Sunday, July 22, 2018

Celebrating the premiere of Verdi's rarity "I masnadieri"

Roberta Mantegna and Artur Rucinski in I masnadieri in Rome (Photo: Yasuko Kageyama)
Few composers wrote more great baritone and bass parts than Giuseppe Verdi. Many of his operas are named for low male voice leads instead of the usual soprano or tenor leads, including Falstaff, Rigoletto, Nabucco, Attila, Macbeth and Simon Boccanegra.

While it is his middle and late period operas that are both most performed and most popular today, his early period operas include some of the best vocal writing for low male voices. Those operas reflected his sympathy with the Risorgimento movement which sought the unification of Italy and produced the chorus "Va, pensiero" from Nabucco, which became the unofficial anthem of the movement.

His early works echo the dominant style of "aria, duet, ensemble and finale" common with composers of the era, including Rossini and Donizetti. The aria centered on a soloist generally singing three sections, including a cabaletta featuring some bravura singing.  His finales often feature soloists, ensemble and chorus, usually culminating with an exciting stretto section. 

Dmitry Hvorostovsky sings "Vecchio! Spiccai...La sua lampada vitale...Tremate. o miseri!"

July 22nd marks the 1847 premiere of one of his lesser known early operas, I masnadieri, his first opera composed for a foreign theater, London's Her Majesty's Theatre. The opera with its themes of fratricide, patricide, treachery, betrayal and a doomed love interest, was unpopular with London audiences and never truly found its place in the repertory. It basically disappeared from the performance archives until a 1951 revival broadcast on RAI with Sesto Bruscantini and Renato Capecchi.

 Edita Gruberova sings "Tu del mio Carlo":

The opera is probably his most "male dominated" opera, with six of the seven leads being male and the chorus consisting of male bandits. Despite that, the operas most enduring piece is Amalia's aria and cabaletta "Tu del mio Carlo al seno...Carlo vive? O caro accento," a bravura piece that appears with some frequency on soprano recordings.

Nonetheless, the men get some real showstoppers, including Francesco's dramatic finale “Pareami che sorto da lauto convito.” In the aria, Francesco contemplates his judgment day and the terror it will bring, imagining that he will not be allowed into heaven because of his cruel deeds.

Dmitry Hvorostovsky sings "Tradimento! ... Pareami, che sorto da lauto convito":

One of the key characters in the operas is the bass role Count Massimiliano, who is featured in the Act 1 quartet “Sul capo mio colpevole” and sings the Act III aria “Un ignoto, tre lune or saranno.”

Bonaldo Gaiotti sings "Un ignoto, tre lune or saranno":

Upcoming performance of the opera are at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia with Artur Rucinski as Francesco and Michele Pertusi as Massiliano from February 6-17, 2019, and at the Teatro alla Scala with Massimo Cavalletti as Francesco and Michele Pertusi as Massimiliano from June 18-July 7, 2019.

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