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Celestina Boninsegna, high dramatic soprano

By October 14, 2019March 18th, 2023No Comments

Today’s posting is about Celestina Boninsegna (February 26, 1877 – February 14,1947), a high dramatic soprano from the early years of recorded history. I am asking a lot of you in making this posting. I write this because the recordings are not suberb; some of you may be put off my the sound. Try to listed through the less than perfect sound and listen for her colaratura or fioratura, the evenness of her voice from low notes up to her highest notes. And really listen for the way in which she sings resonantly in the low notes and the high notes. Most people who listen to opera or who are singers themselves talk about “chest voice” and “head voice”. There are no such things. There is either free singing, or resonant singing, or tight singing. If the voice is free, can go from the highest note to the lowest note without creating any tension to do this. And the audience will react to his freedom. Most of the world will disagree with me, but there is no passagio either. There is just either free singing or tight singing. Listen to Boninsegna. There is very little information on her on the internet. If you like to read more, I have to point you to Wikipedia here.

Casta Diva, che inargenti
Queste sacre antiche piante
A noi volgi il bel sembiante
Senza nube e senza vel
Tempra, o Diva
Tempra tu de cori ardenti
Tempra ancora lo zelo audace
Spargi in terra quella pace
Che regnar tu fai nel ciel

Chaste Goddess, whose silver covers
These sacred ancient plants,
we turn to your lovely face
unclouded and without veil…
Temper, oh Goddess,
the hardening of you ardent spirits
temper your bold zeal,
Scatter peace across the earth
Thou make reign in the sky…

Bel raggio lusinghier, Semiramide’s aria from Semiramide

Bel raggio lusinghier,
di speme, e di piacer
alfin per me brillò!
Arsace ritornò, si,
a me verrà,
quest’alma che finor
gemè, tremò, languì,
oh! come respirò!
ogni mio duol sparì,
dal cor, dal mio pensier,
si dilegnò il terror!

Dolce pensiero, di quell’istante,
a te sorride l’amante cor,
si, come più caro, dopo il tormento,
è il bel momento di pace, e amor,
è il bel momento di gioja, e amor.

Bel raggio Lusinghier, Semiramide’s aria from Semiramide

A beautiful ray
of hope and of delight
has finally shined for me.
Arsace has returned.
Yes, he will come to me.
My heart, which was
moaning, worrying, languishing,
oh! how it breathes now!
My suffering has vanished.
Fear has disappeared
from my heart and my mind.

Sweet thought of that coming moment,
my loving heart smiles at you.
Yes, how more dear after suffering,
It is the hour
of peace and love,
It is the hour of joy and love.

Pace, pace, mio Dio!, Leonora’s aria from La Forza del Destino

Pace, pace, mio Dio!
Cruda sventura
M’astringe, ahimè, a languir;
Come il di primo
Da tant’anni dura
Profondo il mio soffrir.
L’amai, gli è ver!
Ma di beltà e valore
Cotanto Iddio l’ornò.
Che l’amo ancor.
Nè togliermi dal core
L’immagin sua saprò.
Fatalità! Fatalità! Fatalità!
Un delitto disgiunti n’ha quaggiù!
Alvaro, io t’amo.
E su nel cielo è scritto:
Non ti vedrò mai più!

Not sung due to time constraints on the record
(Oh Dio, Dio, fa ch’io muoia;
Che la calma può darmi morte sol.
Invan la pace qui sperò quest’alma
In preda a tanto duol.
Misero pane, a prolungarmi vieni
La sconsolata vita . . . Ma chi giunge?
Chi profanare ardisce il sacro loco?)

Maledizione! Maledizione! Maledizione!

Pace, pace mio Dio, Leonara’s aria from La Forza del Destino

Peace, peace, O God!
Cruel misfortune
compels me, alas, to languish;
my suffering has lasted for so many years,
as profound as on the first day.
I loved him, it is true! But God had blessed him
with such beauty and courage
that I love him still, and cannot efface his image
from my heart.
Fatal destiny! A crime
has divided us down here!
Alvaro, I love you and in heaven above it is written
that I shall never see you again!

(Not sung due to time constraints on record)
(O God, God, let me die, for only death
can bring me peace.
In vain this soul of mine here sought peace,
a prey to so much woe.
She goes to a rock on which the Father Superior has left food for her.
Wretched bread, you come to prolong
my inconsolable life. – But who comes here,
daring to profane this sacred retreat?)

A curse! A curse!

Celestina Boninsegna (February 26, 1877 – February 14,1947) was an Italian operatic soprano, known for her interpretations of the heroines in Verdi’s operas. Although particularly eminent in Verdi’s works, she sang a wide repertoire during her 25-year career, including Rosaura in the world premiere of Mascagni’s Le maschere. Boninsegna made many recordings between 1904 and 1918, and her voice was one of the most successfully captured on disc during that period.

Boninsegna was born in Reggio Emilia, where she began to study singing in her youth with Guglielmo Mattioli. She made her professional opera debut at the unusually young age of 15, singing Norina in Don Pasquale. Boninsegna entered the Conservatorio Gioachino Rossini in Pesaro shortly thereafter, where she studied under Virginia Boccabadati.

In 1897, she made her operatic début at Bari as Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust. Subsequently, she sang Rosaura in the first Rome performance of Mascagni’s Le maschere. This was followed by many engagements throughout Italy, elsewhere in mainland Europe, Great Britain and the United States, including at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London (in 1904), La Scala, Milan (1904–5), the Teatro Real, Madrid (1905–6), and the Metropolitan Opera, New York City (1906–7). She also appeared in Boston (in 1909–10), at the Liceu, Barcelona (1911–12), at the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg (1914)—and at numerous less important venues in her homeland and abroad.