Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Snappy Tune and A Cultured Lesson to Start Your Week

I have mentioned from time to time on the blog that I studied voice while in college.
During this time I worked my chops on anything from musical theater tunes to light operetta to classic opera, as well as lieder(art songs of the 19th century).

This vocal training required me to sing in foreign languages, as most lieder and opera were not written in English.  Though there are translations of most every song into English, when you study singing, you sing in other languages. That's just a given if you are serious about it.

 While I can't necessarily speak or understand these tongues, I did pick up a smattering of French, Italian and German. Singing in a foreign language is different than learning to speak that language.  While you need to be clear enough in pronunciation to be understood in that tongue, you also have to often change or adjust pronunciation to make the notes you produce more pleasing to the ear.
Ok, so I am babbling at this point.

I just wanted to share an aria(this means a song in operatic terms)with you all, that I always enjoyed performing.  It is a typical operatic brindisi.  Brindisi simply means " a drinking song".  Many Italian operas included them.  It was, as it were, one of the parts of the standard "let's write an opera" formula employed by composers/lyricists back in the heyday of opera writing.
A Brindisi was most always a merry upbeat tune.
This example is pretty much the most well-known sung by the incomparable Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti....

I am sure you are familiar with that merry tune.  It's from the equally famous opera La Traviata by Guiseppe Verdi.  My one sentence synopsis of this opera.......It's about a French Courtesan(prostitute)who dies of consumption(TB)after she finds her true love(sort of).

I have always found that song to be amusing since this tune is sung at a party to celebrate Violetta's(the hooker)recovery from an illness.....only she really hasn't recovered, has she?lol

On to my favorite Brindisi....
It's from the opera Lucrezia Borgia by Gaetano Donizetti.
It's based on the legend of that wickedest of them all Borgia's, Lucretia.
Before Italy was known for the Cosa Nostra(the Mafia), they had the Borgia family.  Look them up sometime....
A funner bunch of people you'd be hard pressed to find! ;-)

Here is a painting that was thought to be a portraiture of Lucretia, done in 1515 by Veneto...

Anyway the one sentence plot of Lucrezia Borgia is something like this.....Though warned about staying away from Ms. Borgia by a soothsayer, 2 friends end up getting caught up in her world, get poisoned and die, right after she reveals that she is the mother of one of the two friends.

The friend of the guy who is revealed to be Borgia's son is called Orsino.  The singing part was written for a contralto voice.  Men are not naturally able to sing in this higher register and are either bass, baritone or tenor register singers.

Back in the 1800's  in Europe, in the operatic world, men were castrated before puberty hit in order to turn them into contralto singers.  This was a common practice in this field of up your gonads and being able to father children in order to enjoy the accolades of being a successful and adored opera star.....a eunuch but an opera star nevertheless.
This practice of castrato was not outlawed in Italy until the 1870's.  A whole segment of teenage boys breathed a sigh of relief in Italy at that time I am sure. ;-)

On a side note, when I googled castrati this is one of the photos that came up....

So this particular brindisi since that time has been sung by a woman, because contralto is the lower regsiter in a woman's vocal range.  So that is why you have woman commonly playing man's parts in opera today.
Now you can go work that nugget of knowledge into your next cocktail party conversation.

The brindisi is called "Il segreto per esser felici".   In English it is "The Secret of Being Happy".
Yes, sing about happiness as you are being poisoned by the wine you are drinking.
You just have to love those crazy opera composers and their sense of humor!

Without further delay and babbling, here is Daniela Barcellona in an actual performance a few years back of Lucrezia Borgia, singing this brindisi......Godetevi questa! <---that means "Enjoy This".......



  1. I absolutely LOVE Classical music, opera, etc... can't really compare it to today's "music". lol! At least most of it. :P

  2. Thank you for that bit of cultural info and music today:) Now, back to the Real Wives of LA! Nah, just kidding, I don't really watch that or anything else on TV for that matter!


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