luaus and BBQs and parties, and dancing the night away. It's all so exciting and dreamy to live in a vibrant land full of natural wonders and friendly people, alive with a unique culture and an exotic way of life.

And yet, it reminds me of life growing up on the remote, rural coast. That's part of the allure of the islands. The greatest features of the islands are the people, the landscape, and the culture. And yet, what worries me the most about the islands are the people, the landscape, and the culture.

It's an island. You can't drive away to some other region for a weekend escape. You have to sail for days on end or fly long hours far, far away just to see other distant places, to meet new people, and explore different cultures. Your choices are limited by what's available on the islands. And it's a tad expensive to live the good life in paradise. The islands seem so liberating yet confining at the same time. And that's the inherent, conflicting attraction and cost of living life on these blissful, enchanting islands.

Still, even with all these concerns, there's just something magical about Hawaii. And if I really wanted it, I'm sure that I can find a way to live there, maybe make it home. But for now, I like it being a holiday destination, an adventure, a fantasy escape.

In the end, it's the wild spaces and natural places that draw me and enthrall me to explore and take in these fantastic lands and scintillating shores. And I always leave happy yet eager to return once more, to experience life in these terrific tropical terrains. And always I hear and long to answer the siren calls of these pearls of paradise, to return once more to live and immerse myself in these havens of life and beauty, these heavenly islands of refuge and resplendence in the vast expanse of the wild, immense, magnificent Pacific.

2. Halloween

One word: CANDY. Free candy! That's the main reason why I love Halloween. The costumes and parties are just icing on the cake. When I was a small child, I liked dressing up in character and going door to door with my brothers and friends to get free candy. I still like dressing up for Halloween, and I still love candy!

Nowadays, I don't go trick or treating. I hand out candy to the Trick or Treaters knocking on my door. Then I go to a costume party. I like seeing the children smile, and I enjoy seeing what costumes they have on. The homemade costumes are my faves. I like to give them an extra candy treat to reward their creativity and imagination.

I'm very generous with the candy that I give out. I always buy a lot. I want to see those children smile and laugh joyfully. Sometimes, I even bake brownies and cookies. Half the time, the kids and their parents happily take them and eat them right away. The other half, along with the candy, gets leftover. Which means more treats for me for the rest of the week! I call it a reward for my hard work and Halloween spirit.

3. Humor

I like humor. A sense of humor is essential! Life is hard at times, but it's bearable and made better when you can laugh at yourself. If you can laugh after tragedy or some great calamity, then you're going to be all right. Life will go on.

I can tell what kind of people I'm dealing with based on their sense of humor. If they can laugh at themselves and enjoy a good joke, then we're going to get along fine! If you can't take a joke nor learn to laugh at yourself, then you're taking yourself too seriously. And life is going to be so much harder for you and the people around you.

I can always spot someone intelligent, wise, and trustworthy. They're the ones with the great sense of humor. And everyone likes a person who can laugh and bring some joy to our lives. Everyone likes funny people, because funny people make life fun. And it takes humor, wit and intelligence, to make make us see the truth.

I have a wicked sense of humor. It's stuck on teenage boy immaturity--so juvenile, gross, inappropriate things make me laugh. And I've been told by many different people that I take things just a tad too far for good taste...and they love me for it...most of the time. I don't just step over the line, I dive across it and plant a flag on the other side! I get a sick thrill out of grossing people out.

I make an effort to be appropriate and courteous in social and professional situations. But sometimes, I just can't resist being an imp. Some people just bring out the wicked side of me.

At a company sponsored community health fair, I was singled out by a vendor. I suspect that she had overheard my coworkers and I laughing over a weekend party, where I out drank everyone there and still partied til the sun came up. Since there were teens and young people there at her presentation, I think the old shrew was trying to make an example out of me in front of the large crowd.

I was sitting near the back row when she pointed me out and demanded, "You, there!,"

I looked around. Then looked back at her with my raised eyebrow. She impatiently sighed, "Yes, you!"

Oh, rude! I thought. By now everyone was staring at me.

She asked, "Do you drink?"

"Only when I'm thirsty," I replied.

That got some chuckles from the crowd. She didn't like that. She growled, "Do you drink alcohol?"

"Only when it's available," I answered. More laughs.

She demanded, "So you like getting drunk?"

"Only when it's fun," I said. Bigger laughs.

Now she was ticked. She snarled, "Do you like being a smart ass?"

I shot back, "Aye! It's better than being a dumb ass!"

Now the whole crowd was guffawing. Sometimes, I can't help being a jackass.

4. Honesty

I value honesty. And it's isn't the easiest quality to have or deal with. My older brother is the most honest person that I know. He tells it like it is, speaks his mind freely. I admire him for that. Lots of people do. It's why he's considered trustworthy, and people value his word. They listen when he speaks. He's a very effective leader, very charismatic and forthright.

I am not as brave. I've seen people cry when my brother was honest with them. I cringe when he tells people that their fashion choices make them look ridiculous; or that yes, they've gotten fat; or worst yet, yes, your significant other is cheating on you.

Sometimes, people don't react well at all and throw things at him or cuss him out. A few try to hit him, which is hilarious, as he's a pretty big, tough guy. He has no problems handling things when they get ugly. He says that if people didn't want the truth, then they shouldn't have asked him for an honest answer. That just earns him more respect.

I love my brother for being so honest and fearless. But I don't like to make people cry. So I tend to bend the truth, or say things without really lying or telling the truth. Mostly, it's all distraction. And it's ironic, considering that while I loathe to reveal the truth if it's going to hurt somebody, I want people to be honest with me completely, even if it's going to hurt me.

Honesty is a quality that I look for and cherish in my friends. I really appreciate it when someone pulls me to the side and tells me when I'm being an ass or making a big mistake. I am grateful when I'm given a dose of reality to wake me out of my delusions. Don't let me go out into public looking like an idiot. Please, tell me when I look awful and sound like a mess. Help me be a better person! Help me be the best me that I can be.

I sometimes wish that I was as brave and straightforward as my brother and just tell the truth, especially when it hurts. But that's not me. It's not in my nature. As much as I encourage others to be brutally honest with me when I'm being a jackass or making a mistake, I struggle to do the same for others. I have to think about the pros and cons; I have to ponder whether revealing the truth will be beneficial and safe and necessary. Or if it's better to not say anything at all.

Who am I to judge someone's fashion choices or life choices for that matter? My opinions are my own. Your life is your own. And in the end, I'm not really sure if what is right for me is necessarily what is right for you. But if you really want my honest opinion, I'll tell you. Because I care.

Is it a kindness to let someone carry on with their delusions? So long as they don't hurt themselves or others, I don't see the harm. I struggle with deciding whether to be honest or keep others happy. And sometimes, that means saying nothing at all. Ignorance is bliss. But if you really want me to be honest with you, I'll do it. It might be hard, but if that's what you really want, then I'll tell you. Just don't throw anything hard at me if you don't like what I say.

5. Hot Dogs

I love hot dogs! Especially when they are grilled! I can eat them in a bun, wrapped up as a taco, or deep fried in batter like a corny dog! Pan grilled, stir fried, or even just kabobed on a stick, if it tastes good, I'll eat it! I've had them with rice, with noodles, with pasta, and with a salad. I like hot dogs with or without sauce. But condiments do make hot dogs taste awesome! I like to mix ketchup, mayo, and mustard to spread over hot dogs. And if there's pickled relish, that makes it even better!

Hot dogs are fantastic with caramelized onions, bacon, and melted cheese with fries. I love eating the grilled, smoked ones in kolaches, which are just bigger pigs in a blanket! I've even just snacked on them by themselves or with a side of mac and cheese. Hot dogs are delicious when cooked in a variety of ways.

A few years ago, a friend introduced me to pickled hot dogs. And they're great! If they can pickle eggs and pig's feet, why not hot dogs? I love the sweet, sour, and tangy taste of the pickled hot dog.

Hot dogs are the common man's sausage. And like sausage, they're made with various meats. And that includes the organs and the unappetizing parts and pieces that no one else wants to eat. Some people might roll their eyes and consider hot dogs awful, but I say, please, you've had much more disgusting things in your mouth!

Like eggs. Eggs are disgusting. Eggs are basically the period of a chicken. That's right, chicken menses in a shell! Think about that the next time you have eggs over easy or break that yolk over your toast! Think about that the next time you eat a cookie, a piece of cake, or have an ice cream, or anything with a pastry cream or custard. Pudding, too!

We eat a lot of questionable things. Milk and cheese come from animal titties. Honey is bee vomit. And fruits are the wombs of the plants. You like wheat, corn, and rice? That's all endosperm, plant placenta! Disturbing? Yes. But that's okay. That's life. It can be down right dirty and disgusting. But you need dirt and fertilizer to make crops grow. It makes it possible for plants to make the oxygen that we breath and the food that we eat to survive.

Hot dogs are like life. If it's good, don't judge or ask questions. Just enjoy it. Embrace the moment and savor the experience!

And there you have it. My top five favorite things that begin with the letter H. Tell me yours. What are your favorite things that begin with the letter H? Tell me about those heavenly things that make you smile or that you cherish and hold dear. I want to know what makes you happy.

Related Links

A list
B all that you can B
What you C is what you get, the beginning
What you C is what you get, the middle
What you C is what you get, the end
D lighted
F is for Fun
G is Great
H is Heavenly
Brought to you by the letter S
U doing that thing U do
Zing Zing Zoom

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Sound of Music: The Classics - Opera Part 3

This is Part 3 of my series on the wonderful opera songs that I have in my collection. See Part 1 here. Part 1 discusses Carmen, The Barber of Seville, Turandot, and the song Bolero. Part 2 here. Part 2 discusses Pagliacci, La Traviata, Rigoletto, and The Magic Flute.

Please let me know if the music clips don't work, so I can fix them. You can also click on the song title to open the song on your own media player or to download it and listen to it later. I want to know your thoughts and opinions on the songs. Any recommendations would be appreciated. Thank you.

As I stated in my previous posts, I am not an opera expert. And truth be told, I don't consider myself an opera person. But these opera songs are some of the most riveting music I have ever heard, and they make me want to see the operas they are from. Most of these songs I discovered from listening to the late night a.m. radio during my childhood. The rest, I was introduced to from other media like movies and tv. Great songs are universally appealing. And chances are, you've heard opera songs before on other media, and you might actually like the songs, even recognize their sounds, even if you don't understand what they are singing. Good music is good music. And music is the universal language.

I usually don't like tragedies and avoid the genre. The world is depressing enough as it is. If I want entertainment, I seek out comedies and action adventure genres. But opera has tragedies, and a lot of my fave opera songs do come from tragic operas. So I will make an effort to see these tragic operas, because I love the amazing songs that come from those operas. And I want to hear and see those great songs performed as they were meant to be: Live and onstage, complete with actors, props, costumes, and orchestra in a theater.

And who knows? Maybe a live performance will change my mind and make me an opera aficionado. Or at least lead to discovering other great opera songs and masterpieces.

Madama Butterfly art by Leopoldo Metlicovitz, 1904.

Giacomo Puccini: Madama Butterfly: Un bel dì vedremo

Madama Butterfly is based on the short story "Madame Butterfly" (1898) by John Luther Long. Long was inspired by the stories told to him by his sister Jennie Correll and the semi-autobiographical 1887 French novel "Madame Chrysanthème" by Pierre Loti. Long's version was adapted into the play by David Belasco as the one-act play "Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan"; it premiered in 1900 at New York, and then in London, where Giacomo Puccini saw it. Giacomo Puccini would later write five versions of the opera.

I recently saw this opera on public tv. And it pissed me off! Mind you, I had no idea what the story was about. And I had no idea that in opera, you're expected to read up on the story before seeing the opera, so you'll know what's going on. I am clueless about opera. So the tragic ending was a shock to me. And knowing what I know now about Puccini, I should've expected an awful tragedy.

The Story Summary:

Set in 1904 Nagasaki, Japan. A US Naval officer named Pinkerton has rented a house for him and his new soon to be child bride, Cho Cho san (Butterfly). He made the marriage arrangements with the marriage broker, Goro. A US consul, Sharpless, advises Pinkerton to forgo the marriage to the naive 15 year old Cho Cho san. But Pinkerton laughs and claims he is enjoying her company, and she will serve to please him for the moment as he is stationed in Nagasaki for now.

Pinkerton believes himself a vagabond. While charmed with Cho Cho san, he feels he is not really married to her, holding the Japanese marriage as temporary and not as binding as an American one. Sharpless tries to warn Pinkerton that Cho Cho san feels the marriage is real enough. She expressed her feelings upon visiting the consulate the day before. But Pinkerton does not listen.

Cho Cho san and her wedding party arrive. Among her few possessions is a sword used by her father to commit ritual suicide, to save his family's honor. The wedding festivities begin. Cho Cho san is happy. But her Buddhist priest uncle arrives, uninvited, and scolds her for abandoning their faith. Cho Cho san had converted to Christianity the day before to be able to pray to the same god as her husband.

Her shocked relatives abandon her. The wedding festivities are over. And Pinkerton spends his night comforting his wife.

Three years pass and Pinkerton has been away for those years. But Cho Cho san holds to the promise Pinkerton gave her that he would return. She refuses the efforts of the marriage broker to marry her off to a Japanese prince. After three years of being left alone, she is legally considered divorced in Japan. Still, Cho Cho san holds on to the promise Pinkerton made to her, that he would return when the robins come to nest.

When her servant, Suzuki, expresses concern and doubt, believing that Pinkerton will not return, Cho Cho san defends Pinkerton. She believes that their love is true. She holds on to hope and faith that Pinkerton will come back as he promised, singing the beautiful aria, Un bel dì vedremo (One Fine day).

Sharpless arrives with Goro. He has news of Pinkerton in the form of a letter. It is distressing news that Sharpless struggles to reveal to Cho Cho san. Goro had come to persuade Cho Cho san to remarry. Cho Cho san refuses Goro. She reveals her hope and Pinkerton's promise to the visiting Sharpless. She asks Sharpless, when do robins in America return to nest? Because the Japanese ones have all ready come and gone three times.

Sharpless cannot read to her the entire letter Pinkerton had written, for Cho Cho san keeps misinterpreting the words, believing that Pinkerton still loved her and was returning soon. Why else would he keep paying the rent on the house she and her servant lived in?

Sharpless is unable to deliver the devastating news to Cho Cho san: Pinkerton had married an American named Kate! He tries to persuade Cho Cho san to marry the Japanese prince suitor, Yamadori. But she refuses.

Then Cho Cho san reveals to Sharpless her three year old son, fathered by Pinkerton! Cho Cho san says that the child's name is Sorrow. But when Pinkerton returns, the boy will be renamed Joy.

A ship's canons are set off in the harbor. Cho Cho san and her servant Suzuki rush out to see that it is Pinkerton's ship. Cho Cho san believes that she was right all along! Pinkerton has come back for her. She has Suzuki prepare the home for the arrival of Pinkerton. Cho Cho san puts on her wedding dress. She has her son and servant all dressed up and they wait for Pinkerton to arrive.

By dawn, only Cho Cho san is still awake. Her servant and son are asleep. Suzuki wakes and convinces Cho Cho san to go to sleep. Cho Cho san retires to her room.

Later, Sharpless and Pinkerton arrive with Kate in tow. Suzuki greets them, then notices Kate. Suzuki cries in anguish, knowing that her mistress's life is over! Pinkerton is seized by guilt for his callous actions and betrayal of Cho Cho san's innocence and love. He cannot face Cho Cho san. Nor can he ignore his son. He manages to convince Suzuki to help his wife Kate take custody of his son.

Then he flees like the spineless coward that he is. Cho Cho san awakens and senses Pinkerton near. But when she rushes out, she sees Kate instead. Now, she realizes the awful bitter truth. Pinkerton had abandoned her and remarried! Her love had forsaken her for another!

In her shock, the others convince Cho Cho san to turn over her son. They argue that the boy would be treated well and receive a better life under Pinkerton and Kate's care. Cho Cho san takes a moment to absorb the harsh reality of the betrayal. Her entire world has been shattered! Then she agrees to give up her son, on the condition that Pinkerton comes to retrieve the boy himself.

Cho Cho san has Suzuki take her son to get him ready. The others leave to get Pinkerton. Cho Cho san retrieves her father's dagger. Suzuki brings the boy to his mother. She holds her son one last time, bids him goodbye, and wishes him well. She kisses him, and tells him that she loves him. Then she blindfolds him, puts an American flag in his tiny hands that he waves as he waits for his father's arrival.

Cho Cho san takes her father's dagger and goes behind a screen. She prays to her ancestors' gods, makes her peace, then she kills herself! Pinkerton rushes in, but he is too late. Cho Cho san is dead.

The End.

My initial reaction: What the f*ck!?!?

My following thoughts: What kind of f*cked up bullshit is this?

First off, I had a hard time trying to get past the fact that Cho Cho san was 15 when Pinkerton married her. That is not okay! But for the sake of the time period, I tried to overlook it.

But then that mofo just played with her affections, then discarded her after she gave up everything, EVERYTHING!-- her family, her religion, her innocence and time--to be with a worthless, selfish piece of crap. I was pissed at Pinkerton's betrayal and mistreatment of poor Cho Cho san.

A large part of my anger stems from the fact that poor Cho Cho san was mistreated because she was Japanese, a foreigner, which somehow made it okay for Pinkerton to treat her as less than human, as if she had less value than an American!

And I was really mad at how all these people just screwed her over, scheming to take away her son!

It's bad enough she was abandoned and betrayed by a thoughtless, selfish, coward of a husband. But then they all try to take away her son, the one person she loved and returned her love wholeheartedly! What kind of monsters try to take a child away from a loving mother!?!

So yeah, I was pissed off at how this story turned out! And I still get a bad taste in my mouth when I think of this opera and what went down. That was some f*cked up bullsh*t! If I had seen the opera for the first time in a theater, I would've booed at that ending and demanded a refund! They'd've tossed me out for causing a ruckus!

There's a modern remake in the form of a musical called Miss Saigon (1989). Reading the synopsis, it's the same f*cked up story! What the f*ck!?!?

Final thoughts:

Even though I really hated how the opera turned out, I am willing to see it live in a theater. Yes, I hate the story, but I love this song. And even the public tv performance did a great job of showcasing this song. So I would like to see a live performance, just to hear this heartbreaking song: Un bel dì vedremo (One Fine day). It is an exquisite masterpiece.

I first heard this song when I was a small child back home on a remote frontier farm. This was another musical treasure that I was introduced to by the late night a.m. radio. I was born a night owl, so I would not go to sleep at bedtime like my other two brothers. So Mom let me hang out with her in the living room, waiting for Dad to come home.

During the busy season, Dad got home around ten thirty at night, sometimes at eleven. I'd look out the window at the dark road, watching for the truck lights to come up the path in the woods, letting us know that Dad was home.

While Mom did some reading or some knitting or sewing, I would play with my toy cars or army figures. The a.m. radio started playing classical music and opera songs at ten p.m. That was when I was introduced to a lot of great classical music and opera songs.

And truth be told, I didn't understand most of the classics and opera songs that played late night on the a.m. radio. But I remember being drawn to their unique and powerful sounds. Those strange songs made the late night seem more haunting and magical.

I remember feeling awed and captivated when I first heard this song, Un bel dì vedremo (One Fine day). It was so beautiful and ephemeral! Maria Callas was singing it, and I was mesmerized when I heard her voice. At the time, I didn't know who the singer was; I didn't know the name of the song; and I didn't understand a word she was singing. But it was amazing! I have never heard anyone sing such a heart wrenching, magnificent, eerie song! And it's still so evocative after all these years.

Giacomo Puccini: Gianni Schicchi: O mio babbino caro

If it seems that I am harsh on Giacomo Puccini, it's only because I don't like his tragic plays. Their terrible mistreatment of heroic and innocent women makes me mad.

Thankfully, Giacomo Puccini also wrote a happy opera, Gianni Schicchi, which contains the magnificent song, O mio babbino caro (Oh, my dear papa).

Giacomo Puccini wrote Il trittico (The Triptych), a collection of three one-act operas: Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, and Gianni Schicchi. Gianni Schicchi was the most popular. It was so popular that Gianni Schicchi was soon being performed by itself or paired with another opera for a double feature.

Gianni Schicchi was based on Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, the epic, iconic Renaissance poem that chronicles a fantastic and marvelous journey through hell and heaven, all populated by mythical, legendary, and famous figures. The ideas and beliefs from the poem were used by Giacomo Puccini to create Gianni Schicchi.

The Story Summary:

Set in Florence, Tuscany, Italy 1299. The wealthy noble Buoso Donati is dead in his bed. His relatives are present; most important to the story are cousins Zita and Simone, the poor-relation brother-in-law Betto, and Zita's nephew Rinuccio. Betto mentions that rumor had Buoso Donati leaving his fortune to the monastery. This sends everyone in a worried search for the will.

Rinuccio, who is confident that his uncle has left him plenty of money, finds the will. He withholds the will momentarily and asks Zita to allow him to marry Lauretta, daughter of Gianni Schicchi, a newcomer to Florence. Zita agrees, believing that if Buoso Donati had left them all his fortune, then they could all do whatever they want.

Excited, Rinuccio sends his little cousin Gherardino to fetch Schicchi and Lauretta, his beloved. Rinuccio hands over the will. Unfortunately, to the relatives dismay, the will shows that Buoso Donati did leave his fortune to the monastery!

The relatives wail and bemoan the loss of the fortune! They turn to Simone, the oldest among them and a former mayor of the town. But there is nothing he can do. The will is set.

Rinuccio suggests that only wise Gianni Schicchi can help them now. But Zita and the rest of the relatives scoff at him! What can a peasant do to help them? Rinuccio defends Gianni Schicchi, telling his relatives that they are wrong.

Gianni Schicchi and his daughter Lauretta arrive. He is told of the situation. Rinuccio begs him for help. But Zita is rude and tells Gianni Schicchi to take his daughter and leave. Offended, Schicchi announces that he will have nothing to do with such rude, awful people. He prepares to leave as Rinuccio and Lauretta listen in despair.

Lauretta makes a desperate plea to her father, singing the beautiful song: "O mio babbino caro" (Oh, my dear papa).

For his daughter's sake, Gianni Schicchi looks at the will. Twice. But there's nothing to be done. Then he has an idea. But first, he sends his daughter outside, so she'll be innocent (and ignorant) of what's going to happen.

Then Gianni Schicchi determines that only those present know that Buoso Donati is dead. He orders Buoso Donati's body moved to another room. But at that moment, Dr. Spinelloccio knocks to announce his arrival. Gianni Schicchi hides behind the bed curtains and mimics the dead Buoso Donati's voice. He tells Dr. Spinelloccio that he is feeling better and asks the Dr. to return in the evening. Dr. Spinelloccio boasts that he has never lost a patient and departs.

After the Dr. leaves, Gianni Schicchi reveals his plan: Having established with Dr. Spinelloccio that Buoso Donati is alive, Gianni Schicchi will impersonate Buoso Donati and make a new will that will benefit the relatives.

The relatives are thrilled at the news. They send for the notary. And soon, they all start plotting, asking Gianni Schicchi for Buoso Donati's various possessions. Among the most valuable and symbolic of Buoso Donati's treasures are "the mule, the house, and the mills at Signa".

A funeral bell rings, and everyone is fearful that news of Buoso Donati's death was now known. To their relief, it was only news that a neighbor's servant had passed away. The greedy relatives agree to stop plotting against each other and leave the disposition of the coveted mule, house, and mills to Gianni Schicchi. But behind each other's back, they try to bribe Gianni Schicchi to give them the mule, house, and mills.

They help Gianni Schicchi dress up as Buoso Donati. But before he gets into the bed, Gianni Schicchi reminds the relatives of the harsh and grave punishment for falsifying a will: exile from Florence and the gruesome loss of a hand.

The notary arrives and Gianni Schicchi sets out a new will, declaring any prior will null and void. Gianni Schicchi divides up the fortune to the satisfaction of the relatives. But when it comes to the mule, the house, and the mills, he orders that these be left to "my devoted friend Gianni Schicchi"!

The relatives are furious, but they can't say anything in front of the notary, especially as Gianni Schicchi, pretending to be Buoso Donati, slyly reminds the relatives of the punishment for falsifying a will.

As soon as the notary leaves, the relatives start raging at Gianni Schicchi, but their outburst is countered by Lauretta and Rinuccio, who can now get married, because Gianni Schicchi can now take his newly acquired wealth and offer a sizeable dowry! Gianni Schicchi then evicts the greedy relatives from his new home.

Gianni Schicchi turns to the audience and declares, although Dante has condemned him to hell for his scheme, it was worth it to see the young lovers happy. And he asks the audience to forgive his actions, for they were all done for love.

The End

My initial reaction: Sounds great!

My thoughts:

I want to see this opera, because it seems like a lot of fun and very delightful. I can understand why this is the most popular out of the three that make up Giacomo Puccini's Il trittico (The Triptych). It's the most entertaining and has a happy ending.

And I like the song, O mio babbino caro (Oh, my dear papa) It's one of those scintillating songs that I first heard on the late night a.m. radio when I was a small child. It was an enchanting, alluring song then, and it's still an enchanting, resplendent song now.

Of note:

The cunning character of Gianni Schicchi is directly referenced from Dante's L'Inferno, Canto XXX (lines 22-44), and he is based on historical events from 1299. In Dante's Inferno Canto XXX, the Eighth Circle of Hell, Tenth Pouch is the place of punishment for the Counterfeiters of Persons, Counterfeiters of Coins, and Falsifiers of Words--liars! A member of the Cavalcanti family and well-known mimic, Gianni Schicchi, according to one early account, impersonated his best friend, the dead Buoso Donati, to dictate a will and in so doing, bequeathed himself Buoso's prized mare!

Gianni Schicchi is Giacomo Puccini's only comedic opera. That alone is reason enough for me to want to see this opera. It would be a nice, refreshing change from the misogynistic tragedies Giacomo Puccini is best known for.

Léo Delibes: Lakmé, Act 1: Sous le dome épais (Flower Duet)

Léo Delibes' Lakmé was based on Le Mariage de Loti (1880; also known as The Marriage of Loti, Rarahu, or Tahiti), an autobiographical novel by French author Pierre Loti. Of note, Loti also wrote the 1887 French novel "Madame Chrysanthème", the inspiration for Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly. In his novel, Le Mariage de Loti, Loti describes his life and loves among the natives of Polynesia during his service there as a Navy officer.

Léo Delibes was given the novel by his librettist, Edmond Gondinet. Gondinet was aiming to use the novel to create an opera for the rising opera star, American soprano Marie van Zandt. Léo Delibes read the novel on a train ride, and he was hooked. By 1883, he had Lakmé debut in Paris. It was a huge success, thanks to all the elements in vogue at the time: An exotic location, mysterious religion, beautiful exotic flowers and native beauties, and Westerner pioneers in colonial lands, caught up in the intrigues and mystique of the native, strange culture.

The name Lakmé is the French rendition of Sanskrit Lakshmi, the name of the Hindu Goddess of Wealth. The opera was written in the prevailing Western centric view of the times. Europeans and Western populations saw foreign natives as naive, wild children, living in paradise, but lacking the so called wisdom (and morals!) of Western nations. It was the typical imperialist view the Western powers took on their newly acquired colonies all over the world.

The Story Summary:

Set in 19th century India. The British have taken over India. The Brahmin priest Nilakantha is bent on rebelling against the occupying British, who have forbidden him from practicing his religion. He goes to a secret gathering where he leads the faithful in prayer. He leaves his daughter Lakmé and her servant Millika behind.

Lakmé and Millika go off toward a river to gather flowers at a lake. At the lakeside, they sing the famous "Flower Duet", Duo des fleurs/Sous le dôme épais. As they approach the water, Lakmé removes her jewelry and leaves it on a bench. She and her servant get on a barge and head into the middle of the lake to gather more flowers.

Meanwhile, a party of British officers, Frederic and Gérald, arrive nearby while on a picnic with two British girls and their governess. The girls are taken by the beauty of Lakmé's jewels, requesting sketches of the pieces. Gérald volunteers to stay behind to make sketches as the rest of the party leaves.

As Gérald works on his sketches, he notices Lakmé and Millika returning to shore. Gérald hides to avoid an uncertain encounter with the natives. Millika leaves soon after arriving on the shore. Gérald is able to observe Lakmé's closer, and he is mesmerized by her beauty.

Lakmé soon senses someone's eyes on her. She is alarmed to see someone staring back at her from deep in the forest and screams for help. Nearby villagers rush to her aid as Gérald emerges from hiding.

Seeing that it is just a foreign British officer, Lakmé relaxes and soon tells her rescuers that all is well now. She is fascinated by Gérald, and finds herself drawn to the stranger. As they get to know each other and explore their mutual attraction, Nilakantha returns. Lakmé sends Gérald away before her father can see him. But Nilakantha learns from the villagers of the British officer's trespassing, and it infuriates him. Nilakantha vows revenge on Gérald for the affront to his family and Lakmé's honor.

Sometime much later, in the crowded market full of locals and British colonials, Nilakantha puts his plan into action. He asks Lakmé to sing. He knows her voice will draw in Gérald. And his plan works!

Gérald is drawn to Lakmé's singing. When Gérald steps forward, Lakmé realizes it's a trap and faints! Gérald rushes forward to her aid. Nilakantha now can identify Gérald and seizes the opportunity: He stabs Gérald. But he only wounds Gérald. Gérald is not dead as planned! So Nilakantha flees. And Lakmé, with servant Hadji's help, takes Gérald to a secret hideout in the forest, where he is nursed back to health.

As she cares for Gérald in the forest hideout, Lakmé and Gérald grow even closer. One day, they hear singing far off. Lakmé reveals that it is a band of lovers going to drink from a sacred spring, whose waters confer the gift of eternal love. No one can separate the lovers who drink from the spring. They are bound forever in this life and all others that follow.

Lakmé and Gérald decide to drink the sacred waters. So Lakmé leaves to fetch the water. She takes a drink at the spring and carries water back to share with Gérald. But before she makes it back, Frederic discovers the hideout after spending a long time looking for Gérald.

He is relieved to find Gérald. But then he reminds Gérald that Gérald has orders to leave for a new post soon, far away. Gérald is torn between duty and his new love. In the end, he decides to follow the oath he made to serve his country, placing duty above his own personal love.

Lakmé arrives and soon senses the change in the air. Knowing she's about to lose Gérald, her heart breaks at the thought of separating. She goes out and finds a flower that's known to be poisonous and swallows it. She would rather die than be parted from her love. Nilakantha arrives in time to see her final actions.

Grieving and mournful at the loss and regretting his decision, Gérald weeps over Lakmé. He sees the spring water she has carried back. He declares his love for her as everlasting and takes a drink, forever binding his love to Lakmé, eternal for all time.

The End

My initial reaction: Aw, so sad.

My thoughts:

I would see this opera, just to hear this beautiful song live on stage. I don't care much for how the opera ends, because tragedies suck. But I want to hear the fantastic and alluring "Flower Duet" sung on the stage as it was meant to be.

Flower Duet is an amazing song. It's been used in plenty of tv shows, concerts, movies, and commercials, like this British Airways one.

Hot towel anyone?

Flower Duet (Duo des fleurs/Sous le dôme épais) is the most exquisite and enchanting song I've ever heard playing on that late night a.m. radio. And it's still one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. So haunting and divine. Just gorgeous. Absolutely empyrean!

And there it is, the list of my favorite opera songs. I hope you enjoyed them. And if you have been to any of the operas these songs are from, please tell me your opinion if they are worth seeing. Mind you, I do hate seeing tragedies, so I usually skip them. But since this is opera, tragedy is almost a guarantee, so I won't let that stop me if you believe it's worth it to see the operas. Plus, I really want to hear the live performances of these great songs. It would be a thrill to experience the operas as they were meant to be seen and heard, with costumes, props, singers, orchestra, and all that comes with a theater production.

So please share with me your own opinions of the music selections and other great opera songs you would recommend. I don't have access to a great late night a.m. radio playing wonderful classics. So your advice and recommendations are welcomed and appreciated.

Related Links
The Sound of Music 1: The Classics - Ephemeral
The Sound of Music 2: The Classics - Ethereal
The Sound of Music: Classics - The Nutcracker
The Sound of Music: Holidays Classics Vol 1
The Sound of Music: Holidays Classics Vol 2
The Sound of Music 3: The Classics - Ebullient
The Sound of Music: Classics - Swan Lake
The Sound of Music: Classics - Requiem
The Sound of Music: Classics - Opera Part 1
The Sound of Music: Classics - Opera Part 2

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Sound of Music: The Classics - Opera Part 2

This is part 2 of my Opera collection. See Part 1 here. Part 1 discusses Carmen, The Barber of Seville, Turandot, and the song Bolero. See Part 3 here. Part 3 discusses Madama Butterfly, Gianni Schicchi, and Lakmé.

I place Opera in the Classics category, because they share the same qualities--distinctive, usually from the same past time period, and both use orchestras to create dramatic, intriguing music.

Like I wrote in the previous post, I'm not really an opera fan nor am I an opera expert. I've never even seen a full, live performance of an opera. However, I am familiar with a few opera songs. And while I may not understand what they are singing, I am captivated by the songs. And I quite like listening to some of them because they are so resplendent and astounding.

In researching opera, I learned that I need to know the story and plot before seeing the opera. That way, I'll know what's going on with the show. There's no narrator in an opera performance, and they're not going to pause the show to explain what's going on in the scenes. You're expected to know the story before hand!

Ordinarily, I avoid spoilers. I want to be surprised at the performance of a play or musical or dance or show. But this is opera. Spoilers are a necessity. And since it is opera, there will be some tragedies, which is a genre that I usually avoid. The world is depressing enough as it is. If I want entertainment, I prefer something comedic or uplifting.

However, I am open to seeing tragic operas, if only to hear the great opera songs live and in person. In this post, I'll summarize the plot of the opera. Then I'll discuss my opinions and my thoughts on these opera songs.

As always, please let me know if the music clips don't work. And you can click on the song title to open the song using your own media player or to download it so you may listen to it later. I look forward to your thoughts on these songs. Thank you.

Ruggero Leoncavallo: Pagliacci Act I: Vesti La Giubba

The first time that I heard this song, I was a small child on a coastal frontier farm, listening to the late night a.m. radio. Mom and I were waiting for Dad to come home from work. At that late hour, the radio played classical music and opera songs. I didn't understand a single word they were singing. But some songs stuck out, because they were so unique and alluring, so strange yet splendid. And I was hooked the first time that I heard Enrico Caruso soulfully sing out his heartbreak in Vesti la giubba (Put on the costume).

I didn't know the singer nor the name of the song. I had no clue what he was singing. But I was moved by the raw pain and anguish that radiated from the singer's voice. I felt his tortured heart and troubled soul. And I could not help but feel compassion for this man's pain.

The Story Summary:

Tonio, in his costumed character Taddeo, tells the audience that the actors playing characters have feelings, too, and they are real people, like them.

Set in mid 19th century Calabria, toe of the Italian Peninsula. A troupe of entertainers (clowns!) arrive in a village in the afternoon to prepare for an evening performance. They are Canio (whose clown character is Pagliacci/Pierrot) the leader; his wife Nedda (Columbina); Peppe (Arlecchino/Harlequin); and Tonio (Taddeo/The Fool). They announce the play will start before sunset, and the villagers cheer and invite them to a bar before the show.

Nedda steps down from the cart; Tonio offers his hand but it's knocked away by Canio, who helps his wife down himself. Canio and Peppe take up the villagers offer of drinks at the bar. The villagers tease that Tonio is planning to make a move on Nedda. Canio declares that while he may play a fool in the show, in real life, he will not tolerate any man making advances on his wife.

The villagers ask if Canio thinks Nedda will be unfaithful. Canio believes his wife's love to be true. Canio affirms his wife's fidelity, kisses her head, then heads to the bar with Peppe, Tonio, and the villagers, leaving Nedda behind alone. But Tonio sneaks back and makes a move on Nedda!

Nedda rebuffs Tonio and chases him away. Then Silvio, Nedda's secret lover from the village, shows up after leaving Canio and Peppe drinking in the bar. He makes plans with Nedda to elope after the play. She agrees. But Tonio overhears, and rushes to the bar to inform Canio!

Canio and Tonio return but Silvio escapes, with Nedda calling after him, "I will always be yours!"

Canio chases after Silvio, but Silvio escapes without revealing his identity or face. Canio angrily demands his name from Nedda, but she refuses. Canio whips out a knife, but he is disarmed by Peppe. Peppe calms everyone down. He reminds them all of the show. He tell them all to get ready for the play. They have a show to put on soon.

Canio is comforted by Tonio, who tells him that the secret lover is bound to reveal himself at the play. Then Canio goes into professional mode. They have a play to perform. He gets ready for the play, but he cries a single lonely tear as he makes up his face, singing the sorrowful, heartbreaking song Vesti la giubba (Put on the costume). The show must go on! He puts on a smile for the audience while his heart is breaking.

Pagliaccio by Ivan Gongalov

The audience arrives to see the play. All the clowns are in character. Columbina (Nedda) collects the money from the crowd and warns Silvio that Canio is on the hunt for him. The crowd cheers as the play begins:

Pagliaccio (Canio) goes out of town and won't return until the next day. Taddeo (Tonio) comes from the market to woo Columbina (Nedda). She mocks him and rebuffs him. Her lover, Arlecchino (Peppe), arrives to serenade her. She lets him in through the window. Arlecchino (Peppe) chases Taddeo (Tonio) out of the room. The audience laughs.

Arlecchino (Peppe) and Columbina (Nedda) dine and make plans to elope. He gives her a sleeping potion to use on Pagliaccio (Canio) when he returns. Taddeo (Tonio) bursts into the room to announce that Pagliaccio (Canio) had gotten suspicious of his wife and returned early!

Arlecchino (Peppe) makes his getaway in the window, and Colombina (Nedda) tells him, "I will always be yours!", just as Pagliaccio (Canio) enters.

Hearing those words stuns Pagliaccio (Canio)! He exclaims "Name of God! Those same words!"

He is immediately reminded of his wife's infidelity! He tries to go on with his role, but he is overwhelmed and unable to continue the play. His wrath at the vicious betrayal rises. He demands of Nedda (Columbina) to name her lover.

Nedda refuses and tries to get the play back on track, calling Canio by his character name, "Pagliaccio," to remind him of the audience's presence.

But Canio answers with his arietta: "No! Pagliaccio non son!"

He sings soulfully that if his face is pale, it is because of his wife's betrayal. She has broken his heart and shamed him. The audience is so moved by the zeal of the performance, his anguish and sorrow. They cheer him on, not knowing that what was happening was real!

Nedda (Columbina) makes another desperate effort to continue the play. She confesses that she has been seeing Arlecchino (Peppe). But Canio no longer cares for the play. His rage consumes him! He demands that she reveals her lover's identity.

Now the audience senses that the play is over and the drama is real. Everyone is anxious and worried. Peppe tells Tonio to intervene, but Tonio refuses and holds Peppe from getting between Nedda and Canio.

The crowd is agitated and Silvio fights his way towards the arguing couple. In a fit of rage, Canio grabs a knife from the table, Nedda still refuses to answer him. Frustrated, Canio stabs her!

She collapses, dying, calling out, "Help! Silvio!" She dies.

Silvio reaches the stage and furiously attacks Canio. Canio kills him!

The horrified audience is shocked and frozen in terror! And then Tonio delivers the celebrated final line:

La commedia è finita! – "The comedy is finished!"

The End

My initial reaction: Whoa!

My thoughts:

Usually, I avoid tragedies, but this story is actually very appealing on so many levels. Even more surprising, I'm actually eager to see the performance, even if the main characters are clowns! And I don't like clowns!

Clowns are creepy. I blame Steven King's It, the horror story about a child murdering evil clown monster. Also, I didn't grow up with the circus. I never went to see a circus in my childhood. They didn't have them in my remote neck of the woods.

The first time I saw a circus was the Cirque du Soleil at Las Vegas. I was a little drunk at the performance. It was Vegas, so of course I had some shots before the show! And I was totally freaking out when the midget/short clown started climbing up towards us. There was eerie music playing, making the approaching clown seem very menacing and omnious.

The clown's make up was frightening, and his costume was freaky! He displayed menacing expressions, and he made exaggerated, bizarre movements as he stalked towards us. He was giving us the heebee jeebies! The whole audience was anxious and intrigued, somewhat disgusted and delighted at the same time. But I was getting riled up! I was so ready to kick him hard in the face and flee the theater if he got any closer!

Note to self: Only see the circus sober.

My clown discomfort aside, I am surprised to find myself making a connection with Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. At its very core, it's a story about people, the chaos and heartbreak of love and betrayal. And I so identify with the entertainers, especially when they go through with the show in spite of the turmoil in their personal lives.

As a fellow actor and entertainer from my school days and in many community plays and productions, and from my time as a member of a champion dance crew, I totally identified with the Golden Rule of Entertainment: The Show Must Go On.

And to see the characters put aside their personal problems and maintain their professionalism to go on with the show speaks volumes of their dedication to the craft and the arts. No matter the personal cost, the show must go on.

And sometimes, the personal cost is too great. And while we may be professionals, we are humans first and foremost, with flaws and weakness and conflicting feelings that make us unpredictable, liable to make mistakes and give into passion, making us flawed and imperfect, self destructive.

While I normally avoid tragedies, I'm actually looking forward to Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. I want to see the characters and try to understand the characters better. Why didn't Nedda just leave with Silvio before the play began? Why didn't Tonio intervene to stop the escalating fight between Canio and Nedda? Why did Tonio hold back Peppe from intervening? Was Tonio a coward? Was he trying to get vengeance on Nedda for rebuffing him? Did he feel some loyalty to Canio? Was he trying to keep peacemaker Peppe from getting hurt in the final fight? Or was he a master manipulator? So many questions!

But most of all, I want to hear Vesti la giubba (Put on the costume) sung live, complete with Canio crying that single tear as he gets ready for the show. He is smiling on the outside but crying on the inside. That's so heartfelt and so heartbreaking! What beautiful art!

Giussepe Verdi: La Traviata, Act I: Libiamo Ne' Lieti Calici

Also known as the Drinking Song, it's no surprise this song is popular in commercials. It's another great song that used to play on the late night a.m. radio when I was a small child back on the farm.

The Story Summary:

Set in 1850 Paris, France. The famous, beloved courtesan Violetta Valéry throws a lavish, lively, popular party to celebrate her recovery from an illness. Unbeknownst to the others, the young Violetta knows that she is dying. But she throws a party to make the most of what little time she has left to celebrate with her friends.

Her friend and fellow courtesan Flora is there. Many noted society figures and famous people attend. Among them is Viscount Gastone, who brings his friend, the bourgeois Alfredo Germont. Gastone reveals to Violetta that Alfredo has loved her from afar and has been visiting her house daily while she was ill to inquire about her health. Alfredo admits to it.

Baron Douphol, Violetta's current lover, escorts her to the salon. He is asked to give a toast, but he declines. Alfredo answers the crowd's request and sings the famous Drinking Song, known as Libiamo ne' lieti calici (Drink from the joyful cup). He is joined by Violetta and the crowd. The party kicks into high gear and everyone has a great time.

When the orchestra plays in the ballroom, everyone moves there to dance at the request of Violetta. She needs some space to rest and recover from a dizzy spell before rejoining the festivities. Alfredo stays and voices his concern for her. He declares his love for her.

She refuses him gently. He is dejected, but something about his naiveté and candidness touches her heart. She gives him a camellia, telling him to return to see her when the flower wilts. He is overjoyed, because the camellia will wilt by the next day, an invitation for him to come back tomorrow.

When the party is over, the crowd leaves. Alone, Violetta wonders if it was foolish to give Alfredo hope for love. She feels that love is not for her, especially in her profession and given her impending death.

Some time pass, and Violetta is at her country house with Alfredo, where they have been living happily for three months. Violetta has given up her former famous life and parties to be with Alfredo in the country.

Violetta's servant Annina arrives from Paris. Alfredo is horrified to learn that Annina has returned after selling off Violetta's possessions to maintain the country lifestyle he and Violetta are enjoying. He leaves for Paris immediately to settle matters and pay back Violetta.

Meanwhile Violetta returns home and finds an invite from Flora to a party. Alfredo's father Giorgio Germont arrives and demands Violetta break up with Alfredo. Giorgio Germont fears that Violetta's colorful past will ruin his own young daughter's engagement in high society.

Giorgio Germont believes that Violetta has seduced Alfredo and plans to take his money. But he is humbled by Violetta's charms, courtesy, and wit. She shows him proof of her selling off her possessions to keep her and Alfredo living happily in the country.

Still Giorgio Germont begs her to break off with Alfredo, fearing for his son's future. Reluctantly, Violetta agrees to give up her love, so that Alfredo can go farther in society.

Giorgio Germont thanks her and leaves. Violetta writes a tearful goodbye note and sends Annina to Paris to accept Flora's invitation. She hands the goodbye letter to be delivered to Alfredo after she has left.

Alfredo returns home and is given the break up letter. He is stunned! His father returns to take him home to Provence. But Alfredo doesn't want to go back to Provence. He wants to go after Violetta. He mistakenly suspects that the Baron is behind his separation with Violetta, and Flora's party invitation, which he finds on the desk, strengthens his suspicions. He decides to confront Violetta at the party. His father tries to stop him, but Alfredo rushes out.

At the party, Alfredo tries to win back Violetta. But she keeps her distance out of her love for him and agreement with his father to separate from Alfredo. She keeps the Baron from harming the hot headed Alfredo. The Baron and Alfredo gamble. Alfredo wins big, because he claims that he was unlucky in love so that makes him lucky in gambling.

When Violetta rebuffs his pleas for getting back together, he loses it. He makes a public scene where he insults her character and throws his winnings at her, saying that he was repaying her for all she had done for him in the past. Now they were even. He has paid off her services!

Violetta faints from the exhaustion and stress. The crowd turns angrily on Alfredo. Even his father arrived to catch the insult to Violetta and reprimands his son. Violetta is revived and convinced by the ladies to retire from the party. She leaves after telling Alfredo he has no idea of what love is. But she forgives him as he tries to apologize. But he must face the Baron in a duel for his offensive behavior at the party.

In Violetta's home, Dr. Grenvil tells Annina that Violetta's tuberculosis (incurable and fatal at the time) has gotten worse. She will die soon. Violetta asks Annina about the noisy crowd in the streets. Annina tells her the crowd was out to celebrate Carnival. Violetta contemplates those who are suffering during the festivities as Annina leaves her to her thoughts.

Alone in her room, Violetta reads a note from Alfredo's father. He says the Baron only had a minor wound from the duel with Alfredo. Alfredo survived and has been informed by his father of the real reason why Violetta broke things off. Alfredo was coming to beg for her forgiveness. But Violetta realizes that it is too late. Time has run out. Outside, the crowds celebrates as Violetta waits for the end.

Then Annina bursts in to announce the arrival of Alfredo. He begs her forgiveness and promises to never leave her side. They reaffirm their love.

A remorseful Giorgio Germont arrives with Dr. Grenvil. He asks for forgiveness for interfering and breaking up the couple. Violetta forgives him. Violetta then presses a small portrait of her into Alfredo's hands. She tells him that if he ever gets married, he ought to give his wife that picture, to let her know that the person in the picture is in heaven, praying for them both.

At peace, Violetta suddenly discovers that her pain and weakness are gone. She feels revived, joyfully she declares herself well loved and happy. Then she faints into Alfredo's arms and dies.

The End

My initial reaction: Drama!

My thoughts:

I normally avoid tragedies. But I am definitely going to see Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata when the opportunity arises! Yes, it's a tragedy. But we know from the beginning that she was going to die. But what an amazing full life she lived in her short time on earth. She found love in the end when she least expected it, and she died happy.

Also, I want to hear Libiamo ne' lieti calici (Drink from the joyful cup) live on the stage in a theater. It's a fantastic, festive song! Am I allowed to take shots during the performance of this song? Kind of like bringing newspapers and water pistols at a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Or would that be frowned upon at the opera?

Of note:

Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata was based on a real person, an actual young, beloved courtesan named Marie Duplessis. She was known for her beauty, grace, charm, wit, and kindess. Her parties were lavish and she was popular among the elites and all strata of society. She survived a terrible childhood in Normandy before she was relocated to Paris, where hard work, good luck, and skill allowed her to reinvent herself and rise to the top of Parisian society.

Marie Duplessis was the much sought after companion of famous and talented artists, such as the composer Franz Liszt. She remained good friends with her benefactors and lovers after their intimate relationship ended. She was a muse to artists who painted her with her camillas, and she was well loved for her intelligence, beauty, and vivacious spirit.

Marie Duplessis (1824-1847), portrait by Edouard Vienot (1804-1872)

When she died just after her 23rd birthday, many mourned her loss. When her belongings were auctioned off to settle her accounts, a huge crowd was in attendance, drawn by her growing legend. She was a celebrity. Charles Dickens was among the throng, later commenting: "One could have believed that Marie was Jeanne d'Arc or some other national heroine, so profound was the general sadness."

While touring Russia, Franz Liszt received the news of her passing. Franz Liszt reportedly said, "Hers had been the sweetest nature, pure and serene, unsullied by the corruption of her shadowy world."

Among her last lovers was Alexander Dumas fils, who wrote The Lady of the Camellias, based on her life story and their relationship, a year after she passed away at 23 from tuberculosis. His book was made into a popular play. Giuseppe Verdi read the book, saw the play, and created the masterpiece and iconic opera, La Traviata, forever enshrining Marie Duplessis as the beautiful courtesan with a heart of gold, who loved freely, and lived a vibrant life before dying far too young.

Marie Duplessis, (Violetta Valery-The Lady of the Camelias) by Kinuko Y. Craft, 1988.

Giussepe Verdi: Rigoletto, Act III: Duca's Aria - La donna e mobile

Another popular commercials staple. I also first heard La donna è mobile (Woman is fickle) on the late night a.m. radio. Now, it's pervaded all media! And it's a very catchy tune.

I love this song. It's so catchy and festive! Although, I'm learning the song is about women being fickle, so not necessarily a feminist anthem, but definitely a fun, hilarious party song.

Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto opened in 1851. It was based on Victor Hugo’s play Le Roi s’amuse, which premiered in November 1832. On the surface, Hugo's play is simply historical fiction about Francis I. He was the king of France in the first half of the 16th Century. However, the play was taken by the French government quite accurately as little more than a thinly veiled attack on the current King Louis Philippe.

The government was extremely sensitive, as the political climate and fractured government had been unstable and chaotic over the past few years. Hugo's play was considered incendiary and was promptly banned. But the printed text was too popular to eliminate. It was sold widely.

By the time Verdi created the opera Rigoletto, King Louis Philippe had been deposed and had long died. But Hugo was exiled by the current power, Napoleon III. And while Verdi's Rigoletto was performed popularly in France, Hugo's play was still banned!

It was the popularity of the music that kept Verdi's Rigoletto playing in theaters. The opera has been a hit since it premiered, and it is still a hit today, a core staple of opera season.

The Story Summary:

Set in mid 16th century Mantua, Northern Italy. The Duke of Mantua, the notorious manslut, is hosting a lavish palace ball. He sings of his great pleasure in banging women left and right, married or single, he enjoys them all! This pisses off the husbands of the ladies the Duke has banged or wants to bang.

And to make matters worse, the Duke is encouraged in his risky, amoral behavior by his jester, the wicked Rigoletto, who enjoys insulting the jilted husbands and fathers of the women the Duke has slept with. Rigoletto is hated by the court for pushing the Duke to sleep around with the women and then making fun of the men whose women were defiled by the manslut Duke.

At the ball, the Duke sings of a new great beauty he met at church. At the same time, he is interested in seducing the Countess of Ceprano at the ball. Rigoletto insults the Count Ceprano and urges the Duke to have the Count arrested or killed outright, leaving the Countess open to the Duke's advances.

Count Ceprano is not amused and is ticked off at Rigoletto, whose mean antics of demeaning the other courtiers just makes the Duke laugh. The Duke thinks it's all in good fun. But the courtiers don't think it's funny at all.

Enter Marullo, another courtier, who informs the other men that he has discovered that Rigletto has a mistress! Now all the other men express surprise. But then plot to get revenge on Rigoletto, by giving him a taste of his own medicine.

Meanwhile, Rigoletto keeps insulting the others at the ball, and then enters the elderly Count Monterone. Count Monterone disparages the Duke for taking advantage of his daughter. Count Monterone is arrested, and Rigoletto gleefully insults Count Monterone for his helplessness at avenging his daughter's honor. The Count Monterone curses Rigoletto, for making fun of his righteous anger. The curse frightens Rigoletto.

On his way home after the ball, Rigoletto is troubled by the Count's curse. He meets the assassin Sparafucile, who offers his services. Rigoletto refuses the services for now, but may have use Sparafucile's services later. As Sparafucile wanders off, Rigoletto compares their similarities. Sparafucile kills men with his sword, and Rigoletto slays them with his wicked words.

Rigoletto enters his house and is greeted by his daughter, Gilda. He has been keeping his daughter a secret from the Duke and the entire city. She doesn't even know his job or name, only that he is her father. She is only let out under strict guard by her nurse, Giovanna, to go to church and come back.

Rigoletto leaves for business. Gilda confesses to Giovanna her crush on the man she met at church. The Duke, who came by to bribe Giovanna, is overjoyed at overhearing Gilda's affection. Gilda says she'd love the man more if he were a poor student. The Duke makes a plan to disguise himself as a poor student with a fake name. He knocks on the door. Giovanna answers the door and is bribed by the Duke.

The Duke enters and meets again with Gilda, pretending he is indeed a poor student. He woos her. She falls for his lines. Then, hearing noises outside, she assumes her father was returning home and sends the Duke away. The Duke promises to return after her father goes away.

Outside, Rigoletto encounters a bunch of masked men with a ladder. They are the vengeful courtiers! They convince Rigoletto that they are on their way to kidnap Countess Ceprano for the Duke. Rigletto is thrilled at this and wants to participate. The men help Rigoletto put on a mask, to hide his identity. But in reality, it is to distract and keep him blind as the others kidnap his daughter, Gilda. Blinded, Rigoletto holds the ladder steadily as the courtiers stealthily kidnap Gilda and leave Rigoletto behind.

When Rigoletto finally realizes that he has been abandoned alone, he takes off the mask and realizes to his horror that he had unwittingly assisted in the kidnapping of his own daughter Gilda! He collapses in despair, recalling old Count Monterone's curse.

At the palace, the Duke is distressed that Gilda has disappeared. Then his courtiers arrive, singing joyfully of how they had kidnapped Rigiletto's secret mistress, and she was left in the Duke's room. Hearing her description, the Duke is overjoyed that it is Gilda, and rushes to woo her while the courtiers celebrate their vengeance.

Rigoletto arrives, pretending not to care at first. Then fearing the Duke making a move, he confesses that it was his daughter, not mistress, the courtiers had taken. He tries to rush into the Duke's room, but he is held back by the courtiers. He curses at them.

And then Gilda enters, the courtiers leave. Gilda describes how the Duke seduced her and made love to her. Rigoletto is angry and vows vengeance on the Duke, while Gilda only speaks of her growing love for the Duke.

Later, in a rough part of town, Rigoletto and his daughter meet Sparafucile outside a house. Sparafucile's sister, Maddalena, had lured the Duke over. The Duke sings his famous song, La donna è mobile (Woman is fickle), as he makes a move on Maddalena.

Gilda is distressed that the Duke is unfaithful. Rigoletto vows vengeance for his daughter's honor. Rigoletto tells Gilda to dress in disguise as a man and prepare to leave for Verona. He will follow later. Gilda leaves. And Rigoletto bargains with Sparafucile. For 20 scudi, silver coins, Sparafucile will kill the Duke. Rigoletto leaves to fetch the money.

Gilda returns to the house, still in love with the unfaithful Duke, believing they can make it work. She overhears Maddalena, who enjoyed the charms of the Duke, beg her brother Sparafucile to spare the Duke. Sparafucile offers a compromise. If another man can be found by midnight, that man will be killed and his body given to Rigoletto in place of the Duke.

Gilda is determined to save the Duke, so she enters the house and is mortally stabbed. Her head is covered and her body is placed in a sack. Rigoletto returns with the payment. He gleefully accepts the body sack. He cheerfully weighs the body sack with stones and is about to toss it in the river when he hears the dreaming Duke sleepily sing his signature song, "La donna è mobile".

Confused, Rigoletto opens the body sack, only to discover to his horror his daughter, Gilda, dying. Gilda declares that she has saved her love. Then dies in Rigoletto's arms. Rigoletto cries out in horror, "La maledizione!" ("The curse!").

The End

My initial reaction: Whoa! Did not see that ending that way!

My thoughts:

I'd definitely see this opera just to hear the song, La donna è mobile (Woman is fickle). It's a fantastic song. I'm not sure how I feel about the plot and characters. It's a wicked twisty comeuppance for the mean, malicious Rigoletto. But I feel bad for his stupid, naive daughter, giving up her life to save a rogue whose very nature is to sleep around and not be faithful. She loved a man who fooled her and continues to fool around with others. That's just the Duke's character. It makes him seem less a hero and more of a slut with a lot of charm.

Rigoletto got the harshest lesson of all, losing his beloved daughter. Her life was given up to save a man Rigoletto encouraged to behave badly, which ruined other people's lives in the process. But I still feel a little bit sad for him, for how it all turned out. I'll definitely see this opera, because it's different, gritty, and the song is great!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Magic Flute--Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen ("Hell's vengeance boils in my heart")

The Magic Flute was the last opera Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed; it premiered on 30th September 1791 - roughly three months before he died. Mozart himself conducted the orchestra, while the librettist, Emanuel Schikaneder, sang the role of Papageno. Mozart's sister-in-law Josepha Hofer premiered the role of Queen of the Night. Mozart showcased her extraordinary vocal mastery in the arias of the Queen of the Night, "O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn" and "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen", both require a high F6, rare in opera.

I have to give a shot out to LX for helping me to identify the aria, Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen ("Hell's vengeance boils in my heart"). I've been searching for this song on and off for years, ever since I heard it on the late night a.m. radio a long time ago when I was a small child on the farm.

I didn't know the song nor singer's name. But I would catch this song in a movie or tv show or commercial, playing in the background. I asked friends if they could identify the song. They looked at me like I was crazy when I described the rapid fire, machine gun like voice of the singer when she hits those high notes.

Most people had no clue what I was talking about. And a lot of them pointed me to the aria from The Fifth Element (1997). In the film, Diva Plavalaguna sings the aria, Oh, giusto cielo!...Il dolce suono, which is stunning, but totally not the song I was looking for. In The Fifth Element movie, it is Inva Mula who sings the extraordinary aria, "Oh, giusto cielo!...Il dolce suono" (the mad scene) from Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and "The Diva Dance". It is my fave part of the film.

The Magic Flute's Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen ("Hell's vengeance boils in my heart") is a great aria. And I'm glad to finally know its name and where it came from. So thank you, LX, for the recommendation! And thank you, John, for your thoughts as well.

The Story Summary:

Set in a magical land between night and day. Prince Tamino is struggling to escape from a pursing snake monster hunting him down. He collapses in a rugged landscape, and he prays out for the gods to save him. He passes out from exhaustion.

Three ladies of the Queen of the Night's retinue arrive and kill the snake monster. The ladies notice Tamino, how handsome he is, and soon bicker over who gets to keep him. In the end, they all agree to leave together, after each of them fails to convince the other two to leave.

When the ladies are gone, a bird catcher, Papageno, dressed in costume as a bird, enters as Tamino awakens. Tamino mistakenly assumes that Papageno saved his life by killing the monster snake. And Papageno gladly takes credit and brags about it. Unfortunately for him, the three ladies return. And they punish Papageno for lying, and instead of giving him wine, cake, and figs as a reward, they give him water, a stone, and place a padlock over his mouth as a warning not to lie.

The three women give Tamino an enchanted portrait of the beautiful Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of the Night. Tamino is smitten, and accepts the mission to rescue Pamina from the evil wizard Sarastro who kidnapped Pamina. Thunder roars suddenly and the Queen of the Night appears and promises to offer Pamina's hand in marriage to Tamino, if Tamino rescues her. Tamino accepts, declaring his love for Pamina. The Queen disappears.

Then the three ladies offer to Tamino a magic flute to turn sorrow into joy. They release the padlock from Papageno's mouth, warning him not to lie anymore. They give Papageno magic bells for protection, and they tell him to accompany Tamino. And finally, they introduce three child-spirits, who will guide Tamino and Papageno to Sarastro's temple. Tamino and Papageno leave on their quest to rescue Pamina. Tamino does so in the hope for love, and Papageno wishes to find a love for himself as well.

Meanwhile, Pamina is captured by Sarastro's slaves and brought before the overseer, Monostatos the black Moor. He orders the slaves to chain up Pamina and leave them alone. The slaves carry out the orders and leave. Just then, Papageno, who was sent ahead by Tamino to scout out Pamina's location, enters and faces the surprised Monostatos. Both are frightened by each other's strange appearance and flee.

But Papageno returns, frees Pamina, and informs her of Tamino coming to her rescue, and Tamino's declaration of love for her. Pamina is thrilled at the news. And she offers hope that Papageno may also find a love, a wife he so desires.

Meanwhile, the three child-spirits lead Tamino to Sarastro's temple, promising that if he remains patient, wise, and steadfast, he will succeed in rescuing Pamina. But he is denied access at the left, then right entrance by voices from within the temple. As he tries the front entrance, The Speaker, an old priest admits him.

The Speaker tells Tamino that the Queen of the Night is not to be trusted, that Sarastro is not an evil wizard. The Speaker says that if Tamino enters the temple as a friend, he will understand. Tamino enters and plays his magic flute, which brings the animals and enchants them to dance joyfully. Tamino hears Papageno's pipes and hurries off to find him.

Meanwhile, Papageno and Pamina search for Tamino. They are recaptured by Monostatos and his slaves, but Papageno plays his magic bells. Monostatos and his slaves begin to dance and exit, mesmerized by the beauty of the music.

Papageno and Pamina hear Sarastro and his court approaching. Papageno is frightened and asks Pamina what to do. Pamina advises that they be truthful. When Sarastro and his court appear, Pamina confesses that she tried to escape, but because she was trying to avoid the lustful Monostatos' advances. Sarastro understands, but he refuses to return Pamina to her mother, saying the Queen of the Night is a terrible influence, and Pamina must be guided by a man.

Enter Tamino, brought in by Monostatos. Upon seeing each other for the first time, it was love at first sight, and Tamino and Pamina embrace, to the horror of Sarastro's priestly court. Monostatos declares he caught Papageno and Pamina trying to escape. He wants a reward. But Sarastro drives out Monostatos for his lustful advances upon Pamina. Then Sarastro declares that Tamino must undergo a series of trials, to see a if he is worthy to be Pamina's husband.

The trials begin. First, Tamino and Papageno are warned of the dangers ahead and to be wary of women's wiles, and both undertake a vow of silence. The three ladies appear and frighten Tamino and Papageno. Tamino remains silent and aloof, but Papageno speaks. Papageno is silently reprimanded by Tamino to keep quiet. The ladies depart.

Meanwhile, Monostatos approaches a sleeping Pamina with the intent to kiss her in the garden. Suddenly, booming thunder proclaims that the Queen of the Night has arrived, and Monostatos hides. Pamina awakens and tells her mother her decision to join Sarastro and his followers.

The Queen is angry, telling Pamina that the temple belonged to her husband. But on his deathbed, he left the temple to Sarastro, instead of her, denying the Queen the powers of the Temple. She gives Pamina a dagger, ordering her to kill Sarastro with it and threatening to disown her if she does not. Now the Queen sings the famous aria, Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen ("Hell's vengeance boils in my heart").

The Queen departs and Monostatos appears, blackmailing Pamina. If she will not give into his advances, he will reveal the Queen's murder plot to Sarastro. Then Sarastro enters and drives off Monostatos. Pamina reveals to Sarastro the Queen's plan and begs Sarastro not to retaliate. But Sarastro assures her that revenge and retaliation have no place in his temple.

Meanwhile at the next trial, Tamino and Papageno are told to remain silent once more. But Papageno complains of thirst, and an old woman appears to give him a cup of water. Papageno teases her, asking if she has a boyfriend. She replies that yes, his name is Papageno! Before Papageno can ask her name, she disappears.

Then the three child-spirits bring in food, the magic flute, and the bells, sent from Sarastro. Tamino plays his magic flute, and it summons Pamina. She tries to talk to him, but he is still bound by the vow of silence. He seems cold and distant, ignoring her pleas. Pamina leaves heartbroken, thinking that Tamino no longer loves her. Perhaps he never really loved her at all.

Soon, the priests celebrate Tamino's successes so far, believing him worthy of their order. Pamina and Tamino are summoned, and Sarastro orders them to say their final farewell, which alarms the two. The next trials are greater and more dangerous. They leave for the next phase of the trials.

Soon, Papageno enters, requesting a drink of wine. The priests grant his request. Papageno asks for a wife, and the old woman appears. She tells Papageno that unless he marries her, he will be imprisoned forever. Papageno does not want to be imprisoned. So he agrees to marry the old lady, while muttering it'll do until something better comes along. But then he realizes that he might not find anyone else willing to be with him, so he promises to be faithful to the old lady.

And then the old woman magically transforms into a beautiful young maiden, Papagena. Papageno is stunned, then rushes forward to embrace the beauty. But the priests drive him back, saying that Papageno is not worthy of Papagena, for he failed his trials! Papagena disappears.

Meanwhile, it is dawn. The child-spirits observe a despondent Pamina, feeling suicidal as she believes Tamino no longer loves her. But the child-spirits save her and reassure her of Tamino's love.

At the trial, two armored warriors lead Tamino in, telling him that the temple gods of Isis and Osiris will grant enlightenment to those who overcome the fear of death. The vow of silence is over. Tamino declares his readiness.

Then Pamina enters and tells Tamino that they will undergo the trials together. She gives him his magic flute. And together, the two meet and overcome the challenges of the trials of fire and water, thanks to the magic flute's protection. They succeed in the final trial, and the priests celebrate their victory, inviting then into the temple. Pamina and Tamino will be together forever.

But Papageno is feeling despair, having failed the trials and losing a chance to be with Papagena. He contemplates ending his misery, but the three child-spirits appear. They tell him to play his bells. He rings them, and Papagena magically appears. United, the two make birdlike gestures and pledge their love to each other, planning a happy future together with a big family.

Meanwhile, Monostatos is at the Queen of the Night's side. With her followers, they plan to raid the temple and destroy Sarastro and his followers. Monostatos is promised Pamina for his aid. But before they can enter the temple and attack, the sun rises and banishes the Queen and the conspirators away with the night. Day has arrived. And Sarastro announces the sun's triumph over the night, and hails the dawn of a new era of wisdom and brotherhood.

The End

My initial reaction: It's a fantastic fairytale!

My thoughts:

I would go see this opera for both the arias and the story. Granted, I'm a little concerned about the priests' patriarchal attitudes, and I don't like that there are slaves in the story. Plus, it bothers me how Pamina contemplates suicide after thinking she has lost Tamino. Same for Papageno, after thinking he has lost Papagena. You just met these people a few hours ago! But it's a fairytale, and opera loves drama, so I'll let it go.

Still, I raise an eyebrow at why the lustful Monostatos was portrayed as a black Moor. Was it because a black Moor seemed more exotic and dangerous, given the Ottoman Turks march of conquest upon the European continent? Did a black Moor seem more menacing and exciting than say a swarthy Italian, a snooty Frenchman, or machismo Spaniard? I'll give Mozart the benefit of a doubt here. The story is entertaining.

Of note:

Edda Moser and the Bavarian State Opera, under the direction of Wolfgang Sawallisch, created a version of Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen ("Hell's vengeance boils in my heart") that is included in a collection of music from Earth, on the golden record of the space explorer, Voyager 1! Can you imagine the aliens reaction upon hearing that aria? Do you think the aliens have a record player?

As of November 2017, Voyager 1 has travelled over 13 billion miles away from the Sun, and has the incredible distinction of being the first human-made object to enter interstellar space. It's flying at a whooping 11 mile per hour, still making it the fastest spacecraft humanity has launched into space. Assuming it survives the challenges of space, Voyager 1 will enter the Oort Cloud in 300 years, and take 30,000 years to pass through! In 40,000 years, it will pass within 1.6 light-years of the star Gliese 445, a member of the northern Giraffe constellation, Camelopardalis.

Voyager 1 is a space probe launched by NASA on September 5, 1977, over 40 years ago! We expect to lose contact with Voyager 1 between the years 2025-2030. Good luck and safe journey, Voyager 1!

And please be nice to us when you come back to Earth after the Borg upgrade you.

V'Ger art by Kirtemor

And there you have it. Part 2 of my fave opera songs; I'm working on Part 3. I don't always understand what the songs are about. But I love the tunes and the emotions the songs awaken in me. Those astounding songs are reason enough to see these operas.

What about you? What are your thoughts? Have you seen these operas? What advice would you give me to better enjoy the opera experience? Is it worth seeing these operas live? Or am I better off watching it on the tv screen? What do you think about these songs? Your advice and thoughts and opinions are welcomed and appreciated!

Like me, you may be familiar with opera songs from various movies, tv shows, commercials, or even heard of them on the radio or some other production. And while I do not consider myself an opera aficionado or someone who seeks out tragedies for entertainment, I will go to the opera if the opportunity presents itself; because I want to see and hear these astounding songs live and performed the way they were designed and meant to be performed: on a theater stage, complete with costumes, singers, and orchestra!

I would appreciate any advice on the best way to enjoy an opera. And I would like to hear your thoughts and opinions about these songs or other opera songs you enjoy.

Related Links
The Sound of Music 1: The Classics - Ephemeral
The Sound of Music 2: The Classics - Ethereal
The Sound of Music: Classics - The Nutcracker
The Sound of Music: Holidays Classics Vol 1
The Sound of Music: Holidays Classics Vol 2
The Sound of Music 3: The Classics - Ebullient
The Sound of Music: Classics - Swan Lake
The Sound of Music: Classics - Requiem
The Sound of Music: Classics - Opera Part 1
The Sound of Music: Classics - Opera Part 3