Saturday, April 26, 2008


Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 3rd of May 2015 at 6.03 -9.35 pm
Sunday 1st of April 2012 at 3.04 - 7 pm
Sunday 27th of April 2008 at 3 pm

LIBRETTO (Italian)

VERDI: Ernani an opera in four acts
Both Ernani, a bandit, and Don Carlo, King of Spain, are in love with Elvira and want to prevent her marriage to her elderly kinsman Don Ruy Gomez de Silva. All three men manoeuvre to end up with her but none succeeds
Ernani.......................... Francesco Meli
Don Carlo.................... Luca Salsi
Don Ruy Gomez de Silva.......Dmitry Belosselskiy
Elvira........................... Angela Meade
Giovanna..................... MaryAnn McCormick
Don Riccardo.............. Issachah Savage
Jago............................. Paul Corona
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/James Levine
Actually, Placido Domingo was to be Ernani, but he was replaced on the day.
VERDI: Ernani, an opera in four acts
Both Ernani, a bandit, and Don Carlo, King of Spain, are in love with Elvira and want to prevent her marriage to her elderly kinsman Don Ruy Gomez de Silva. All three men manoeuvre to end up with her but none succeeds
Ernani………………... Marcello Giordani
Elvira………………… Angela Meade
Don Carlo……………. Dmitri Hvorostovsky
de Silva……………… Ferruccio Furlanetto
Giovanna…………….. Mary Ann McCormick
Don Riccardo………... Adam Lawrence Herskowitz
Jago………………….. Jeremy Galyon
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Marco Armiliato

First, a few details from the sidelines. The Don Carlo of this opera (set in 1519) is Charles V of Spain (though he was Flemish). He is not the same Carlos as in Verdi's Don Carlo, but he appears at the end of that opera as a ghost or whatever. Ernani, the bandit with the honour among thieves mentality, is in reality the non-real fictional Don Juan (Don Giovanni) of Aragon.

The source of the libretto of the Piave and Verdi opera Ernani (1844) is Victor Hugo's romantic and revolutionary French play Hernani (1830). "Do you hear the people sing, say do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes." No, that's not in it; that's Alain Boubil's Les Misérables, based on Victor Hugo's multi-tome novel of the same name. I feel the urge to record the following personal facts for posterity, but you can skip over them. When I was a child I devoured with my eyes a one-volume abridgement of it in English, but before I left school I had redd the whole masterpiece in French. At Sydney university I had to read a French novel of thirty tomes, and I did it between trains, while working on the NSW railways. Anyway, in 2008 I had the opportunity to sing choruses from the musical play (1980, 1986) in an opera concert.

Hugo's ending is the same as Verdi's, only different: in the opera and the drama the villain blows the hunting horn and demands that the hero must take his own life; Ernani stabs himself, Elvira faints on his body, and Silva gloats over them; but Hernani is given the choice of poison or knife, and the lovers are both poisoned, and Silva stabs himself over their bodies. Remember that, if you would like to have a relatively happier climax.

As I hinted earlier it is all about "honour", a law that is more honoured in the breach than in the observance, but here a promise is a promise and strictly binding and enforceable. Yet while Ernani stakes his head all through the story his head does not finish up on a stake when the hunting horn is blown; he keeps his head and calmly kills himself.

The recording I have (His Master's Voice, Made in Germany!?) in a 12-inch box is from La Scala (1983); you can get a video version of it. Muti conducts, and the singers are Domingo, Freni, Bruson, Ghiaurov; on the back of the container they have all put their autographs, and the hardest one to decipher, because of its many flourishes, is Placido's signature. A review of it by the great music critic Alan Blyth (now departed from us) notes that Mirella Freni, as a lyric soprano, does not have the opulence of tone of Leontyne Price ("a voice not really meant by nature for this kind of heavy duty"); yes indeed, she struggles, but still conveys the sorrow of Elvira in her tragic situation.

Also from 1983, and given to me by Ann Gluckman (mother of Peter), is a booklet introducing the telecast of Ernani, "Live from the Met" (well, I suppose all its workers live [liv] off their earnings from the opera house). Pavarotti sang with Leona Mitchell, Milnes, and Raimondi, and James Levine hummed along with them. Quote (not quite elegant but true): "Of his early works, Ernani partakes most of Verdi's wonderful surfeit of melody". And in 2012 it was showing in cinemas all round the world, "live" (as in "dive",  not as in "live", which should be "liv",  like "spiv").

There is a video introduction to Ernani (one of a series) fronted by a deceased man of the theatre (cinematic sector), namely Charlton Heston (By the way, I can tell you where the the true mountain of Moses and the Ten Commandments is: not on the Sinai Peninsula but inside the border of modern Israel.) What astonishes me is that in his eagerness to unravel the threads of the tale Charlton leaves out the tune we are most likely to recognize: Elvira's cabaletta from Act 1 scene 2; watch for it.

Sunday 27th of April 2008 at 3 pm
Conductor: Roberto Abbado
Elvira: Sondra Radvanovsky
Ernani: Marcello Giordani
Don Carlo: Thomas Hampson
de Silva: Ferruccio Furlanetto

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