Tuesday, April 14, 2015


In the course of my music career, I had the opportunity to play in Opera Tampa for twelve seasons, under the baton of Maestro Anton Coppola, who finally retired a few years ago, at age 98. We should all be so lucky. We played Italian Opera only, and I really enjoyed it; it was also an education in playing rubato and and education in patience. Opera tells a story through lyrics, action, stage-setting and music, no better exemplified than by Giacomo Puccini's “Turandot” and the magnificent “Nessun dorma”.

Giacomo Puccini, Italian Composer, December 22, 1858 - November 24, 1924

I almost feel like Anna Russell in describing this opera, because it's a typical opera; love story, the Prince loves the Princess, but she doesn't love him. There's another mousy girl waiting in the wings; she kills herself because the Prince doesn't love her, and you think the Prince is remorseful and will off himself, so, you think, “Well, another unhappy opera.” but you're be wrong. Puccini died before he could finish this and unlike “Madama Butterfly” which is the most depressing opera I've ever played, this one ends happily for once. One of his students fiddled with it and gave it a happy ending for once, thank the Christ.

That, however doesn't make the lyrics any better. Here they are in English:

Nobody shall sleep!...Nobody shall sleep!Even you, o Princess,in your cold room,watch the stars,that tremble with love and with hope.But my secret is hidden within me,my name no one shall know...No!...No!...On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines.And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!...(No one will know his name and we must, alas, die.)Vanish, o night!Set, stars! Set, stars!At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!
Pretty God-awful in my book. If someone sang that to me, I'd have them rushed to the E. R. to find out if they were brain-damaged, but that's Italian Opera and no one really gives a shit what comes out of your mouth, as long as it come out beautifully, and it does!

Rather than plague you with the Italian version, I think I'll just let Luciano Pavarotti sing it for us; he does a bang-up job! Tomorrow, we'll visit the Glenn Miller Orchestra!


C.D. Gallant-King said...

Yeah I've watched operas with the English "subtitles" projected above the screen, and while it helps you follow the plot a bit better it really doesn't add anything to the art, which is really about the music and the staging. Often times you're just as well off not understanding the finer details, and just enjoying it for what it is.

Lisa said...

Ha ha! I love the way you described this! I think Opera is something one either loves or hates. It's hard to have a middle ground. I like some but not all, and it greatly depends on who is doing it! Lisa, co-host AtoZ 2015, @ http://www.lisabuiecollard.com

Viola Fury said...


Very well said, C. D. What's even worse is when some nitwit translates the whole mish-mash and they sing it in English. It generally doesn't scan well, and while I'm not a purist, it's like trying to play the "Hallelulah Chorus" in the key of C Major, when it's written in D Major, which happened once and was a nightmare to play, and just horrible.

The music is the thing, and generally speaking, the composer had good reasons for doing what he did. Subverting the artist's intentions is never a good idea, no matter the medium, but there's always some meathead who thinks he's channeling the creator, and so it goes. Sometimes, the results are amusing, as in the performance of "Hamlet" with an entire cast of dogs. One wonders what that was like. Anyway, thanks for the visit, and check out Anna Russell's take on the entire "Ring" saga by Wagner in 20 minutes; it's pretty hilarious! Mary

Viola Fury said...


Thanks for stopping by. It does depend on who is doing opera, and for years I had nothing to do with it at all, or with Gilbert and Sullivan. I ended up spending 12 season with Opera Tampa, helmed by Maestro Anton Coppola, and also spent 12 seasons with the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players and loved every minute of both!

Mostly because of the high level of artistry and care that was brought to the proceedings; I developed a love for Italian opera (I already loved German opera, mostly for it's bombast, and Russian opera for it's weird mysticism) but there is a delicacy and artistry to Italian opera lacking in the two earlier mentioned. That is not to say that they don't have their moments.

But, as C. D. pointed out, you kind of just have to sit back and listen to the music; forget the lyrics, and enjoy the pure pleasure that the music brings.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, going to the opera was like going to the movies; so, there were many operas to choose from. A handful remain today. The huge German ones, "Ring" cycle, "Salome", "Elektra" and the later expressionistic ones, are not performed nearly as much as the Italian ones; "Tosca", "Turandot", "Madame Butterfly". They are easier to stage and probably more accessible. I think "Lulu" by Alban Berg is about a prostitute who murders her clients and ends up being killed by "Jack the Ripper". It is cited by many musicologists as the "most important opera of the 20th century". It's a corker, I'll give it that!

Anyway, thank you so very much for stopping by, I must apologize for the lateness in my reply. Mary