Strange title of this post, a? Probably, you are wondering what it means. It’s not that difficult if you have learnt some Latin or one of the Roman languages deriving from Latin, Italian in particular. Yes, the Latin and then Italian word “opera” means “work” and its plural form is “opus”. Did you get it? Sì?! Okay, then … Let’s get started and off we go on a short opera tour to the Italian opera world.
Italy has an extremely long and vivid musical history starting from Vivaldi e Paganini. And it’s where opera was born and brought up. What I mean is that L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi was the first complete opera in 1607. It’s not accidental that the language of love was widely used in a great number of “Italian” and “non-Italian” operas like ….. 🙂
If we start with Gioacchino Rossini (1792 – 1868), we will not be able to omit his grand “The Barber of Seville” in which the main protagonist – Figaro, a very skillful and cunning barber, helps Count Almaviva conquer the lady of his heart (Rosina) by lying to his protector – Don Basilio.
Then Giacomo Pucini (1858 – 1924) …. He was the last true master of Italian opera. Apart from his “Manon Lescaut”, he had great success with several of his other genius operas. “La Bohème” is a true masterpiece. Its characters – carefree Rodolfo and his happy-go-lucky friends – paint the town red in Paris of 1830 but unfortunately, his greatest love (Mimì) dies in the end. What about “Tosca”? It’s another dramatic opera full of love and tragedy. In brief, Tosca is a woman that cannot save the life of her lover (Cavaradossi) from execution although she commits a crime and murders the boss of the police. Pucini wrote two other extremely famous opears. His “Madam Butterfly” tells the story of a geisha who marries an American officer. While “Turandot” is a story about a Chinese princess (this opera was finished by another composer after his death).
As I am not an opera expert, I will finish the post with the “father” of opera music. Of course, it’s Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901) who was also considered a symbol of Italian Independence because his operas were both moving and touching, and patriotic at the time of Austrian domination and the emerging spirit of the Italian Unification known as Il Risogimento.
For sure, we all know the emotional verse “Va’ pensiero sull’ali dorate” from “Nabucco” which is sung by the Jewish prisoners who dream of going back to their mother-land. There is no doubt all of us have watched “Rigoletto” in which the main character kills his daughter mistakenly or “Il Trovatore” in which a woman dies in the arms of her lover who is a mysterious hero opposing to the invasion from abroad.
The famous book by Alexandre Dumas “The Lady of Camellias” (“La signora delle camelie” in Italian), on the other hand, is the plot based on which Grand Verdi composed his “La Traviata”. Unfortunately, his tragic character – Violetta Valéry, dies in the arms of her beloved Alfredo after many misfortunates.
Last but not least, L’Aida brings us to ancient Egypt (as a matter the general notion is that the opera was written for the inauguration of the Suez Canal in 1871). I vespri siciliani is a historically based opera about the Sicilian rebellions of 1282 against the French rule of the Kingdom of Sicily.
Aaaand finally, this post will end with two of my favourite libretti, namely .. 🙂
[Rigoletto] “La donna è mobile. Qual piuma al vento, muta d’accento e di pensiero.”
[La Traviata] “Godiamo, la tazza, la tazza e il cantico, la notte abbella e il riso; in questo paradiso ne sopra il nuovo dì.”