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Zinka Milanov, spinto soprano

By December 3, 2022March 19th, 2023No Comments

Zinka Milanov was a marvel. In her prime she was considered the most significant spinto soprano of her day, a singer who possessed an instrument capable of pristine top tones and thundering lower ones that soared over choruses and orchestras. I should have posted about Milanov a long time ago; she truly was that extraordinary. I’m glad that I came to my senses.

Dvorak, Rusalka, “Hymn to the Moon”

Mesiku na nebi hlubokem
Svetlo tve daleko vidi,
Po svete bloudis sirokem,
Divas se v pribytky lidi.
Mesicku, postuj chvili
reckni mi, kde je muj mily
Rekni mu, stribmy mesicku,
me ze jej objima rame,
aby si alespon chvilicku
vzpomenul ve sneni na mne.
Zasvet mu do daleka,
rekni mu, rekni m kdo tu nan ceka!
O mneli duse lidska sni,
at’se tou vzpominkou vzbudi!
Mesicku, nezhasni, nezhasni!

Dvorak, Rusalka, “Hymn to the Moon”

Moon, high and deep in the sky
Your light sees far,
You travel around the wide world,
and see into people’s homes.
Moon, stand still a while
and tell me where is my dear.
Tell him, silvery moon,
that I am embracing him.
For at least momentarily
let him recall of dreaming of me.
Illuminate him far away,
and tell him, tell him who is waiting for him!
If his human soul is, in fact, dreaming of me,
may the memory awaken him!
Moonlight, don’t disappear, disappear!

The cavatina begins at 1:37

Verdi, Il Trovatore, “D’ amor sull’ ali rosee”

Timor di me ?…sicura,
presta è la mia difesa.
I suoi occhi figgonsi ad una gemma
che le fregia la mano destra.
In quest’ oscura
notte ravvolta, presso a te io son,
e tu nol sai…Gemente
aura che intorno spiri,
deh, pietosa gli arreca
i miei sospiri…

D’ amor sull’ ali rosee
vanne, sospir dolente:
del prigioniero misero
conforta l’ egra mente…
Com’ aura di speranza
aleggia in quella stanza:
lo desta alle memorie,
ai sogni dell’amor!
Ma deh! non dirgli improvvido,
le pene del mio cor!

Verdi, The Troubadour, “On the Rosy Wings of Love”

Afraid of me ?…sure,
ready is my defence.
His eyes are attracted by a stone
she wears on her right hand.
Wrapped in the dark
night, I am near you,
and you don’t know it…
Wailing wind,
carry to him, mercifully, my sighs…

On the rosy wings of love,
go, pained sighs:
go to alleviate the sick mind
of the wretch that lies imprisoned…
Like a breeze of hope
linger in that room:
wake him up to remembrance,
to dreams of love!
Yet do not imprudently
reveal the woes of my heart!

Bellini, Norma, “Casta Diva”

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…

Bellini, Norma, “Chaste Goddess”

Pure Goddess, whose silver covers
These sacred ancient plants,
we turn to your lovely face
unclouded and without veil…

Temper, oh Goddess,
the hardening of your ardent spirits
temper your bold zeal,
Scatter peace across the earth
May you reign in heaven…

I hardly ever do this, but I think that I will this time. Compare to Fleming. Can you tell the difference?

Mascagni, Cavalleria Rusticana, “Voi lo sapete”

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!

Mascagni, Cavalleria Rusticana, “O Mother, you know”

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.

Zinka Milanov
May 17, 1906 – May 30, 1989

Milanov was born in Zagreb, in the former Yugoslavia, the daughter of a bandmaster named Rudolf Kunc. The family was musical, and her brother, Bozidar, became a pianist and composer who often was her accompanist for her recitals. She also had an uncle who composed songs for her early recitals. She started singing as a child and made her recital debut in Zagreb when she was 15 years old.

Milka Ternina, a great Wagnerian soprano at the turn of the century, heard the young soprano and took her as a pupil for three years. After graduating from the Royal Music Academy in Zagreb, where she won first prize in singing, Miss Kunc became a member of the State Opera, making her debut as Leonora in ”Il Trovatore.”

Soon Milanov was singing in opera houses in Germany and Central Europe, and appearing with orchestras under conductors such as Bruno Walter. Toscanini invited her to Salzburg in 1937 to sing the soprano solo in the Verdi Requiem. She was to sing it with him many times in the future.

Milanov married a Yugoslavian actor and director, Predrag Milanov, in 1937. He served as her dramatic coach for many years.

There was never a time in any opera when Milanov did not thrill her audiences, and she did so entirely through her voice, because she never was much of an actress. Definitely of the old operatic school of acting, she used the exaggerated gestures and facial expressions that went out in the early days of silent films. But she was a fine musician and never used her voice in an exaggerated manner.

Her singing was refined, subtle, powerful, sensitive or dramatic, as the music demanded. She produced a big, warm sound and had an equalized scale up to a secure high C. In the ”Aida” Nile scene she was able to take a haunting pianissimo on the C that will forever float in memory. She was equally impressive in ”Il Trovatore,” an opera that she ”owned.”

At the Metropolitan Opera she specialized in Verdi roles, above all ”Aida,” which she sang at the house and on tour with the Met 75 times. She also appeared in ”Il Trovatore” 49 times, ”La Forza del Destino” 37 times, ”Un Ballo in Maschera” 30 times, ”Otello” 17 times, ”Simon Boccanegra” 10 times and ”Ernani” 8 times. Her other roles were Santuzza in ”Cavalleria Rusticana,” which she sang 57 times, Ponchielli’s Gioconda, Puccini’s Tosca, Bellini’s Norma (a role ventured by only three sopranos at the Met in the 60 years before Miss Milanov sang it), Mozart’s Donna Anna and Maddalena in Giordano’s ”Andrea Chenier,” the role she sang at her farewell. All told, she gave 445 performances with the company.