Thursday, November 24, 2016

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Celebrating our favorite scenes with food and wine

We figured that since it's Thanksgiving (in the U.S.), and most people are sitting down for a big sumptuous feast, that it was a great opportunity to look at some of the best scenes in opera involving food. Giuseppe Verdi was known for using food as a plot device in many of his operas, which makes sense as eating and drinking is such a key part of everyday life and certainly can help define a character.

A number of operas and operettas feature drinking songs as part of their plot, including Bizet's Carmen, Berliozs La Damnation de Faust, Mozart's Don Giovanni, Verdi's La traviata, Smetena's The Bartered Bride, Verdi's Otello, Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, Rombergs The Student Prince and, of course, Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus.

Here are look at some of our favorite operas features food and drink (and it's by no means an exhaustive list!)

The performance that inspired Barihunks: Mariusz Kwiecien in SF Opera's Don Giovanni
The creation of the Barihunks blog was inspired after seeing Mariusz Kwiecien shirtless on a dinner table at the San Francisco Opera in Mozart's Don Giovanni. The cast also included fellow barihunk Luca Pisaroni as Masetto and hunkentenor Charles Castronovo as Don Ottavio. A true FEAST for the eyes. Don Giovanni appears to have an appetite for everything sumptuous and tasty in life: wine, women and food. Leporello even gets in the action, as he pours out a fine Marzemino wine from northern Italy for Don Giovanni, then nibbles at a piece of pheasant ("Versa il vino! Eccellente Marzimino!").

In Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring the children sing with glee in Act 2 about the May Day feast:  "Jelly!...Pink blancmange!...Seedy cake! Seedy cake! (with icing on)...Treacle tart!...  Sausagey rolls!...Trifle in a great big bowl!...Chicken and ham!...Cheesy straws!...Marzipan!" Asked to make a speech, Albert is tongue-tied and becomes an object of pity at the feast in his honor, but after draining his lemonade glass (satirically underlined with a Tristan chord, alluding to the love potion in that opera) and having a fit of hiccups he manages a few "hip-hip, hurrahs."

Simon Keenlyside sings Hamlet's Drinking Song:

In Ambroise Thomas' Hamlet the title character sings the famous drinking song Ò vin dissipe la tristesse. In the scene, Hamlet meets up with a troupe of actors who will perform a play for the court. With them, he sings a drinking song in which he calls for wine and laughter to dispel his sadness.

One of the most famous drinking songs is Esacamillo's Votre toast from Bizet's Carmen.  In the scene, the toréador enters a tavern and sings an ode to bullfighting, the roaring crowds and the glory that comes with victory. 

In Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore the townspeople turn out for a prenuptial feast in anticipation of Adina and Belcore's wedding. In the scene, Dulcamara, who is selling the love elixir (which is actually wine) sings, “Weddings are all very nice. But what I like best about them is the pleasant sight of the banquet.”

Duncan Rock and Corinne Winters in ENO's La bohème (© Tristram Kenton)
Is there a more lavish and musically satisfying scene involving food and drink that Act 2 of Puccini’s La bohème set in the Cafe Momus in Paris? In the scene, Schaunard calls for Rhine wine, roast venison, custard and dressed lobster for his fellow Bohemians at the Café Momus. The scene is rich with Parisian street food: oranges, dates, hot chestnuts, nougat, whipped cream, candies, fruit tarts, coconut milk, carrots, trout and plums from Tours.

In Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel the title characters almost become the feast,
as the witch tries to fatten them up to become the meal itself.

James Maddelena as Richard Nixon
In more modern times, the most famous dinner scene is probably at the end of Act 1 of John Adams' Nixon in China.  In the scene, President Nixon sings, “The world watches and listens, we must seize the hour”  as he toasts his host Prime Minister Chou En-Lai before a banquet. According to the Nixon Foundationm the official menu included “spongy bamboo shoots and egg-white consommé, shark’s fin in three shreds, fried and stewed prawns, mushrooms and mustard green and steamed chicken with coconut, almond junket, pastries, fruits.”

As mentioned early, no composer featured food and drink more prominently than Giuseppe Verdi. Few people have never heard the famous duet with chorus Libiamo ne' lieti calici from La traviata. The lively song in Act 1 encourages the drinking of wine or other alcoholic beverages, which make "kisses warmer."

One can hardly think of food without thinking of Falstaff, who is one of the great operatic eaters and drinkers. His bill at the Garter Inn, as he recounts at the opera’s opening, is for 6 chickens, 3 turkeys, 2 pheasants, 1 anchovy and 30 bottles of sherry.

 Thomas Hampson and Paoletta Marrocu in the banquet scene in Macbeth:

In Act 2 of Macbeth, Verdi calls for a “sumptuously prepared feast” for the banquet scene in which Banquo’s ghost appears to the title character. Lady Macbeth sings a drinking song before this dramatic moment, in which she encourages the guests to drink as much as possible. Not a bad idea considering what happens next!

In Verdi’s lesser known early opera Un giorno di regno, the composer uses appetite as a dramatic device to create tension, as people await for a banquet that never takes place.

Enjoy a FEAST FOR THE EYES with your very own 2017 BARIHUNKS IN BED calendar. Now on sale!!

Support independent publishing: Buy this calendar on Lulu. 

No comments:

Post a Comment