Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Verdi Kings

Samuel Ramey as Attila and a young Sherrill Milnes

We're going to continue exploring Verdi this week with a look at the Verdi kings. We'll start with Verdi's first major success, Nabucco. This is the story of the Babylonian king Nabucodonosor, who assaults, conquers and drives the Jewish people from their homeland. Despite the story, it contains some of the most dramatically exciting and hair raising music in all of Verdi. The famous chorus "Va pensiero" is universally known and has become the unofficial national anthem of Italy. In a country filled with music, nothing stirs the heart of an Italian like this piece of music.

Not many barihunks have sung the title role of Nabucco, but we found this version of Ettore Bastianini from the San Francisco Opera in 1961.

Just for fun, here is the famous chorus sung by some of the greatest singers who were around in 1985, including Montserrat Caballe, Agnes Baltsa, Gwyneth Jones, Jose Carreras, Giuseppe di Stefano and baritones Christian Boesch, Renato Bruson (a great Nabucco), Sherrill Milnes, Giorgio Zancanaro and Juan Pons.

We now move to Amonasro, the king of the Ethiopians and father of the title character Aida. He plays a key role in the plot line and has been played by some of the greatest baritones in history. Here is the Act 3 duet between Aida and Amonasro "Ciel, mio padre...Rivedrai le foreste imbalsamate" with performances by seven of the greatest baritones and sopranos to ever sing the opera. We have a definitive favorite in this bunch, but we'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Verdi based his ninth opera on the Solera play "Attila, King of the Huns." Besides the title role, there is a another wonderful role for a more lyric baritone, that of Ezio, who sings the aria "E gettata la mia sorte." You can watch Sherrill Milnes perform the aria below. We've always wondered why more young singers don't audition with this show stopper. It's a sure winner if you can nail the ending.

No one has owned the role of Attila in recent years more than the great Samuel Ramey, who always sang it with barihunk swagger and his chest bared. Here he is singing the great baritone duet with the Ezio of Giorgio Zancanaro, followed by the thrilling aria "Or son libere i miei sensi."


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1 comment:

  1. Well for me its Warren but then Warren in anything wins hands down from me everytime!