Saturday, April 24, 2021



The aria works for me on several levels:

It's Mozart -- who doesn't like Mozart?

The Italian libretto uses the 2nd person plural: voi che sapete...(ye who know). This looks like the second person singular (formal) in French: vous qui savez (you, sir, who know): French uses its second person plural vous form to address single people formally, while Italian reserves that pronoun -- voi = vous-- for addressing more than one person (second person plural). Italians use their third person (pronouns Lei and Lui) and corresponding verbs to address someone formally. 

It seems that every European language -- whether derived from Latin or not -- chose a particular way to address strangers but especially royalty. The Germans took over their third person plural for this purpose: Wissen Sie (literally "They who know" is used to address one person; Greeks, like the French, use their second person plural; We, like the Italians use our third person singular verb form which you can see in vestigial English: "Does his majesty wish" (third person, singular). Anything but the familiar tu, du, thou's to address royals. If you think this is confusing, try holding all these in your head when playing polyglot.

The word nozze in Italian is intriguing. Where does it come from? The closest English cognate is nuptials. 

Back to the aria itself. I should see "The Marriage of Figaro" before I die. I am a perfect candidate for enjoying opera, especially Italian. I have a good working knowledge of the language. Back when when I first studied it as my first foreign language at UW Madison, it was just me and a bunch of female music students in that class. Good times! I was just a local bumpkin -- not even matriculated -- trying to show off for those young women. That worked out well. But I always thought opera too highbrow for the likes of me. My sad loss. 


The Dude said...

The first time I saw Le Nozze was at the San Francisco Opera House - very nice - excellent performance, very enjoyable.

I took my children to see an English language version at Duke - it was okay, but it's always better to hear an opera in the original Klingon, as they say.

Here in the south was just say "All y'all" and that covers all the cases mentioned above.

As for universities and Italians, see "Breaking Away". That was a movie I enjoyed quite a bit, due to having lived in Bloomington, the bicycling theme, and the ever memorable catch phrase "The Italians are coming, the Italians are coming". Great movie. And be sure to punch the time clock on your way out.

As for seeing operas - it is Saturday afternoon, and for decades I have listened to Live from the Met during this time - I am not in the shop right now, so I don't even know if it is being broadcast these days - who knows - those sissified New Yorkers are probably cowering in the dark wearing masks. I miss opera. Thanks for posting that, CL.

The Dude said...

CL - did you ever watch the movie "Amadeus"? There is a good scene in there where Wolfie has a discussion with the other court musicians about which language he should use in the opera he is proposing. It's an Italian versus German argument, and it's pretty good.

Mozart's operas Figaro, Cosi fan tutti and Don Giovanni all had librettos by Da Ponte - who I just read, moved to the United States - he was an Italian/American librettist - how cool is that?

chickelit said...

I'm a woeful ignoramus regarding "Amadeus." I've seen snippets, but never the whole thing.

Please post some good snippets! And if you post some of those Mozart operas, try for some with good subtitles. I looked at a few for this clip and it was the best among a few that sucked.

The Dude said...

There are two versions of "Amadeus" floating around - the 160 minute version that was released to theaters and the 180 minute long director's cut. I have seen them both. You make the call. But the important thing is that you set aside the 2-3 hours required to watch it in its entirety. Forman is a good director and he did a great job on this movie. The interiors are amazing, the music is awesome (it is Mozart, after all) and even the choreography, done by my close personal friend Twyla Tharp is impressive.

I used to listen to the soundtrack on headphones at work. I had the full film score on CDs. I had a copy of the movie on laser disc. To say that I thoroughly enjoy that movie is an understatement. Watch it. Stat! I think you will get a kick out of the settings and the story.

chickelit said...

Well, I shall have to find a pirated version on YouTube. You see I am living without a TV and cable and loving it. When I get the urge to watch something current, I go over to my brother's place. They get every channel and their TV is always on..

chickelit said...

I downloaded the extended (full) Amadeus soundtrack. I'll give it non stop listen the next chance I get -- probably during my upcoming travel time.

The Dude said...

It is good stuff. I really liked most of it - the flute and harp duo - not so much.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail - that's the Turkish finale to that opera.

Now that I look over what is in that score I think I really, really enjoyed the heck out of it.

I even went to see "Don Giovani" at the Kennedy Center. Good times.

Oh yeah, if you are shy about seeing opera in person they have what are called Supertitles now - very helpful, very audience friendly.

chickelit said...

Sixty, I've been in possession of "Der Ring" and the corresponding libretto. Wagner is tough though because he wrote it in disciplined metrical style and consequently used a lot of elision and obscure German verbiage -- most of it old. I enjoyed the first few svcenes but dropped it because I didn't have a decent CD player. Now that I'm getting one back, I'll resume.

The Dude said...

I was fortunate enough to work with a guy who was a big fan of opera. I had been listening to opera all my life, but he was able to explain it to me, and he had seen every opera of note in person. Every time the Met showed the Ring Cycle he would go up to the big city to see it. He could tell you the entire story with the Siegmund and Sieglinde and their boy Seigheil or whatever they called him. He really like Wagner a lot. Hell, that ol' boy loved opera a lot.

After hearing "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen" on the Amadeus soundtrack I asked him if he had any other versions of it I could listen to. This was back in the '80s and he had built a special storage area in his house just for his record collection. He had, of course, the finest audio gear I ever saw or heard, but that's another story. He said "I don't really like Mozart that much, but here are my Magic Flute recordings" and he had five or six complete boxed sets of that one opera. We went through them, and I can't even remember which one I liked the best, but the quality of soprano singers does vary and to hit the notes properly in that and the other Queen of the Night aria is very difficult.

Anyway, I used to talk to him at work about opera - to hell with work, learning about opera was what was important! So I soaked up what I could and have never stopped listening ever since.

And not to get too far afield, I think he had something like 3,500 records in his collection - almost exclusively classical music. He knew his stuff. He had seen all the great conductors conduct the great works since back in the early '50s. If you got him on the subject of a composer he liked he would go on and on. Which is what I am doing...

chickelit said...

I listen to a streaming radio station called KUSC. I used to pick it up with FM reception -- they broadcast out of LA. They have a great cast of regulars and I've been listening to it for years now. .A woman named Jennifer Miller hosts an hour long opera show every night. She seems to know her stuff.

chickelit said...

We'll have to keep an opera theme going, going forward. Even if it's just you and me and we annoy the others.

The Dude said...

Check out WCPE - they are a local all-classical music radio station and they have an online presence - the late Al Roccio used to present their Thursday night opera show which featured one opera each week, and since his death others have taken over that role. That is a good way to increase one's knowledge about operas, one opera at a time.

They also broadcast Live from the Met on Saturdays, which used to be a live opera but since New Yorkers are snowflakes, they have been doing reruns for a year now. But once again, the announcers have great knowledge and they present it, sometimes, totally non-flamboyantly.

I have heard people criticize opera as being unrealistic, that the stories are unbelievable, that in the time of Wotan there were not giants bestriding the earth placing gold in the bottom of the river - to them I say prove it!

The Dude said...

Also, watch "Amadeus". Seriously. The scene where Salieri reads Mozart's music and describes the music in words - what a scene that is. That is the essence of music right there.