Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Gyppo's top twelve operas - 2

It's Puccini night!
Like many a classically-trained singer, I have the same affection for Puccini as Alpinists do for the Matterhorn. It's a challenge you set yourself. Having said that, Puccini knew how to write stuff that sounds more difficult than it really is - he provides you with the musical equivalent of conveniently-spaced handholds to give you a fighting chance. I've tried to go with whole operas rather than merely the sources of favourite tenor "warhorses", so I'm afraid that I've had to wave goodbye - tearfully and while waving a large handkershief dramatically - to both Nessun Dorma and Che Gelida Manina (which if my Italian serves me correctly, means "Your hand is in my ice-cream!")

Gianni Schicchi
More people know the one rather insipid soprano aria O mio babbino caro than know the rest of this one-acter; which is a shame because the tenor parts are rather good too. Of course, if you're allowed to count Il Trittico ('the triptych', written as a single evening's performance of three one-act operas) as one, you get Il Tabbaro and Suor Angelica thrown in too, which is a good package deal by any standards. Gianni Schicchi is also refreshingly rare as being a genuinely funny operatic comedy.

La Fanciulla Del West
Who can resist the spectacle of cowboys and Indians singing in Italian? Yes, this has to be the finest operatic western ever written. Though not the most popular of Giacamo's works, it nonetheless has its admirers (myself included, obviously) for being better dramatically integrated than many of the others and musically more 'modern' to boot.

Not only do I - like all tenors - have a soft spot for Cavaradossi, but choosing this gives me an opportunity to air a funny story about an erstwhile colleague of Scaryduck, No Good Boyo and myself - let us call her Doris - to whom I shamelessly dropped the fact that an old chum had invited me to play Cavaradossi in an amateur production.

Doris: Tosca? Are you any good at jumping off walls?
Me: Pardon? Um, I'm a tenor.
Doris: Yes, but are you any good at jumping off walls?
Me: It's only Tosca who jumps off the wall at the end.
Doris: I thought they all did.
Me: Have you ever actually seen Tosca?
Doris: Well, no...

Actually, come to think of it, the entire cast leaping from the walls might be an improvement, adding some much-needed laughs to the otherwise depressing final act.


No Good Boyo said...

Forget Gianni Schicchi, what about Greta Scacchi?

Che Gelida Manina is Buenos Aires Spanish for "Tomorrow, Ernesto, Fidel's Busy".

Gadjo Dilo said...

I'm a tenor too, Gyppo, and have been taking singing lessons recently. I confess that I'd thought that Puccini was the Andrew Lloyd Webber of his day, but then I saw Tosca at our Romanian Opera House and loved it.

The Hungarian Opera House here seem to have Gianni Schicchi in their reportoire and I've tried to persuade people to come and see it with me; no luck yet but I'll try again!

Gyppo Byard said...

Good for you, Gadjo bor! Maybe we can attach crocodile clips to Boyo's nadgers and appear as a cut-price version of The Three Tenors...

Boyo - I think you're probably thinking of the mezzo role of Greta Schacchi (who has the famous duet in the sauna scene with the soprano Elena Mirreno) in Scotti's rarely-performed I Vampyri Sapphici.

No Good Boyo said...

La Mirren, hurrngh. Shame the scene with Cheryl Campbell was cut.

Can you imagine what Puccini sounds in Hungarian, Gadjo? No wonder those tickets are still going begging.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Boyo, everything sounds ridiculous in Hungarian, (though in my post on operas I'm trying to the redress the seemingly anti-Magyar stance taken in some of my previous utterings).

Gyppo, I've really been enjoying the singing lessons - I'm a "lyric tenor in the Irish tradition", apparantly(!) There've been various bandwagon-jumping imitations of the three original tenors; why not call ourselves The Three Nadgers - with use of crocodile clips for the jokey "informal" section just before the interval.

Gyppo Byard said...

"A lyric tenor in the Irish tradition" strikes me as a rather barbed comment; referring as it probably does to Count John McCormack:


While he was a fine singer, it should not be forgotten that a perceptive critic greeted his London debut with the following: "Last night there was an interesting concert featuring an Irish tenor named McCormack with an enormous voice but very little brain".

Gadjo Dilo said...

Gyppo, from what you say I think my singing teacher is more "in the Irish tradition" than I am, as his main aim seems to be sing as loudly as possible. Though a bit of a twat in this regard, he's actually also a very good teacher.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Count John McCormack could clear an area the size of a football stadium with the weight of his voice alone.

I once sang at the Free Trade Hall, which statement encapsulates the barbarity of the 1970s in a nutshell.

Can Bass 1 said...

My dear sir - a 'classically trained singer' eh? Bravo! (You don't, by any chance, require any further training, do you?)

Kevin Musgrove said...

Alack: my voice is as well-trained as an incontinent chihuahua. They were desperate times with not so much as a barrel to scrape.