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Ulysses Lappas, lirico spinto tenor

By April 6, 2022March 19th, 2023No Comments

Unfortunately, there is very little information on Lappas on the internet. He has become obscure. However, Lappas was regarded as one of the leading, internationally acclaimed Greek tenors of the interwar period, who influenced the opera world. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1890 and grew up in a cosmopolitan environment of the Greek diaspora. He began his musical studies at the International Conservatory of Alexandria. He continued his studies in Milan under Giuseppe Mandolini (1912-15).

Why is he important? There are two philosophies of voice teaching today: let the voice be as free as possible; and sing to an idea of the end sound. The second philosophy will attempt to manipulate the voice, through the squeezing and swallowing muscles, to have a dark sound, a bright sound, some preconceived sound that the voice should attain. The first philosophy allows the voice to be free of preconceived ideas. The voice is what it is, in a sense. Using the second philosophy, once gets a tight, usually over-darkened, small sound, usually with a wobble. The first philosophy will get you a singer such as Lappas, and for that matter, nearly all of the singers whom I post.

CHÉNIER Sorpresi, tutti stanno curiosi ad udirlo.

Un dì all’azzurro spazio
guardai profondo,
e ai prati colmi di viole,
pioveva loro il sole,
e folgorava d’oro il mondo:
parea la terra un immane tesor,
e a lei serviva di scrigno il firmamento.
Su dalla terra a la mia fronte
veniva una carezza viva, un bacio.
Gridai vinto d’amor:
T’amo tu che mi baci,
divinamente bella, o patria mia!
E volli pien d’amore pregar!
Varcai d’una chiesa la soglia;
là un prete ne le nicchie
dei santi e della Vergine,
accumulava doni –
e al sordo orecchio
un tremulo vegliardo
invan chiedeva pane
e invano stendea la mano!

L’Abate ed altri si levano scandalizzati:

Varcai degli abituri l’uscio;
un uom vi calunniava
bestemmiando il suolo
che l’erario a pena sazia
e contro a Dio scagliava
e contro agli uomini
le lagrime dei figli.

Tutti si sono arrabbiati contro Chénier. Gérard solo lo ascolta dal fondo della serra, agitatissimo. Gli altri fingono non udirlo.

In cotanta miseria
la patrizia prole che fa?
a Maddalena
Sol l’occhio vostro
esprime umanamente qui
un guardo di pietà,
ond’io guardato ho a voi
si come a un angelo.
E dissi: Ecco la bellezza della vita!
Ma, poi, a le vostre parole,
un novello dolor m’ha colto in pieno petto.
O giovinetta bella,
d’un poeta non disprezzate il detto:
Udite! Non conoscete amor,
amor, divino dono, non lo schernir,
del mondo anima e vita è l’Amor!

CHÉNIER Surprised, everyone is curious to hear it.

One day in blue space
I looked deeply,
and over meadows full of violets,
the sun was raining on them,
and the world glowed with gold:
it seemed that the earth was an immense treasure,
and the firmament served her as a casket.
Up from the ground to my forehead
a living caress came, a kiss.
I cried, won by love:
I love you, you who kiss me,
divinely beautiful, o my homeland!
And full of love, I wanted to pray!
I crossed the threshold of a church;
there a priest in the chapels
of the saints and of the Virgin,
accumulated gifts –
and to the deaf ear
a tremulous old man
in vane asked for bread
and in vain stretch out his hand!

The Abbot and others are scandalized:

I went through the door to the dwellings;
a man lied about you
blaspheming the ground
that the treasury would hardly be satisfied
and against God he threw
and against men
the tears of the children.

Everyone became angry at Chénier. Gérard only heard him from the bottom of the greenhouse, agitated. The others pretend not to hear it.

In such misery
what can aristocratic offspring do?
to Maddalena
Only your eye
humanly expresses here
a look of pity,
where I looked at you
as if you were an angel.
And I said: Here is the beauty of life!
But then, in your words,
a new pain caught me in the chest.
Or beautiful young girl,
do not despise the saying of a poet:
Hear! You do not know love,
love, divine gift, do not taunt it,
Love is the world soul and life!

Cielo e mar! l’etereo velo
splende come un santo altare.
L’angiol mio verrà dal cielo?!
l’angiol mio verrà dal mare?!
Qui l’attendo; ardente spira
oggi il vento dell’amor.
Quel mortal che vi sospira
vi conquide, o sogni d’ôr!

Cielo e mar? Per l’aura fonda
non appar nè suol nè monte.
L’orizzonte bacia l’onda
l’onda bacia l’orizzonte!
Qui nell’ombra, ov’io mi giacio
Coll’anelito del cor,
Vieni, o donna, vieni al bacio
della vita incantator.

Heaven! and ocean! yon ethereal veil
Is radiant as a holy altar.
Will my angel come from heaven?!
will my angel come o’er the ocean?!
Here I wait for her; the wind
now blows hot with love
Ah, that man who sighs for you,
he overcomes you, o golden dreams!

In yon airy depths
neither shore nor mountains are seen
The horizon kisses the waves;
the waves kiss the horizon.
Here in the darkness, where I am waiting,
waiting with racing heart
Come, o woman, come to my kisses
That can magic bliss impart.

Ulysses Lappas

Lappas debuted in 1915 at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan as Enzo [La Gioconda], and he also appeared in Bari as Canio [Pagliacci]. In 1917 he appeared at La Scala Milan and in 1918 in Parma and Brescia as Dick Johnson [The Girl of the Golden West/La fanciulla del West]. His international career began in 1919 when he appeared in Monte Carlo in the title role in Ruy Blas, as well as Dick Johnson, and later as Canio opposite Elvira de Hidalgo (1920) and Parsifal (1921). In 1921/22 and 1928/29 he sang as soloist at the Chicago Lyric Opera. Until 1935, he appeared regularly at major opera houses in Italian cities. In addition, he sang in performances in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Turkey (Smirne, Istanbul). In 1936, he backed efforts by Greek lyric singers to organize trade unions, while he was elected president of the Association of Greek Lyric Singers, and in 1939 founded the short-lived Athens People’s Melodrama. He remained in Greece during the German occupation. In 1946 he participated in an honorary music event held at the Greek National Opera to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his artistic activity. Between 1948-52 he sang in six Greek National Opera productions and/or revivals, as Don José [Carmen] (1948/49, 1950/51, 1951/52), Canio [Pagliacci] (1948/49, 1950/51) and Mario Cavaradossi [Tosca] (1951/52). He also served as Greek National Opera curator and head of etiquette. Some of his performances are preserved in recordings. He died in Athens on July 26, 1971.