“Qui si attenda”
Sang Wook Kwon and the Chorus
Inno della Morte
Gran scena e preghiera
Lori Ann Fuller, VanNessa Hulme and the Chorus
“Bella siccome un angelo”
“Che interminabile andirivieni!”
Hak Soo Kim and the Chorus
“Tornami a dir”
Ms. Fuller and Mr. Kim
“Posa in pace”
Mauricio A. Palma II, Mr. Kwon and the Men’s Chorus
“Ogni cura se doni al diletto”
Ms. Fuller, Mr. Kim, Mr Chan and the Chorus
“O figlio d’Inghilterra”
Ms. Fuller, Mr. Kim, Mr. Chan and the Chorus
“Gli aranci olezzano”
“Il cavallo scalpita”
Mr. Chan and the Chorus
“Regina coeli laetare” and “Inneggiamo, il Signor non è morto”
The Verdi Chorus Section Leaders and the Chorus
“Life is Happiness Indeed”
Ms. Hulme, Judy Tran, Robert Norman and Mr. Palma
“Glitter and Be Gay”
Ballad of Eldorado
Mr. Kim and the Chorus
“The Best of All Possible Worlds”
Ms. Fuller, Mr. Kim, Mr. Chan and the Chorus
“Make Our Garden Grow”
Ms. Fuller, Mr. Kim, Mr. Chan, Jamie Noel Berrios, Ms. Tran, Mr. Norman, Sun Wook Kil, Mr. Palma, DeReau Ferrar, Mr. Kwon and the Chorus
Domenico Gaetano Donizetti was born in Bergamo to a poor family with no musical background, but he went on to become one of the most successful of 18th Century Italian bel canto composers. Early in his career, he wrote a variety of music such as church music, string quartets, and orchestral works, but interest in one of his early operas led to his devoting himself almost exclusively to composing operas, of which he wrote an astonishing number (over 70 in a short 12 years). Skilled in both serious opera such as his tragic masterpiece Lucia di Lammermoor and comic operas such as Don Pasquale, La fille du régiment and L’elisir d’amore, his works have held the world stage for almost 200 years.
Based on Friedrich von Schiller’s drama, Maria Stuarda deals with the tragic end of Mary, Queen of Scots during the reign of Elizabeth I. The libretto (written by the 18-year old Giuseppe Bardari) retains much of the structure of Schiller’s play, including the love triangle among Mary, Elizabeth, and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. In a striking scene (with no basis in historical fact), both play and libretto present a highly charged meeting between Mary and Elizabeth. Condemned to death by Elizabeth’s Privy Council, Mary entreats her cousin to spare her life. Elizabeth is unmoved by Mary’s humble plea and castigates her cousin, who angrily lashes back at her. In a rage, Elizabeth finally agrees to sign the death warrant and orders her favorite Leicester (whom she jealously, but accurately, suspects of loving Mary) to prove his loyalty by presiding over Mary’s execution.
Maria Stuarda was to have premiered in Naples, but (as often happened throughout Italy, and particularly in Naples), its planned premiere in 1834 was banned. Although stories of political conspiracy were always suspect, the libretto had been approved by the censors. However, the King of Naples directly intervened and at the last minute forbade its presentation because Queen Maria Cristina was a direct descendant of Mary, Queen of Scots and was reported to have been overcome at the representation of her ancestor’s fate after having attended a dress rehearsal. Attempts to secure permission to change the characters were refused, and an entirely new libretto was pasted onto most of the existing score as Buondelmonte, which failed to win success in Naples. Donizetti was finally to see the premiere of Maria Stuarda as he had written it in 1835 in Milan. Initially a failure because of the atrocious singing of Maria Malibran in the title role, Maria Stuarda won respect in the 20th century and is now one of Donizetti’s most admired dramatic operas.
In Act I, Scene 1, Elizabeth’s court awaits the Queen’s arrival at the Palace of Westminster. Rumors of Elizabeth’s betrothal to the heir to France’s throne have spread among the court and they welcome the proposed era of peace with their longtime enemy. In “Qui si attenda”, the courtiers exclaim that the queen, the joy of every heart, is almost there, returned from a tournament with the French court. How happy they would be if such a great love should be contracted. As Elizabeth makes a triumphal entrance, the members of the court exclaim that the pure star of England will appear even more beautiful once she is joined with the splendor of France. Joyously they celebrate the power of love.
The joyfulness of the first scene is in sharp contrast to the despair felt in the third act by Mary’s friends as they wait for her to be brought to the scaffold (Inno della Morte). They commiserate at the sight of the block and the executioner’s ax, and are horrified by the eager crowd at the foot of the steps to the scaffold. Scorning the low-born swarm who await their beloved Queen’s death, Mary’s supporters condemn the barbarous act that will forever bring shame and infamy to England. Mary’s nurse Anna cautions them to restrain their grief so as not to cause Mary more sorrow. As Mary is brought in to bid farewell (Gran scena e preghiera), she comforts them and says she is content to go to a better life in the embrace of God. Instructing them that they should leave the sorrows of England after her death, she admonishes them for their tears. Giving the faithful Anna as a remembrance a handkerchief Mary has embroidered and bathed with her tears, she asks her adherents to join her in a humble prayer (“Deh! Tu di un umile preghiera”), asking a merciful God to take pity on her and welcome her to the pardoning shelter of his grace. Mary’s friends beg her to forget the carelessness of her former life and pray that a benign heaven will pardon her and free her from sorrow and grief.
One of Donizetti’s final works among his remarkable output, Don Pasquale is not only among his most popular and enduring operas, but among a handful of classic comedies which continue to have wide appeal. Drawing on the familiar characters of commedia dell’arte, the libretto by Giovanni Ruffini and Donizetti himself is based directly on an earlier Italian opera, Ser Marcantonio. The plot, however, has distinct similarities to Ben Jonson’s Epicoene, or the Silent Woman (later the basis for Richard Strauss’s 1935 opera Die schweigsame Frau), as well as numerous Italian commedia scenarios.
Don Pasquale is an aging, wealthy bachelor who is outraged that his nephew Ernesto wishes to marry for love rather than accept the suitable match which his uncle has arranged. Don Pasquale decides to take a bride for himself and disinherit Ernesto, and is aided in his plan (he thinks) by his old friend Dr. Malatesta, who suggests a marriage between Pasquale and his devout and beautiful “sister”, who is in reality Norina, the young woman whom Ernesto loves. Delighted by his good fortune, Pasquale enters into marriage (or so he believes, since Malatesta has orchestrated a fake ceremony). His new wife “Sofronia” (Norina’s alias) instantly turns into a hellish, extravagant shrew and makes Pasquale’s life miserable. Desperate to escape the marriage, Pasquale is bamboozled by a note that Norina has conveniently dropped, which details an assignation with another man in the garden of Pasquale’s house. Thinking that this is his opportunity to free himself, he enlists Malatesta to help him catch the lovers and divorce Norina. Malatesta agrees – and tricks Pasquale into agreeing to allow Ernesto to marry his beloved and reinstate his nephew as his heir. Having secured Pasquale’s promise, Malatesta reveals Norina’s true identity, and Pasquale recognizes that he has been a foolish old man. Forgiving the lovers and his friend for their plot, Pasquale gives his blessing to the marriage and is relieved to be rid of his shrewish “wife”.
In the first scene of the opera, Dr. Malatesta arrives to tell Don Pasquale that he has found the perfect bride for him, and proceeds to describe the virtues of this paragon who is as beautiful as an angel (“Bella siccome un angelo”), as fresh as a morning lily, with eyes that speak and laugh, a glance that conquers every heart, ebony hair, and an enchanting smile. Stoking the flames of Pasquale’s desire, Malatesta goes on to extol her innocent soul, her unparalleled modesty and her sweet and loving kindness to the poor. Surely it was heaven that crafted this perfect creature who fills the heart with bliss.
In Act II, “Sofronia” has firmly established her rule in the house, and overridden Don Pasquale’s objections as a steady stream of gowns, hats and jewels arrive (accompanied by a mountain of bills). The coup de grâce, when Sofronia boxes her husband’s ears before going off to the theater in spite of his protests, has left Don Pasquale desolate and humiliated. A chorus of servants (Sofronia has greatly increased the household staff and doubled their wages) excitedly gossips about the domestic uproar (“Che interminabile andirivieni!”) and the interminable comings and goings. Kept jumping by the constant ringing of bells to summon them, they can never get a moment’s peace. But nonetheless, it’s a grand house, and they marvel at the spending and squandering that is going on. No sooner is lunch finished than the master and mistress make another scene, with the husband insisting that the wife stay home, and the wife doing as she wishes, as she always overcomes his objections. And that nephew seems a piece of work! He doesn’t care for his uncle’s wishes either, and it appears the mistress dotes on the young man too fondly. The servants hush each other as they hear the nephew coming – they must stay quiet and appear as if everything is just as it should be.
As Ernesto waits in the garden for his “rendezvous” with Sofronia, he serenades the lovely April night (“Com’é gentil”). With the azure sky and the moon removing its veil, everything is tender, peaceful and mysterious. But why does his beloved not come to him, as the breezes shape accents of love on the murmuring river? Later on, when he is dead, she will cry, but she won’t be able to call him back then. Calling her “cruel Nina”, he knows that her love will overcome her scruples and that she wants to see him, but after he dies, it will be too late. As he finishes his serenade, Norina comes out of the house to unlock the gate to the garden as they had arranged. The two young lovers beg each other to affirm their love (“Tornami a dir che m’ami”), saying that life is magnified when the beloved’s voice calls. Love revitalizes the oppressed heart – secure when they are together, they tremble when they are apart.
As Donizetti had, Giuseppe Verdi suffered mightily under the censorship restrictions prevalent throughout the kingdoms and provinces of Italy during his career, but no work was as fraught with ridiculous demands by the censors as Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball), written to be performed at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples in 1858. Based by librettist Antonio Somma on Gustave III, a play by the prominent French playwright Eugene Scribe, the original story tells of the assassination of Gustave III, the King of Sweden, in 1792. Political conspiracy and regicide were always explosive issues in such a tightly controlled society as the Kingdom of Naples, but numerous versions of the story had already been performed in the form of plays and ballets throughout Italy.
Verdi had suffered at the hands of the Neapolitan censors in the past, notably in the case of Rigoletto, which he felt had been mangled out of all recognition. Initially, a number of revisions to Un ballo were demanded, most of which Verdi had expected, and which he felt he could accede to. Unfortunately, it was not until he arrived in Naples to supervise the production that he was informed the censors had refused the libretto entirely and demanded wholesale changes which Verdi refused to countenance. (Among numerous and ludicrous demands, the censors not only insisted that the locale be moved from Sweden and that the protagonist not be a royal figure, but demanded the elimination of the masked ball entirely, as well as a crucial scene in which the conspirators drew lots to determine who would have the honor of being the assassin – two of the most important scenes in the entire work.) Verdi stood on his artistic honor and refused any further concessions, in spite of a lawsuit by the president of the San Carlo and official threats to imprison him in his hotel room and refuse him passage from Naples until he had agreed to permit a totally different script devised according to the censors’ wishes to be foisted onto Verdi’s score. Verdi countersued and was finally allowed to leave with his score, in return for returning to Naples to supervise a new production of Simon Boccanegra later in the year.
Having determined that a stage version of Gustave III was already approved for production in Rome that year, Verdi proceeded to make arrangements for Un ballo to premiere in the same city the following year. Censorship issues again became problematic, but Verdi pressed on and made changes that were considered absolutely necessary. (For this reason, many productions of the opera still adhere to the libretto as premiered in Rome, which changed the Swedish king Gustave to Riccardo, the Count of Warwick, “son of England”. As governor of colonial Massachusetts, apparently the Count of Warwick was distant enough in time and place to quell any fears of sparking a revolution in Rome.) In spite of the changes and a rehearsal process that left Verdi fretful and anxious about the production, Un ballo in maschera was a stunning success at its premiere in Rome in February, 1859, and Verdi himself was called to the stage for more than 20 bows. One hundred and fifty years after its premiere, the Verdi Chorus is proud to present excerpts from one of our namesake’s great later works.
The basic structure of Verdi and Somma’s work remained the same: Gustave/Riccardo is a much-loved and effective ruler, but he is warned by his faithful secretary Renato that there is a conspiracy against his life among disgruntled enemies. Riccardo refuses to live in fear and ignores the warnings. Riccardo is also secretly in love with Renato’s wife Amelia, who loves Riccardo as well, but neither of them is willing to betray Renato. However, Renato becomes aware of their love and mistakenly believes that Amelia and Riccardo have already betrayed him. Confronting Amelia, he refuses to believe her faithful, and he joins with the conspirators in their plot to assassinate Riccardo. Drawing lots to see who will have the honor to strike Riccardo first, Renato is grimly satisfied that he is the lucky one, and they resolve to fulfill the plot at the masked ball which Riccardo is to give that night. Amelia attempts to warn Riccardo to leave the ball, but it is too late. As he is dying from wounds inflicted by Renato, Riccardo informs him that Amelia had remained faithful, and tells his court that he forgives Renato and his co-conspirators.
In the opening scene of the opera, Riccardo’s deputies and other gentlemen of the court await his arrival. Among the throng are the conspirators Samuel and Tom and their adherents. As the courtiers await their ruler, they hope that he has rested in peace and good dreams (“Posa in pace”) and that his noble life will be protected by their love. Meanwhile the conspirators huddle together and plan their revenge as they remember those who have died or been ruined because of Riccardo. (The censors had insisted that any hint of political assassination be removed, replacing it with a family vendetta.)
Among the subjects and officials at Riccardo’s court appears a magistrate, who wishes to have Riccardo banish the fortuneteller Ulrica. Riccardo’s young page Oscar (one of the few trouser roles in Verdi’s oeuvre) passionately defends Ulrica, and Riccardo decides that he must judge the oracle for himself. He instructs Renato to provide him with fisherman’s garb and tells his court to join him, incognito, to witness the show. Telling them that every care should give way to pleasure (“Ogni cura se doni al diletto”), he instructs them to meet him at the magician’s den, where they will mingle with her credulous patrons and abandon themselves to join in the folly. Renato fears that this adventure could provide an opening for Riccardo’s enemies, and vows that he will watch over the magnanimous Riccardo, who fears nothing for himself. Meanwhile Oscar relishes the opportunity to ask the fortune teller if the stars will shine on him in his hopes of a sweetheart, and the conspirators greet this potential opportunity to carry out their nefarious intentions. Riccardo stresses that everyone must arrive incognito at three that afternoon. The court is delighted at Riccardo’s idea and vows that they will join him in his folly at the cave of the magician, on the dot at three.
Riccardo appears in the guise of a humble fisherman at Ulrica’s den. She is not fooled by his costume, however, and is terrified at what she has seen in his palm. At his insistence, she predicts that he will meet an unhappy end, murdered by the man who is the first to shake his hand (which will turn out to be Renato). As Riccardo is recognized by his subjects, they sing the praises of this son of England (“O figlio d’Inghilterra”) and pray that glory and happiness will smile on him. Riccardo has been shaken by Ulrica’s predictions, as have Oscar and Renato. While Oscar swears that Riccardo will be protected by the love of his people, Renato fears that hypocrites among them are awaiting the chance to strike. The conspirators sneer at Riccardo’s adoring subjects, who fawn over him without even knowing why, and Riccardo shakes off his fears, asking how he can let his heart be ruled by suspicion when so many would sacrifice themselves for him.
Pietro Mascagni composed Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) in eight days when he was only twenty-six. Based on a short story and play of the same name (Eleonora Duse scored a success as Santuzza in the play) by the popular Sicilian Giovanni Verga and set to a libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, the opera was an immediate success following its premiere in Rome. Within the space of 18 months it had been performed in most of the major cities of Europe and the Americas. None of Mascagni’s later operas achieved comparable success, but his career as a conductor and director of important music conservatories in Italy assured his life-long musical prominence.
In the opera, a young soldier, Turiddu, returns to his village in Sicily to discover that his former love, Lola, has married Alfio, the prosperous village carter. Turiddu then becomes involved with Santuzza, whom he promises to marry. However, he takes up with Lola again, and Santuzza, feeling herself betrayed, reveals Lola’s affair with Turiddu to her husband. Alfio challenges Turiddu to a duel. After entrusting the care of Santuzza to his mother, Turiddu dies in the conflict.
The one-act opera takes place on Easter Sunday, in a Sicilian village square in front of the church. The peasants and villagers welcome the spring – the women sing of the sweet smell of oranges (“Gli aranci olezzano”) and the singing of the larks as the soft air murmurs the tender song filling their hearts. The men return from the fields drawn by the sounds of their spinning wheels. Weary, they rush back to the women as a bird returns to its nest.
To the sound of cracking whips and horse bells (“Il cavallo scalpita”), Alfio enters the square and exults in his carefree life. The villagers agree that he has a wonderful career, roaming far and wide. Alfio boasts that his Lola, who is “all loyalty”, waits for him at home to celebrate Easter.
After a bitter scene of recrimination in which Turiddu rejects Santuzza’s pleas to abandon Lola and reunite with her, Santuzza spitefully reveals their affair to Alfio, who vows that he’ll have revenge on them both. In a scene of calm following the storm, the village square is peaceful and deserted during Mascagni’s famous orchestral interlude Intermezzo, presented here in a choral transcription by Verdi Chorus member Diane Armstrong.
As the villagers leave the square for Mass, we hear the chorus inside the church singing “Regina Coeli, laetare”. Santuzza remains behind, not entering the church but joining the other villagers as they raise their voices in praise of their risen savior (“Inneggiamo al signor non è morto”). (Although not made explicit in the opera, the original short story makes clear that Santuzza is carrying Turiddu’s child, and therefore feels she cannot attend Mass with the others.)
As one of the most prominent musical figures in 20th Century music, Leonard Bernstein had a wide-ranging professional career that spanned more than 50 years as a composer, conductor, television pioneer, teacher, critic and author. Bernstein composed symphonies, opera, choral music, jazz ensembles, chamber music, religious music, song cycles, ballets, film scores, incidental theater music and Broadway musicals. A highly theatrical figure himself, he loved everything about the theater and, especially at the beginning of his career, seized every opportunity he could to collaborate with other theater artists on a variety of projects. His involvement with Candide began with a plan to create a piece with Lillian Hellman that would take on the skullduggery of the McCarthy era, and the conformity and intolerance which it engendered in so many facets of American life. Originally planned as a play for which Bernstein would write only incidental music (as he did for Hellman’s adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s The Lark, with Julie Harris as Joan of Arc), it soon developed into a full scale musical work, the completion of which was to take several years.
Bernstein and Hellman struggled to find the right lyricist, and lyrics for several of the pieces were variously written by Dorothy Parker, John LaTouche, Hellman, and Bernstein alone and in tandem with his wife Felicia Montealegre. Finally Bernstein and Hellman hit upon the young poet Richard Wilbur, whose early Molière translations had already achieved considerable success. The majority of the lyrics in the premiere version of 1956 were Wilbur’s. Although not a success by Broadway standards of the time, Candide became a cult favorite, and subsequent revisions by such notable figures as Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim, as well as major revivals at New York City Opera and Scottish Opera, have led to a number of successful productions, many of them created with Bernstein’s assistance. Finally, in 1989, Bernstein conducted a performance and recording of what he considered his final revised version. In spite of problems with script and production, Bernstein’s brilliant score is perhaps best encapsulated by a prophetic piece that he wrote two years before Candide’s premiere, in which he summarized the requirements for that “rare thing”, the great theater composer: “He must have wit and sentiment, pathos and brilliance,” qualities which neatly encapsulate the range which he brought to the score of Candide.
Voltaire’s cynical 1759 satire Candide mocked the popular German philosophy of optimism espoused by Leibniz that “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds”. Candide tries to adhere to this hopeful view of life as expounded by Dr. Pangloss, tutor to the titular hero as well as to the young noblewoman Cunegonde and her brother Maximilian. However, Candide suffers a disastrous series of misadventures, which take him from war in his home country of Westphalia, to the Spanish inquisition and an annihilating earthquake in Lisbon, to the New World, Turkey, France, and back again to Westphalia, battered and embittered by mankind’s cruelty and greed. Finally aware that Pangloss’s idealistic philosophy is useless, Candide realizes that the only practical way to live is to cultivate one’s own garden.
The Overture to Candide was premiered as an individual orchestral piece by the New York Philharmonic in January, 1957, just one month after the play’s premiere on Broadway. The most frequently performed of Bernstein’s symphonic pieces, it has remained a staple of the repertoire ever since.
In the Westphalia Chorale, we are introduced to the land ruled over by Cunegonde and Maximilian’s father, the Baron Thunder-ten-Tronck. The baron’s illegitimate nephew Candide is disdained by his noble relatives but nevertheless, as he tells us, Life Is Happiness Indeed. And so it appears, not only for Candide, but for his beloved Cunegonde and her brother Maximilian, and for Paquette, the pretty young serving maid (who enjoys the attentions of both the Count and Dr. Pangloss in spite of her humble position).
The Westphalians’ optimistic education is no match for the horrors of war and poverty. Following abduction and ravishment by the Hessian army, Cunegonde finds herself reduced to life as a courtesan in Paris. Stricken by her awful lot, she nevertheless decides – as Pangloss taught her – to look on the bright side and Glitter and Be Gay.
Having survived wars, the Spanish inquisition, the loss several times over of Cunegonde, and starvation in the jungle, Candide has wandered far and found a mythical land in which everything is as Pangloss has told him it should be. But Candide longs for his lost love and has left this paradise to search for her, as he describes in The Ballad of Eldorado.
As the Westphalian citizens prepare for the wedding of Candide and Cunegonde in the first scene of Act I, Dr. Pangloss expatiates on his philosophy and describes the special qualities of their homeland. He reminds his audience of Westphalia’s singular position at the very center of The Best of All Possible Worlds.
Candide, Cunegonde, Pangloss’s and Maximilian have miraculously survived their travails and return to Westphalia. The Westphalians no longer believe in Pangloss’ blinkered view of life, and pragmatically acknowledge their new understanding of Universal Good. Candide likewise finally recognizes the truth of life and rejects Pangloss’ admonition to “think noble”. They won’t think noble because they aren’t noble, and there is no such thing as beautiful harmony. Realizing that all they can promise is to live their lives and do their best, Candide asks Cunegonde to marry him at last, so that together they can Make Our Garden Grow.