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Licia Albanese, lirico-spinto soprano

By January 2, 2021April 6th, 2023No Comments

Some may ask, and it is a fair question, why do I post the same pieces all the time? Not necessarily the same, but similar quite often. I do this because I am trying to make a point with this blog. I am not interested in my listeners/readers being exposed to new repertoire. That is a worthy goal, but it is not mine. I am trying to expose readers to a way of singing that is all but gone. I am trying to get you to hear resonant singing, where the voice is not stuck on the vocal cords, where the singer does not have to tighten his/her lower abdomen to push out a sound. I am trying to have you experience what free singing is, or, in our case, was. I am hopeful that people will hear what I post and begin to understand what I mean. The microphone has been the death of almost all performance, in the dramatic theater, on Broadway, and no less on the operatic stage. If you like what I post, then demand to hear more of that type of singing.

Very, very fortunately for me, the transliteration from the Russian and the English are in the video, so a lot of my work is done.

Un bel dì, vedremo
levarsi un fil di fumo
sull’estremo confin del mare.
E poi la nave appare.
Poi la nave bianca
entra nel porto,
romba il suo saluto.

Vedi? È venuto!
Io non gli scendo incontro. Io no.
Mi metto là sul ciglio del colle e aspetto,
e aspetto gran tempo
e non mi pesa,
la lunga attesa.

E uscito dalla folla cittadina,
un uomo, un picciol punto
s’avvia per la collina.
Chi sarà? chi sarà?
E come sarà giunto
che dirà? che dirà?
Chiamerà Butterfly dalla lontana.
Io senza dar risposta
me ne starò nascosta
un po’ per celia
e un po’ per non morire
al primo incontro;
ed egli alquanto in pena
chiamerà, chiamerà:
“Piccina mogliettina,
olezzo di verbena”
i nomi che mi dava al suo venire.
(a Suzuki)
Tutto questo avverrà,
te lo prometto.
Tienti la tua paura,
io con sicura fede l’aspetto.

One good day, we will see
Arising a strand of smoke
Over the far horizon on the sea
And then the ship appears
And then the ship is white
It enters into the port, it rumbles its salute.

Do you see it? He is coming!
I don’t go down to meet him, not I.
I stay upon the edge of the hill
And I wait a long time
but I do not grow weary of the long wait.

And leaving from the crowded city,
A man, a little speck
Climbing the hill.
Who is it? Who is it?
And as he arrives
What will he say? What will he say?
He will call Butterfly from the distance
I without answering
Stay hidden
A little to tease him,
A little as to not die.
At the first meeting,
And then a little troubled
He will call, he will call
“Little one, dear wife
Blossom of orange”
The names he called me at his last coming.
(To Suzuki)
All this will happen,
I promise you this
Hold back your fears –
I with secure faith wait for him.

O Soave Fanciulla

O soave fanciulla, o dolce viso,
di mite circonfuso alba lunar,
in te ravviso il sogno
ch’io vorrei sempre sognar!

(Ah, tu sol comandi, amor!… )

Fremon già nell’anima
le dolcezze estreme.

(Tu sol comandi, amore!)

Fremon nell’anima
dolcezze estreme, ecc.
Nel bacio freme amor!

(Oh! come dolci scendono
le sue lusinghe al core…
Tu sol comandi, amor!)
(Rodolfo la bacia.)
No, per pietà!

Sei mia!

V’aspettan gli amici…

Già mi mandi via?

Vorrei dir…ma non oso.


Se venissi con voi?

Che? Mimì!
Sarebbe così dolce restar qui.
C’è freddo fuori.

Vi starò vicina!

E al ritorno?


Dammi il braccio, o mia piccina…

Obbedisco, signor!

Che m’ami…di’…

Io t’amo.

(mentre escono)
Amor! Amor! Amor!

Oh! lovely girl! Oh, sweet face
bathed in the soft moonlight.
I see in you the dream
I’d dream forever!

(Ah! Love, you rule alone!…)

Already I taste in spirit
the heights of tenderness!

(You rule alone, o Love!)

Already I taste in spirit
the heights of tenderness!
Love trembles in our kiss!

(How sweet his praises
enter my heart…
Love, you alone rule!)
(Rodolfo kisses her.)
No, please!

You’re mine!

Your friends are waiting.

You send me away already?

I daren’t say what I’d like…

Tell me.

If I came with you?

What? Mimì!
It would be so fine to stay here.
Outside it’s cold.

I’d be near you!

And when we come back?

Who knows?

Give me your arm, my dear…

Your servant, sir…

Tell me you love me!

I love you.

(as they go out)
Beloved! My love! My love!

Licia Albanese

Licia Albanese (July 22, 1909 – August 15, 2014) was an Italian-born American operatic soprano. Noted especially for her portrayals of the lyric heroines of Verdi and Puccini, Albanese was a leading artist with the Metropolitan Opera from 1940 to 1966. After making her debut in Europe in the 1930s, Albanese went on to become one of the most admired sopranos of the mid-20th century. She had a long association with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where she sang more than 400 times from 1940 to 1966.

A Puccini specialist, she was known in particular for the title role in “Madama Butterfly,” a part she sang more than 300 times. Her other notable Puccini roles included Mimi in “La Bohème,” the title part in “Tosca” and Liù in “Turandot.” She was also famous as Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata,” singing the role nearly 90 times with the Met, a company record. Writing in The New York Herald Tribune in December 1942, the composer and critic Virgil Thomson reviewed Miss Albanese’s first Violetta:
“She used her limpid voice, her delicate person and her excellent musicianship to equal effect in creating the character,” he wrote, adding, “I use the word ‘create’ for her achievement because that is what she really did.”
By virtue of longevity, Miss Albanese was very likely the last singer of her generation to have been considered a prima donna assoluta — a prima donna so exalted that she exceeds nearly all others in esteem. Known for her sensitive dramatic interpretations, her nuanced physical gesture, her pinpoint diction in a number of languages and the passionate intensity she brought to singing and acting, she seemed to inhabit her characters — in particular Puccini’s doomed, fragile heroines — more fully than almost any other singer. Her deep preparation for her roles included, for the consumptives Mimi and Violetta, visiting a tuberculosis ward — no small risk for one whose livelihood depended on breath.

Rehearsing Cio-Cio-San, the tragic heroine of “Madama Butterfly,” she realized that Puccini had not left sufficient pause in the music so that the character might easily take off her shoes before entering a house, in the traditional Japanese manner. Miss Albanese took her stage shoes home with her, slipping them off again and again until she could do it with all due speed.

Her approach to the art of sung drama won Miss Albanese rapturous adoration. She spent her prime awash in bouquets at curtain calls, as audience members chanted her name in unison. A coterie of her most hard-core admirers spent years traveling from city to city like camp followers just to hear her perform. Yet she was no diva, by all accounts displaying little of the personal affectation that can come with the territory.

“Diva? Hah! I was never a diva,” Miss Albanese told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2004. “Only God makes a diva. No, just call me a plain singer with lots of expression.”

Because she knew better than to attempt heavy works, like Wagner, which can erode the voice over time, Miss Albanese was able to keep singing well into old age. Long after her official retirement, she was heard for decades on every Met opening night at Lincoln Center, her voice ringing ceremonially out from her box with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” including a high B flat.

Felicia Albanese was born in Bari, in southern Italy, on July 23, 1909. She began singing as a girl, becoming a pupil of Giuseppina Baldassarre-Tedeschi, a noted Butterfly in her day. Miss Albanese made her debut unexpectedly in 1934, at the Teatro Lirico in Milan. At a performance of “Madama Butterfly” at which she was understudying the title role, the soprano became ill during Act I. Miss Albanese was hustled onstage for Act II. A great success, she went on to appear at La Scala, Covent Garden and other European houses. She left Italy for New York in 1939 and the next year, on Feb. 9, made her Met debut as Cio-Cio-San. At the Met, Miss Albanese’s other roles included Susanna in Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro,” Micaela in Bizet’s “Carmen,” Marguerite in Gounod’s “Faust” and Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello.” She was also a mainstay at the San Francisco Opera, where she sang for many years.

Miss Albanese, who became a United States citizen in the 1940s, received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton in 1995.