Weekend Playlist: October 19th – Until The Fat Lady Sings…

Posted: October 19, 2012 in Opera
Tags: , , , , , ,

I haven’t posted much about opera in these pages although it is a genre of music that I find quite enjoyable and something which I’ve enjoyed learning more about (but do recognize that I have a lot more to learn).  Over the past decade or so I’ve listened to more opera than the other 4 or 5 previous decades combined and I’m sure there’s even more to come.

Like most explorations of music, your ear is the best place to start.  By listening to a wide variety of types, and eras, and performers, you can start to develop your own sense of what you enjoy the most.

Here are a few selections from operas that I find immensely enjoyable.  They stand well alone and can be a stepping stone to finding out more about the particular works.  I’ve chosen arias sung by females (and no, they’re not at all fat) and will address their male counterparts in another post.

Enjoy and have a great weekend.

  1. “Song to the Moon” – from Dvorak’s “Rusalka”.  Performed by Renee Fleming at the BBC Proms in Royal Albert Hall. First performed in 1901 in Prague.
  2. “O Mio Babbino Caro” – from “Gianni Schicchi” by Puccini.  Performed by Kiri te Kanawa.  A comic one-act opera composed in 1918.  This piece highlights Kiri’s beautiful voice extremely well.
  3. “Ombra Mai Fu” from Handel’s “Xerxes” (“Serse” in the original Italian.) as sung by Cecilia Bartoli.  It is difficult to describe how beautiful this is and even more difficult to describe how good Bartoli is with this aria.  I love the stage setting of the video also. For me, this would rank among the best arias I have ever heard.
  4. “Quando Me’n Vo'” – from “La Boheme” by Puccini.  Song by Anna Netrebko at a recital celebrating thee 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg.  A beautiful piece of music also known as “Musetta’s Waltz”.
  5. “Regnava nel silenzio” – by Donizetti from the opera “Lucia di Lammermoor” composed in 1835.  Sung by the late, great Maria Callas (1923 – 1977).  This aria is a prime example of the power and range of Callas’ magnificent voice.


  1. Lyre Bird says:

    I agree that “Ombra mai fu” is an absolutely gorgeous aria and deceptively hard to sing well. American operagoers prefer Verdi, Mozart, Puccini, and Wagner, so Handel’s opera “Serse” is rarely performed here. But that means “Ombra” can stand alone as a melody for all voice types, divorced from the original role – the only aria among your selections that is sung by both men and women.

    Handel wrote the role of Serse for a castrato (yes, that is exactly what it sounds like: a castrated male who sings with the power of a man but in the higher range of a woman). SInce we don’t castrate boy sopranos anymore, the role is now sung by either a countertenor (a man singing falsetto) or a mezzo-soprano (the lower range of female voice) like Cecilia Bartoli in your example.

    This is close to what a castrato would have sounded like back in Baroque times. Countertenor Andreas Scholl singing “Ombra mai fu”:

    For contrast, here is the wonderful Russian baritone Dimitri Hvorostovsky singing the same in a natural male voice:

    BTW, if you understand Italian, it’s a love song to a TREE! “Ombra mai fu di vegetabile, cara ed amabile soave piu” means “Never was made a plant dearer or more loving and gentle.” I love opera but I’m the first to admit that the stories are often silly, despite the glorious music. For example, your other choices “Quando m’en vo” is a woman bragging that the guys can’t keep their eyes off her when she walks down the street, and “O mio babbino caro” is a spoiled brat trying to wheedle her will on her doting father – the Victorian equivalent of a teenager begging for an iPhone 5.

    Sausage doesn’t taste quite so delicious when you know what’s in it, eh? LOL.


    • Tim Brosnan says:

      Thanks for the great insights! I guess some of the aria themes were just the tabloid news of their day. Perhaps in a hundred years some opera goer will turn to their seatmate and whisper “What’s an iPhone 5?”.


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