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Concerts

Fall 2010

LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN (1881)
Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

“Non, aucun hôte , vraiment” (Olympia’s Act)
The Chorus

“Glou! Glou! Glou!” (The Prologue)
The Chorus

“Drig! Drig! Drig!” (The Prologue)
Brian Kim, Stephen Anastasia, Mauricio A. Palma II, and the Men’s Chorus

“Il était une fois à la cour d’Eisenach” (The Prologue)
Rodell Aure Rosel, Derek Rue and the Chorus

“Belle nuit” (Giuilietta’s Act)
Katherine Giaquinto, Judy Tran and the Chorus

“Scintille, Diamant” (Giulietta’s Act)
Roberto Perlas Gómez

“Hélas mon coeur” (Giulietta’s Act)
Ms. Giaquinto, Mr. Rosel, Mr. Gómez, Ms. Tran, Joseph Michels, Mr. Anastasia and the Chorus

Finale
Ms. Giaquinto, Ms. Tran, Mr. Rosel, Mr. Gómez, Mr. Michels, Mr. Anastasia, Mr. Palma and the Chorus

LA TRAVIATA (1853)
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

“Si ridesta in ciel l’aurora”
The Chorus

“Ah, fors é lui” and “Sempre libera”
Ms. Giaquinto

Act II Scene 2 Finale
Ms. Giaquinto, Mr. Rosel, Mr. Gómez, Anne-Marie Sevier, Robert Norman, Mr. Palma, Mr. Anastasia, Michael Davis, and the Chorus

INTERMISSION

MANON (1884)
Jules Massenet (1842-1912)

“Voici l’Opéra”
Chorus

“Entendez vous la cloche”
Mr. Gómez and the Chorus

“Je suis encore”
Ms. Giaquinto and the Chorus

“Le joueur san prudence”
Mr. Gómez, Jennifer Miller, Ms. Sevier, Ms. Tran and the Men’s Chorus

“Ce bruit de l’or”
Ms. Giaquinto, Ms. Miller, Ms. Sevier, Ms. Tran and the Women’s Chorus

THE GHOSTS OF VERSAILLES (1991)
by John Corigliano (1938-)

The Worm
Mr.Rosel

LA RONDINE (1917)
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)

“Chi il bel sogno di Doretta”
Ms. Giaquinto and the Chorus

“Fiori freschi!”
Laura Schmidt, Ms. Miller, Ms. Sevier, Mr. Anastasia and the Chorus

“Nella dolce carezza”
VanNessa Hulme, Mr. Norman and the Chorus

“Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso”
Ms. Giaquinto, Mr. Rosel, Mr. Gómez, Ms. Hulme, Mr. Norman, and the Chorus

Katherine Giaquinto

Soprano

Rodell Aure Rosel

Tenor

Fall 2010

LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN

Jacques Offenbach was famed in his lifetime for his light operas, bringing the form of what we now call operetta to the peak of its popularity and style. Founding his own theater in 1855 in Paris, he combined social and political satire while sometimes parodying grand opera. Described by Rossini as the “Mozart of the Champs-Elysées,” Offenbach wrote almost 100 light operas, of which Orpheus in the Underworld, La belle Hélène, La vie parisienne, The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein and La Périchole remain popular 150 years later. He was so driven to compose that even his carriage was equipped with a writing desk, inkwell and candles. Following financial disaster at his theater after the Franco-Prussian War and the Second Empire’s collapse, he went on tour in the U.S. to recoup his losses.

On his return to Europe, he dedicated himself to the composition of his most enduring masterpiece. He did not live, however, to see the success of Les Contes d’Hoffmann, a “serious opera” on which he had justly placed so much hope for posterity. Having famously said that he would die with a melody at the end of his pen, Offenbach had in fact just completed Hoffmann’s piano score and was at work on the orchestration when he died, only four months before the Paris premiere in October, 1880. The orchestration and final version were prepared by Ernest Guiraud, a composer whose own works are now forgotten but who is also notable for writing the recitatives for Bizet’s Carmen, which are now used in most productions in place of the original spoken dialog. The premiere was everything Offenbach could have hoped. Achieving over 100 performances in Paris alone in its first year, it was followed by a worldwide recognition which has never faded.

Using a libretto by Jules and Pierre Barbier, Hoffmann is based on the “memoirs” and stories of E.T.A. Hoffmann, a German writer, composer and painter best known for his mysterious stories featuring supernatural characters and devices, including the tale that became The Nutcracker. Mixing fantasy and realism, the three acts tell of three of Hoffman’s love affairs, which he recounts to a group of students in a Nuremberg tavern, while awaiting the arrival of a fourth love, Stella.

Recent musicological research, aided by Offenbach’s heirs, who allowed access to over a thousand pages of additional material by the composer, has provided a more accurate view of Offenbach’s intentions for the final shape of Hoffmann. The Verdi Chorus presents some of these important changes, especially in the fully restored finale to the Venice act (“Helas mon coeur”) as well as the opera’s original ending as Offenbach had intended it.

The first of Hoffmann’s fantastic tales of lost loves we see brought to life onstage is that of Olympia, a beautiful young woman who turns out to be a mechanical doll created by the physicist Spalanzani. At a ball where Spalanzani will introduce his “daughter” to Paris society, the guests eagerly discuss the grandness of the ball and their eagerness to meet his daughter. (“Non, aucun hôte, vraiment.”) They beseech Monsieur Spalanzani to bring her to them, commenting that they have heard she is ravishing and has no vices. The guests admire the furnishings and expect to enjoy refreshments after Olympia’s debut.

In the Prologue to the opera, the curtain rises on an empty tavern, inhabited only by the Spirits of Beer and Wine, who celebrate themselves (“Glou Glou Glou”) as the friends of mankind, who chase away languor and worry. The tavern fills with students (“Drig! Drig! Drig!”) who call on the tavernmaster Luther to give them beer and wine, and to keep filling their glasses until morning. They tease Luther as they bang their pewter mugs on the tables and improvise increasingly silly verses to a rowdy drinking song. Saying that Luther is a good man with a good cellar and his wife a true daughter of Eve, nonetheless tomorrow they will thrash him, ransack his cellar and abduct his wife. Luther ignores these sallies as he tries to provide drinks for all of them.

The poet Hoffmann enters with his ubiquitous friend Nicklausse (a trousers role for mezzo-soprano), who is also his Muse in disguise and who protects him throughout the opera. Hoffmann comments that life is short, and one should drink, sing and laugh today, as one may weep tomorrow. The students demand that Hoffmann amuse them with a story. Hoffmann obliges them with the legend of Kleinzach, a dwarf in the court of Eisenach (“Il était une fois à la cour d’Eisenach.”) The woeful Kleinzach had legs that went “clic clac,” had a hump for a stomach, a nose black with tobacco, and a head that went “crick crack.” The reveling students echo his ludicrous descriptions.

As Hoffmann is describing Kleinzach’s features, the music and tempo change as Hoffmann falls into a reverie. This aria is unique in the dichotomy between the comedy of Hoffman’s story and his nearly dreamlike illusion of the past. He describes a beautiful face that he sees once more, remembering how he followed this woman, leaving his father’s house like a madman to pursue her across the countryside. He rhapsodizes about her dark hair, her beautiful blue eyes, and the sweet and vibrant voice which still resonates in his heart. Lost in his memories, he is startled out of them by the demand that he finish the story of Kleinzach. Hoffmann returns to his boisterous ridicule of the dwarf, but one senses that he is still affected by his vision of this lost love.

In the traditional order of the opera, the second of Hoffmann’s stories of a frustrated love occurs during a banquet in Venice at the palace of the courtesan Giulietta, which overlooks the Grand Canal. Giulietta and Nicklausse join in the famous Barcarolle, singing of the lovely night, the night of love (“Belle nuit.”) They ask the night to smile upon them and their infatuation and bestow its kisses, as time flies beyond recall. They extol the night as sweeter than daylight.

In each of Hoffmann’s encounters with a woman, including the Prologue and Finale, there is a malevolent nemesis who thwarts his happiness. In the Giulietta act, the bass-baritone who sings all four of these roles is named Dappertutto. He utilizes supernatural powers (a frequent plot device in the actual tales by E.T.A. Hoffmann, three of whose stories were used in devising the libretto) to charm Giulietta into stealing Hoffmann’s reflection with a magical mirror. In his aria “Scintille, diamant ,“ he addresses his large, glittering diamond ring, calling it a mirror in which a lark is caught, as are women. He sings that both lark and woman fly to the sparkle, one losing its life, the other her soul.

In the Septet which ends this act, Hoffmann both revels and despairs in his love for Giulietta (“Hélas mon coeur,”) cursing the love that devours him. Giulietta laments that while she adores him, she can’t resist the spell of Dappertutto and his ring. Dappertutto mocks Hoffman, commenting that he is again in love in vain, and taunting him that Giulietta has sold her kisses. Giulietta’s guests, including a betrayed former lover and her current paramour, alternately deride Hoffmann and commiserate with him. The guests pity the lovesick poet and observe that Giulietta, caught by the spell of the diamond, takes hearts only to break them. Warning Hoffmann that whoever adores her is cursed and will die from her kiss, they urge him to still his heart, ending with a despairing “alas.”

Following the third and final story of failed love, we find Hoffmann back in the tavern, dead drunk. The woman whom he hoped to be his fourth love, the actress Stella, enters after her performance, but he is too drunk to notice her presence. Nicklausse offers her instead the final nemesis, Lindorf, and Stella leaves with him. In the Finale, Nicklausse, now in her role as Hoffmann’s Muse, reclaims him as her own. She urges him to leave the affairs of the heart (“Descendres de ton coeur”) and assert his genius. She predicts that in serenity his Muse will calm his suffering and bless his work. Hoffmann regains consciousness and hears the Muse, Stella and Lindorf, invisible to him, counseling him to dedicate himself to his art. Quietly he repeats their words. The tavern denizens, along with all the other characters (who are, after all, Hoffman’s creations), proclaim that while his writing about love will be great, even greater is his potential as a result of his losses and tears.

LA TRAVIATA

La traviata is set to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave based on the Alexandre Dumas  fils’ novel and play La dame aux camélias (more popularly known in English as Camille.) Dumas’ work was a lightly fictionalized portrayal of the famous courtesan Marie Duplessis, who had liaisons not only with Dumas but other celebrated artists and nobles in mid-19th century Paris. The composer Franz Liszt wrote of her as the first woman he ever loved and praised her exquisite nature. Known in the novel and the play as Marguerite Gautier, the character was played to enormous success by such figures as Sarah Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse on stage, and Greta Garbo on film.

Verdi had contracted for a new opera for La Fenice, then as now the major opera house in Venice, to be composed and premiered in the same remarkable three-year period in which he created Rigoletto (also for La Fenice ) and Il trovatore. Following the riotous success of Trovatore in Rome in early 1853, Verdi returned to his home in Lombardy, exhausted and suffering from various ailments. Already behind schedule in producing a first draft for his commitment to Venice, he set to work with his longtime friend and collaborator Piave (most recently the librettist of Rigoletto). Piave reported that they had virtually completed the first draft of another story (about which no information remains) when Verdi became enamored of the idea of fashioning an opera from Dumas’ Paris success of the previous year. Verdi was constantly searching for material that would allow him to move forward, both musically and theatrically. Although he was advised against choosing such a subject, and setting it in his own time, he pointed out that no one had liked the idea of a hunchback as an operatic hero, and Rigoletto had turned out to his and everyone else’s satisfaction. He worked feverishly with Piave to finish the piece, simultaneously battling with La Fenice’s management over casting issues and staging the piece in contemporary dress (which his eternal nemesis, the censors, refused to accept.) He lost both battles but nonetheless allowed the production to proceed, with the mise-en-scène now set in “the era of Richelieu.” True to his predictions, La traviata did not achieve a great success in its initial production in March, 1853 (only two months after the premiere of Il trovatore), although it was not the “fiasco” which its author repeatedly deplored in numerous letters to friends. Having declared that time would tell whether its “failure” was his fault or the singers’, he withdrew it from subsequent productions until the appropriate cast could be found. This was achieved only a year later, first at a different theater in Venice where it was a brilliant success, followed by productions all over the world. (It was not, however, staged in contemporary dress as Verdi had intended until 1906, in Milan.) La traviata soon joined Rigoletto and Il trovatore in the mighty triumvirate of Verdi’s middle years, and it remains not only one of his most beloved works, but one of the most popular operas in the world.

Having originally named the opera Amore e morte (Love and Death), he took as its title the heroine’s characterization of herself as “La Traviata” (a courtesan, but also meaning “the lost”). With the character Marguerite now named Violetta, Verdi created what is perhaps his greatest portrayal, a vibrant and soulful beauty who enchants everyone she encounters (and continues to do so.) Liszt described the living prototype of Violetta as a woman whose heart was never touched by corruption, and it is this nobility of spirit that Verdi captured with such sympathy and grace.

Set in the Paris demimonde of the 19th Century, it is the star-crossed love story of the glamorous Parisian courtesan Violetta Valéry and Alfredo Germont, an innocent young man from the provinces. The first scene takes place in August at a party at Violetta’s house in Paris. Violetta welcomes her guests, including Alfredo, who has loved Violetta from afar for some time, but whom she has never met. He quickly charms her with his unabashed ardor and charming manner. Violetta gives up her luxurious life and retreats to the country with Alfredo, who is shocked to discover that Violetta has been selling her possessions to support them. Alfredo rushes to Paris to try to raise funds, and Violetta is visited by Alfredo’s father, who initially castigates her for ruining his son’s life. He soon recognizes that Violetta is not what he had expected, and he begs her to renounce the liaison with his son which threatens the proposed marriage of Alfredo’s young sister. Although heartbroken at the prospect of losing Alfredo, Violetta agrees, and scribbles a note to him announcing that she is returning to her former life (and her lover Baron Douphil) in Paris. The furious Alfredo follows her to Paris, where he confronts her at a grand party and insults her in front of all of their friends. His father and friends are shocked by his behavior, and Douphil challenges him to a duel. In the final act, the dying Violetta (racked by consumption) is visited by both Alfredo (who has gone abroad after wounding his rival) and his father, who has told his son of her magnanimous sacrifice. Violetta is overjoyed at his return and swears that she will survive to forge a new life with Alfredo, but her ecstasy at their reunion is too much for her, and she dies in his arms.

At a party at Violetta’s house in the first scene, Violetta has nearly fainted (already suffering from the disease which will kill her) as she sends her guests off to dance. She dismisses their concerns about her and tells them to go enjoy themselves while she catches her breath. Alfredo solicitously remains behind and entreats her to let him take care of her. She resists his passionate wooing, but tells him to return to visit her the next day.

Violetta’s guests return to the salon, flushed from dancing. Realizing that dawn is breaking (“Si ridesta in ciel l’aurora”) and it’s time to leave, they enthusiastically thank their hostess for the splendid party. Although the city is still at play, they’ll restore their energy in sleep so they are ready to enjoy themselves again.

Left alone after her guests’ departure, Violetta muses over her unusual attraction to Alfredo, who has kindled feelings she has never felt before. Wondering whether true love will only bring her misfortune, she is nonetheless filled with joy at the thought of loving and being loved, in contrast to her current sterile existence. Perhaps this is the man (“Ah, fors’ è lui”) she has imagined, who will bring her the mysterious, majestic love that animates the whole world, and which she had imagined as a young girl. She quickly berates herself for her folly in thinking that a poor woman, abandoned in the desert called Paris, can hope for more. She resolves that she will live only for pleasure and remain always free (“Sempre libera”). As each day is born, and each day dies, she will discover new delights. Startled out of her reflections by Alfredo serenading her outside the window, she resists the folly that has carried her away, and again vows to remain free forever.

In the climactic Finale to Act II, Alfredo confronts Violetta, who tries to convince him that she is genuinely in love with the Baron Douphil. The outraged Alfredo shouts for the puzzled guests to return from the dining room, and tells them that she had spent all she had to support him. Alfredo had accepted it blindly, but now will repay his shameful debt to her in front of witnesses. He throws the money he won gambling with the Baron at Violetta’s feet, who faints at the affront. The shocked gathering recoils from his horrible infamy. He has not only assaulted Violetta’s sensitive heart but insulted all women. Saying that Alfredo fills them with horror, they order him to leave. Alfredo’s father has witnessed the insult to Violetta, and likewise rebukes his son. A man who insults a woman, even in anger, is contemptible, and Germont no longer recognizes his son in the man who committed this act. Horrorstricken by his own behavior, Alfredo recognizes that mad jealousy has destroyed his reason. Wondering if he can ever gain her forgiveness, he now feels only remorse at having vented his anger. Meanwhile, Violetta’s friends try to revive and comfort her as the Baron draws Alfredo aside and vows revenge. The elder Germont knows that Violetta has kept her vow never to tell Alfredo the truth behind her departure, while the heartbroken Violetta tries to recover. She knows that Alfredo doesn’t comprehend the love in her heart, but that the time will come when he will be told of her sacrifice. She prays that God will save him from remorse and vows to love him even after her death.

MANON

Manon, Massenet’s greatest triumph, was adapted from Abbé Prévost’s 18th century novel L’Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut. Banned from publication in Paris in 1731, the novel was nevertheless very popular, widely distributed and adapted in a number of forms. Massenet and his librettists Henri Meilhac (also a librettist for Offenbach and Bizet) and Philippe Gille concentrated their attention on the character of Manon rather than des Grieux, who had been the focus of the novel. (Massenet completed the opera in The Hague, in the same rooms in which Prévost had lived after leaving the priesthood.) Premiering in Paris on January 19, 1884 at the Opéra Comique, Manon was an immediate, continuing success, and quickly received productions in Europe and North America. By the time of Massenet’s death in 1912, Manon had received an astounding 740 performances at the Opéra Comique alone.

The young country girl Manon is sent to a convent by her family, who mistrust her attraction to pleasure and frivolity. On a stop in her journey to join her cousin Lescaut who is to accompany her to the convent, she meets and enchants the young nobleman Chevalier des Grieux and elopes with him to Paris. Des Grieux hopes to persuade his father to let him marry Manon, unaware that Lescaut and the rich old tax collector de Brétigny have entered a plot with des Grieux’s father to abduct the young man — and install Manon in a life of luxury with de Brétigny (with only fleeting reluctance on Manon’s part).

Although she revels in the jewels and fashionable life that de Brétigny provides her, when Manon learns from Des Grieux’s father that her former lover intends to enter the priesthood, Manon seeks him out at the church of Saint Sulpice and persuades him to renounce his vows and rejoin her in a life of pleasure. Soon running out of money, des Grieux reluctantly takes up gambling and is falsely arrested for cheating, as is Manon as his accomplice. His father obtains des Grieux’s release, but Manon is sentenced to exile in Louisiana. Des Grieux and Lescaut attempt to rescue Manon during the long march to her deportation at Le Havre but the trial and her journey have been too much for her. Telling him that she truly loved him in spite of her selfish behavior and begging his forgiveness, Manon dies in his arms (although not, as in Prévost’s novel and Puccini’s opera several years later, in the “deserts” of Louisiana.)

In Act III, Manon and her new circle of friends are at a carnival in the Cours La Reine. The carnival-goers are excited because Guillot de Mortfontaine has hired the ballet from the Opera to perform (““Voici l’Opéra!” in hopes of winning Manon away from de Brétigny, who comments that the costs may simply ruin de Mortfontaine. As the troupe is seen approaching, the crowd becomes increasingly enthusiastic about the performance. They note that everyone in Paris is talking about the ballet.

In the first scene of Act I, the townspeople gather in the courtyard of an inn at Amiens for their daily entertainment – the arrival of the coach (“Entendez vous la cloche.”) They enjoy seeing the travelers come and go and comment on how ridiculous they all are. The young officer Lescaut arrives with his guardsmen friends to meet his cousin Manon’s coach, prior to escorting her to the convent. He assures his friends that he will join them for a round of drinking and gambling later. As the frantic passengers disembark, they attempt to locate porters, lamenting their missing baggage and birdcages. They exclaim that the horrors of traveling are so great that they should make out their wills beforehand. The porters attempt to calm them down as the townspeople laugh at their moaning and groaning about the torments of travel.

Manon descends from the carriage. Fresh from the country, she is astonished by her surroundings. Admiring the fine clothing and jewels worn by some of the women, she declares that the spectacle makes her giddy (“Je suis encore toute etourdie.”) The crowd, and especially the wealthy, elderly Guillot de Mortfontaine, are struck by her beauty.

In his effort to support Manon’s lifestyle following their reunion, des Grieux has turned to gambling. They join Lescaut at the Hotel Transylvanie, an infamous gambling den. As Lescaut pits himself against experienced card sharps, they note that the careless player relies on chance, but the wise one knows that gambling is an art (“Le joueur sans prudence.”) Fortune doesn’t frighten them, because they have ways to rectify her errors. Lescaut boasts that he always plays honestly, as the young “actresses” Poussette, Javotte and Rosette stroll among the gamblers, observing that night and day, gold comes to the most beautiful, and they are the ones who always manage to gain it. They relish the sound of gold (“Ce bruit de l’or”) and extol the riches they hope to gain and the beauties of gold. Manon exults that the sound of gold is one of laughter and joy, that love, roses and song will be hers and des Grieux’ today, for who knows if we will be alive tomorrow. Poussette, Javotte and Rosette echo her words as they note that youth passes and beauty disappears. For Manon there is gold, love and roses.

THE GHOSTS OF VERSAILLES

The American composer John Corigliano is known mainly for his symphonic compositions, including the score to the film The Red Violin.  Premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1994, The Ghosts of Versailles’ complex libretto by William Hoffman combines the ongoing saga of Figaro and the Almaviva family twenty years after Beaumarchais’ trilogy – the best known being The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro – with a twist on the French revolution. In the ghostly afterlives of the court of Louis XVI, the ghost of Beumarchais stages an opera to entertain Marie Antoinette and the rest of the court. In the opera-within-an-opera, Count Almaviva plans to sell the queen’s necklace in order to rescue her from the guillotine and convey her to America. Almaviva doesn’t realize that his false friend Bégearss has been spying on him and plans to have him arrested, in spite of Figaro’s warnings that Bégearss is a double agent for the revolutionaries. Bégearss vows to betray Almaviva and marry his daughter Florestine. He gloats that it’s true that he’s low, base, vile – but don’t they know that the king of beasts is The Worm? Lions may die, men may die – but the worm persists on sheer will and will outlive them all.

LA RONDINE

On a trip to Vienna in 1912, on the heels of the success of La Fanciulla del West, Puccini was offered a large sum by an Austrian publisher to write a light opera in the Viennese style. At first Puccini refused, but the persistent producers increased their offer and Puccini agreed, insisting however that he would not write an operetta but a “lyrical comedy”. The onset of World War I caused the cancellation of the contract but Puccini decided to proceed with the libretto which had been translated for him into Italian by Giuseppe Adami (also to be Puccini’s librettist for Il Tabarro and Turandot, as well as Puccini’s biographer after his death). La rondine (The Swallow) was a success at its premiere in neutral Monte Carlo in 1917, but subsequent Italian productions floundered and the opera has remained one of Puccini’s least-produced mature works (although in recent years there has been a revival of interest in it.)

Magda de Civry is a beautiful demimondaine maintained in luxury in 1850’s Paris by the banker Rambaldo Fernández. Ruggero, the son of an old friend of Rambaldo’s on his first visit to Paris, arrives with a letter of introduction. Unaware of her relationship with Rambaldo, Ruggero falls in love with Magda , who leaves Rambaldo to live with Ruggero on the Riviera. After several months of happiness, Ruggero writes to his family to obtain their permission to marry Magda. When he shows her a letter from his mother rejoicing in her son’s newfound love and urging him to bring Magda to meet them, Magda confesses her past to Ruggero. She tells him that she was willing to remain his mistress, but his family would never be able to accept her as a wife. Despite his desperate pleas and her love for him, Magda insists on leaving him so that he can make a suitable marriage, and she returns to her life in Paris with Rambaldo.

La rondine opens in Magda’s elegant salon, where the poet Prunier holds forth with his theory that the new fashion in Paris is true romantic love. The cynical guests mock this idea, but Magda is intrigued. Prunier sits at the piano to play his latest song, which he has been unable to complete, about a girl named Doretta who dreams that she is courted by the King,. Magda joins him at the piano to improvise the ending (“Chi il bel sogno di Doretta”), in which Doretta rejects the King because she has fallen in love with a student whose mad exhilaration is a revelation. Who could deny such a tender caress and such passionate kisses?

In Act II, disguised as a young working class woman, Magda has followed Ruggero to Bullier’s ballroom, where flower girls offer their wares (“Fiori freschi!), as the young crowd of students, artists, actresses and tourists try to attract the attention of the waiters, and argue about who will pay. Some of the patrons are already dancing in the garden as other young couples flirt and pair off. Rivers of champagne flow as the revelers toast youth and eternal laughter.

Unaware of her identity, Ruggero asks Magda to dance with him. Leaving their table to dance, they sing of the sweet caress of the dance (“Nella dolce carezza”) where they can close their eyes and dream, with nothing to disturb them, the past seeming to disappear. The other dancers join in their song, of burning ardor and trembling kisses that give life to young lovers, who live to kiss.

Although Prunier claims to have lofty standards for his desired mate, he is actually in love with Magda’s maid, Lisette, whom he has brought to Bullier’s (dressed in Magda’s clothes, which she regularly borrows without her mistress’ knowledge.) Lisette is sure she recognizes Magda, who pretends to be a working woman named Paulette. Unaware of this underplay, Ruggero leads the two couples in a toast (“Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso”), drinking to Magda’s fresh smile which has stolen Ruggero’s heart, which she must guard jealously. Magda replies that all her dreams are coming true, if only she can hope. As the two couples sing of their love for each other (and their very different views of love), the other patrons surreptitiously join them, enjoying their vows of love and bringing garlands of flowers with which to festoon the young lovers.

Notes by Tony Arn and Elisabeth O. Clark. Click on opera title to see notes.