Lina Bruna Rasa, High Dramatic Soprano

Lina Bruna Rasa was certainly Mascagni’s favorite Santuzza and was also a favorite of Toscanini.  In 1930. illness began to show itself especially because of her mother’s death in 1985.

Between 1935 and 1942, she suffered from an unspecified mental illness. In 1942, she sang her last Santuzza, after which she was interned for the rest of her life. Even until relatively late in life, she gave memorable performances,  including for the 50th anniversary of Cavalleria Rusticana.  In 1948, she felt well enough to sing again, but he voice was no longer there, and she retreated to a mental asylum for the next 40 years.

In these next several excerpts, please listen for the placement of the voice. The air doesn’t seem to touch the vocal cords, and sets off the bones in the resonating cavities of the face and the head. This is what is referred to as good placement. The throat in not involved in making the sounds heard. Bruna Rasa’s story is sad, but when she was healthy, she was one of the greatest singers in the world.

Please compare Lina Brusa Rasa to Elina Garanča, singing the same aria in some kind of music video version of the opera. The thing to listen for is the size of the voice and whether Garanča’s has a ring to it (or is it overdarkened?), and whether you can hear a wobble.

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
O mother, you know
That before he went for a soldier
Turiddu had sworn
Eternal faith to Lola.
On his return, he found her married,
And sought with a new love
To quell the flame
Which burned in his heart:
He loved me, I loved him.
But she, envious of my only delight
And forgetful of her husband,
Burned with jealousy …
She stole him from me …
And I am left disgraced;
Lola and Turiddu are lovers,
And I am left to weep.

Entra Chénier.
Alla luce della lanterna ravvisa Maddalena.

CHÉNIER
Vicino a te s’acqueta
l’irrequieta anima mia;
tu sei la meta d’ogni desio,
d’ogni sogno, d’ogni poesia!
la guarda amorosamente
Entro al tuo sguardo
l’iridescenza scerno
de li spazi infiniti.
Ti guardo; in questo fiotto verde
di tua larga pupilla erro coll’anima!

MADDALENA
Per non lasciarti son qui;
non è un addio!
Vengo a morire con te!
Finì il soffrire!
La morte nell’amarti!
Ah! Chi la parola estrema dalle labbra
raccoglie, è Lui, l’Amor!

CHÉNIER
Tu sei la meta dell’esistenza mia!

CHÉNIER, MADDALENA
Il nostro è amore d’anime!

MADDALENA
Salvo una madre.
Maddalena all’alba ha nome
per la morte Idia Legray.
guardando nel cortile
Vedi? La luce incerta del crepuscolo
giù pe’ squallidi androni già lumeggia.
colle braccia avviluppando stretto a sè Chénier gli si abbandona tutta sul petto
Abbracciami! Baciami! Amante!

CHÉNIER
baciandola con violenza
Orgoglio di bellezza!
la bacia ancora
Trionfo tu, de l’anima!
Il tuo amor, sublime amante,
è mare, è ciel, luce di sole
e d’astri …
… È il mondo! È il mondo!

MADDALENA
Amante! Amante!

Enter Chénier.
In the light of the lantern, Maddalena sees it.

CHÉNIER
Near you it is acquired
the restless soul of mine;
you are the goal of every desire,
of every dream, of every poem!
he looks at her lovingly
Within your sight
the scent iridescence
of infinite spaces.
I look at you; in this green stream
of your large pupil I am mistaken with the soul!

MAGDALENE
Not to leave you here;
it’s not goodbye!
I come to die with you!
The suffering ended!
Death in loving you!
Ah! About the extreme word from the lips
Collects, it is He, the Love!

CHÉNIER
You are the goal of my existence!

CHÉNIER, MADDALENA
Ours is love of souls!

MAGDALENE
Except for a mother.
Maddalena at dawn has a name
for the Idia Legray death.
looking in the backyard
You see? The uncertain light of twilight
down pe ‘shabby halls already lights up.
with his arms enveloping tight Chénier, he surrenders all over his chest
Hug me! Kiss Me! Lover!

CHÉNIER
kissing her violently
Pride of beauty!
he kisses her again
Triumph you, of the soul!
Your love, sublime lover,
it’s sea, it’s heaven, sunlight
and of stars …
… It’s the world! It’s the world!

MAGDALENE
Lover! Lover!

La mamma morta

La mamma morta m’hanno
alla porta della stanza mia;
Moriva e mi salvava!
poi a notte alta
io con Bersi errava,
quando ad un tratto
un livido bagliore guizza
e rischiara innanzi a’ passi miei
la cupa via!
Guardo!
Bruciava il loco di mia culla!
Cosi fui sola!
E intorno il nulla!
Fame e miseria!
Il bisogno, il periglio!
Caddi malata,
e Bersi, buona e pura,
di sua bellezza ha fatto un mercato,
un contratto per me!
Porto sventura a chi bene mi vuole!
Fu in quel dolore
che a me venne l’amor!
Voce piena d’armonia e dice:
‘Vivi ancora! Io son la vita!
Ne’ miei occhi e il tuo cielo!
Tu non sei sola!
Le lacrime tue io le raccolgo!
Io sto sul tuo cammino e ti sorreggo!
Sorridi e spera! Io son l’amore!
Tutto intorno e sangue e fango?
Io son divino! Io son l’oblio!
Io sono il dio che sovra il mondo
scendo da l’empireo, fa della terra
un ciel! Ah!
Io son l’amore, io son l’amor, l’amor’
E l’angelo si accosta, bacia,
e vi bacia la morte!
Corpo di moribonda e il corpo mio.
Prendilo dunque.
Io son gia morta cosa!

They Killed My Mother

They killed my mother
At the door of my room;
She died and saved me!
Later, in the dead of night
I was wandering with Bersi
When suddenly
A pale glow flashes
And it lightens ahead of me
The dark street!
I look!
My home was burning!
So I was alone!
And all around me, nothing!
Hunger and misery!
Deprivation, danger!
I fell ill,
And Bersi, so good and pure
Made a market of her beauty
For my sake –
I bring misfortune to all those who loves me!
It was in that grief
That love came to me!
A voice full of harmony and it says:
‘You have to live! I am the life itself!
Your heaven is in my eyes
You’re not alone!
I’ll collect all your tears!
I’ll walk with you and support you!
Smile and hope! I am love!
Are you surrounded by blood and mud?
I am divine! I am oblivion!
I’m the God that descends on Earth
From the Empyrean, I turn Earth
Into heaven! Ah!
I’m love, I’m love, love
And the angel approaches with a kiss
And the Death is kissing you.
My body is a dying body.
So take it
I’ve already died!

LINA BRUNA RASA (born, Padua, 1907 died, Milan, 1984)

Some of the greatest opera singers in history have ended their careers prematurely due to fate.  One of these such singers was the Italian dramatic soprano Lina Bruna Rasa. Many may be aware of Bruna Rasa’s sad story, which ended in October 1984 in Milan, where few people participated in the funeral of an old woman who had lived for almost 40 years in a mental institute. The old woman had very few friends and almost nobody remembered her when she died. She had spent her last 36 years in silence as her mental state deteriorated. She had fewer and fewer lucid moments of recalling how it had been on the stage… when the public adored her… when she had been Toscanini and Mascagni’s favorite soprano, once.

Born in September 1907, in Padua, Lina began her music studies at the age of 14 and debuted at 17. The role at her debut in 1925 was Elena in Boito’s Mefistofele with the reputable Maria Zamboni and Ezio Pinza. From then on, the legend began. She performed all over Italy and co-starred some of the best Italian tenors of the 1920s (Aureliano Pertile, Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, Alessandro Zilliani and Beniamino Gigli). The great Toscanini immediately noted and engaged her for a number of stage performances at La Scala and other big theaters.

The collaboration between Bruna Rasa and Mascagni deserves special mention. They first met in 1928 and, since that date, Mascagni supported her to the end of her career. She was his favurite Santuzza and, according to many, one of the best in history. Santuzza was her most successful and performed role under the baton of the composer himself.

Bruna Rasa performed with enormous success in Cavalleria Rusticana, Tosca, Aida, Nerone, Mefistofele, Fedora, Andrea Chenier and La Forza Del Destino. The drama began in late 1931 at only 24 years of age when a severe depression forced her to cancel some scheduled performances. The following year, she suffered a panic attack when Mascagni turned the baton over to Benvenuti Giusti for three performances of Cavalleria Rusticana. Mascagni took care of her during the rest of her career, arranging contracts and convincing her that she was still able to sing. In 1933, her stage partners began to notice her illness. The performances became sporadic.

Her mother died in 1935.  Lina felt that her only “anchor” to the real world was gone and her delicate mental state became seriously affected. A memorable event took place in 1937 when she performed in Tosca at Castel San Giovanni in front of several fascist officers. At the end of the romanza, Vissi d’arte, when the ovations were tremendous, she raised from the stage floor and revealed an Italian flag! The public was in rapture, except the Nazi officials.

She still gave memorable performances, as the one in 1940, at the fiftieth anniversary of Cavallleria Rusticana, when she also recorded the opera together with Gigli and Bechi. Her voice was at the peak and she never had what we usually call a “vocal decline”. Her mental illness did not allow her to sing and act. At the time, she already had serious problems in remembering the lyrics. It was the last straw of her short career. People remember that, when offstage, she was apathetic and kept silent for hours. It seems that she reacted positively only to the public’s affection and ovations. She was a miracle on the stage! From 1942 onwards, she remained in a mental institution in Milan.

The artists, who sang with her, described a very special and unforgettable experience. In his own words, tenor Enzo De Muro Lomanto said: “The experience of singing Turiddu with Lina Bruna Rasa was comparable to nothing else in my long experience on the lyric theatre. She made all of us want to be just that much better, and I think we were”. This makes you wonder where the artistic inspiration ends and madness begins.