Irene Minghini-Cataneo, Italian Mezzo

Irene Minghini-Cataneo is a singer that probably few have heard of. She was a dramatic mezzo-soprano with an extension in the voice that allowed her to sing dramatic soprano roles. Her voice is free; there is no tension in the production of sound, and the sound that is produced is quite resonant. We don’t hear singing like this today. I know that I keep saying that, but it is the case.

GIOCONDA (conducendo per mano la madre e avviandosi alla chiesa lentamente)

Madre adorata. Vieni.

BARNABA (scorge la Gioconda e si ritrae accanto alla colonna)

(Eccola! Al posto.)

CIECA
Figlia che reggi il tremulo
piè che all’avel già piega,
beata è questa tenebra
che alla tua man mi lega.
Tu canti agli uomini
le tue canzoni,
io canto agli angeli
le mie orazioni,
benedicendo
l’ora e il destin,
e sorridendo
sul mio cammin.
«Io per la tua bell’anima
prego chinata al suol.
E tu per me coi vividi
sguardi contempli il sol.»

GIOCONDA
Vien! per securo tramite
da me tu sei guidata…
vien! ricomincia il placido
corso la tua giornata.
Tu canti agli angeli
le tue orazioni,
io canto agli uomini
le mie canzoni,
benedicendo
l’ora e il destin,
e sorridendo
sul mio cammin.
«Ed io pe ‘l tuo dimane
a te guadagno il pane;
tu col pregar fedel
a me guadagna il ciel.»

BARNABA
Sovr’essa stendere la man grifagna!
Amarla a coglierla nella mia ragna!
Terribil estasi dell’alma mia!
Sta in guardia! L’agile farfalla spia!

La Cieca enters, led by Gioconda. They both walk to the church.

Adored mother, come.

Barnaba (sees la Gioconda and withdraws beside the column)

(There she is! To my place!)

CIECA
Daughter who guides my faltering steps
That are already wending to the grave,
Blessed is this darkness
that binds me to your hand.
You sing your songs to men,
I sing my prayers to the angels,
blessing
the hour and fate,
and smiling
on my way.
“I for your beautiful soul
pray touching the ground.
And you with vivid eyes
Contemplate the sun.

GIOCONDA
Come! You are led on
a safe journey by me.
Come! Your day begins
its placid course again.
You chant your prayers
to the angels,
I sing my songs to men
blessing
the hour and fate
and smiling
on my way.

GIOCONDA
“And I for your morrow,
I earn bread for you;
You with your faithful praying
You earn heaven for me.

BARNABA
If only I could get my rapacious hands on her!
To love her and to catch her in my spider’s web!
It is a fearful ecstasy of my soul!
Stay on your guard! Spy on the graceful butterfly!

Santuzza

Voi lo sapete, o mamma,
Prima d’andar soldato,
Turiddu aveva a Lola
Eterna fè giurato.
Tornò, la seppe sposa;
E con un nuovo amore
Volle spegner la fiamma
Che gli bruciava il core:
M’amò, l’amai.
Quell’invidia d’ogni delizia mia,
Del suo sposo dimentica,
Arse di gelosia…
Me l’ha rapito…
Priva dell’onor mio rimango:
Lola e Turiddu s’amano,
Io piango, io piango!

Santuzza

Mother, you know that
before Turiddu
became a soldier,
he was betrothed to Lola.
He returned and discovered she was married;
and he tried to extinguish
the flame in his heart
with a new love:
he loved me, and I loved him.
Lola was envious of my happiness,
forgot her husband,
and burned with jealousy…
She stole him from me…
I’ve lost my honor:
Lola and Turiddu love each other,
I cry, I cry!

Mezzo-soprano and Chorus:

Liber scriptus proferetur, Dies irae!
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus judicetur. Dies irae!
Judex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet apparebit: Dies irae!
nil inultum remanebit.

Dies irae, dies illa,
solvet saeclum in favilla,
teste David cum Sibylla.

Mezzo-Soprano and Chorus:

A written book will be brought forth,
which contains everything
for which the world will be judged.
Therefore when the Judge takes His seat,
whatever is hidden will be revealed.

The day of wrath, that day will
dissolve the world into ashes,
as David and the Sibyl prophesied

AMNERIS (cade desolata su di un sedile)
Ohimè! morir mi sento!
Oh! chi lo salva?
E in poter di costoro
Io stessa lo gettai! Ora a te impreco,
Atroce gelosia, che la sua morte
E il lutto eterno del mio cor segnasti!
(Si volge e vede i sacerdoti che attraversano la scena
per entrare nel sotterraneo.)
Ecco i fatali,
Gl’inesorati ministri di morte!
Oh! ch’io non vegga quelle bianche larve!
(Si copre il volto con le mani.)
E in poter di costoro
Io stessa lo gettai! ecc.

RAMFIS e
SACERDOTI (nel sotterraneo)
Spirto del nume, sovra noi discendi!
Ne avviva al raggio dell’eterna luce;
Pel labbro nostro tua giustizia apprendi.

AMNERIS
Numi, pietà del mio straziato core…
Egli è innocente, lo salvate, o Numi!
Disperato, tremendo è il mio dolore!

RAMFIS e
SACERDOTI
Spirto del Nume, ecc.

AMNERIS
Oh, chi lo salva? Ohimè! Mi sento morir!

AMNERIS (she falls desolately into a chair)
Alas! I shall die!
Oh, who will save him?
And it was I who cast him
into their hands! Now I curse
my jealously, which brought his death
and eternal mourning in my heart!
(She turns and sees the priests, who are going down
into Radamès’s underground prison.)
Ah, there they are –
the pitiless ministers of death!
Oh, may I not see them, these white-robed ghouls!
(She covers her face with her hands.)
And it was I who cast him
into their hands! etc.

RAMFIS and
PRIESTS (in the vault)
Spirit of the gods, descend upon us!
Let thy eternal ray enlighten us;
let our lips pronounce thy justice.

AMNERIS
O gods, take pity on my anguished heart!
He is innocent – save him, O gods!
My grief is desperate, overwhelming!

RAMFIS and
PRIESTS
Spirit of the gods, etc.

AMNERIS
Oh, who will save him? I shall die!

Irene Minghini-Cataneo

Menighini-Cataneo had a vibrant voice of great intensity, gifted with a large range of colors, with an unusual extension, and she appeared in the major theaters of Italy, France, Egypt, Spain, and Austria.

Minghini-Cataneo was born at Lugo di Romagna near Ravenna and was encouraged at the age of 14 to pursue a musical career. She received her first instruction from Maestro Cicognani, later from Ettore Cattaneo whom she married in 1920. He was not only her voice teacher and adviser but also director of the music publishing house Ricordi in Milan. It was Giacomo Lauri-Volpi who posed the question why Irene never became a singer with an international career. On the one hand the artist had to take into consideration her husband’s position and therefore renounced a totally independent career for herself. On the other hand, she was described as a “difficult” character. Her debut took place at Milan’s Teatro Carcano as Madelon in Giordano’s Andrea Chénier in 1918, soon to be followed by Amneris, her favorite and most acclaimed role. Within a short time she succeeded as Amneris, Azucena, Adalgisa, Eboli, La Cieca, Dalila, Laura, Elena, L’Innocente (L’Arlesiana), Preziosilla, Giglietta in Mascagni’s Isabeau, Madelon, Maddalena, Ulrica and Mrs. Quickly at all the leading Italian theatres. In 1928 Irene debuted as Amneris at Covent Garden opposite Dusolina Giannini and Aureliano Pertile. She added Marina (Boris Godunov) to her repertory and sang the role with Feodor Chaliapin and Margherita Carosio. However, her reviews were less kind, complaining of a much too broad Italianate approach. It was in Italy, Germany, Spain, Egypt and Greece she gained great success (she never sang in South America as often claimed). It was again at Covent Garden that she had the opportunity to appear opposite Rosa Ponselle, in La Gioconda and Norma. The two ladies did not get along at all behind the curtain but the comment by the critics was that “in Madame Cattaneo was found a mezzo soprano whose rich tones could both contrast and combine those of Ponselle.” Occasionally, she even performed Brangäne and Ortrud (to Beniamino Gigli’s Lohengrin). The artist bade farewell as La Cieca in 1941. She died on March 24, 1944 in her villa in Rimini, the victim of a bombing attack by the Allied forces.