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Mario Ancona, Italian baritone

By March 8, 2023April 7th, 2023No Comments

Mario Ancona was a very special singer during the latter part of the 19th century and the beginning part of the 20th century. The thing that I would point out is the sound production. This voice was absolutely free, and it was smooth from the bottom-most register to the top register. This was truly a remarkable voice.

Up until fairly recently, operas would be translated in to the language of the country in which they were being sung. So, Bizet’s The Pearlfishers, when sung in Italy, would be sung in Italian, as it is here. Finding a good translation from the original French to this Italian version is not worth the effort (actually, I know, having tried to do it). I am giving the original French and a translation into English, with the thought that what they are singing in Italian must have some resemblance to the original French.

C’était le soir !
Dans l’air par la brise attiédi,
Les brahmines au front inondé de lumière,
Appelaient lentement la foule à la prière !
It was in the evening!
In the air cooled by a breeze,
The brahmanes with faces flooded with light,
Slowly called the crowd to prayer!
Au fond du temple saint
paré de fleurs et d’or,
Une femme apparaît !
At the back of the holy temple,
decorated with flowers and gold,
A woman appears!
Une femme apparaît !
A woman appears!
Je crois la voir encore !
I can still see her!
Je crois la voir encore !
I can still see her!
La foule prosternée
La regarde, étonnée,
Et murmure tout bas :
Voyez, c’est la déesse
Qui dans l’ombre se dresse,
Et vers nous tend les bras !
The prostrate crowd
looks at her amazed
and murmurs under its breath:
look, this is the goddess
looming up in the shadow
and holding out her arms to us.
Son voile se soulève !
Ô vision ! ô rêve !
La foule est à genoux !
Her veil parts slightly.
What a vision! What a dream!
The crowd is kneeling.
Oui, c’est elle !
C’est la déesse
Plus charmante et plus belle !
Oui, c’est elle !
C’est la déesse
Qui descend parmi nous !
Son voile se soulève
Et la foule est à genoux !
Yes, it is she!
It is the goddess,
more charming and more beautiful.
Yes, it is she!
It is the goddess
who has come down among us.
Her veil has parted
and the crowd is kneeling.
Mais à travers la foule
Elle s’ouvre un passage !
But through the crowd
she makes her way.
Son long voile déjà
Nous cache son visage !
Already her long veil
hides her face from us.
Mon regard, hélas !
La cherche en vain !
My eyes, alas!
Seek her in vain!
Elle fuit !
She flees!
Elle fuit !
Mais dans mon âme soudain
Quelle étrange ardeur s’allume !
She flees!
But what is this strange flame
which is suddenly kindled in my soul!
Quel feu nouveau me consume !
What unknown fire is destroying me?
Ta main repousse ma main !
Your hand pushes mine away!
Ta main repousse ma main !
Your hand pushes mine away!
De nos cœurs l’amour s’empare,
Et nous change en ennemis !
Love takes our hearts by storm
and turns us into enemies!
Non, que rien ne nous sépare !
No, let nothing part us!
Non, rien !
No, nothing!
Que rien ne nous sépare.
Let nothing part us!
Non, rien !
No, nothing!
Jurons de rester amis !
Let us swear to remain friends!
Jurons de rester amis !
Let us swear to remain friends!
Jurons de rester amis !
Let us swear to remain friends!
Oh oui, jurons de rester amis !
Oui, c’est elle ! C’est la déesse !
En ce jour qui vient nous unir,
Et fidèle à ma promesse,
Comme un frère je veux te chérir !
C’est elle, c’est la déesse
Qui vient en ce jour nous unir !
Oui, partageons le même sort,
Soyons unis jusqu’à la mort !
Oh yes, let us swear to remain friends!
Yes, it is she, the goddess,
who comes to unite us this day.
And, faithful to my promise,
I wish to cherish you like a brother!
It is she, the goddess,
who comes to unite us this day!
Yes, let us share the same fate,
let us be united until death!

Oh, de’ verd’anni miei, Carlo’s aria from Ernani

Oh, de’ verd’anni miei
sogni e bugiarde larve,
se troppo vi credei,
I’incanto ora disparve.
S’ora chiamato sono,
al più sublime trono,
della virtù com’aquila
sui vanni m’alzerò, ah,
e vincitor de’ secoli
il nome mio farò.

Oh, of my halcyon days, Charles’s aria from Ernani

Oh, in my halcyon days,
dreams and lying worms,
if I believed you too much,
The spell has now vanished.
Yes, now I am called,
to the most sublime throne,
climbing up on his wings
of virtue like an eagle, ah,
and conqueror of the ages
my I shall make my name.

Di Provenza il mar – Germont’s aria from La Traviata

Di Provenza il mar, il suol
chi dal cor te cancello?
Al natio fulgente sol
qual destino ti furo’?
Oh, rammenta pur nel duol
ch’ivi gioia a te brillo’;
E che pace cola’ sol
su te splendere ancor puo’.
Dio mi guidò!
Ah! il tuo vecchio genitor
tu non sai quanto soffrì!
Te lontano, di squallor
il suo tetto si coprì.
Ma se alfin ti trovo ancor,
se in me speme non fallì,
Se la voce dell’onor
in te appien non ammutì,
Dio m’esaudi’!

The sea and soil of Provence – Germont’s aria from La Traviata

The sea and soil of Provence —
who has erased them from your heart?
From your native, shining sun —
what destiny stole you away?
Oh, remember in your sorrow
that joy shined on you,
and that only there peace
can yet shine upon you.
God has guided me!
Ah, your old father —
You don’t know how much he has suffered!
With you far away, with misery
has his house become full.
But if in the end I find you again,
if hope did not fail within me,
if the voice of honor
didn’t become silenced in you,
God has heard me!

Mario Ancona (February 28, 1860 – February 23, 1931), was a leading Italian baritone and master of bel canto singing. He appeared at some of the most important opera houses in Europe and America during what is commonly referred to as the “Golden Age of Opera”.

Ancona was born into a middle-class Jewish family at Livorno, Tuscany. After embarking on a business career he decided to study voice with a local singing teacher named Matteini in his native city of Livorno. Later, he took lessons from Giuseppe Cima in Milan. On February 28, 1860, he made his debut as an amateur singer in the Concerto Maglioni, in 1880. Ancona’s earliest recorded opera appearance was in 1889 with the Triest opera company, singing the role of Scindia in Massenet’s Le Roi de Lahore. Shortly after, he sang another Massenet opera, Le Cid, in Milan’s La Scala (1890), and two years later, he created Silvio in Leoncavallo’s Paglicacci. For many years he appeared as a regular artist at London’s Covent Garden Opera where he was held in very high esteem. He sang as a guest artist in Cairo, Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, Warsaw, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Chicago, Boston and various cities in South America. From 1906-08 he was engaged with the Manhattan Opera House where he was particularly successful in his role of Don Giovanni. He was much admired on stage for his elegant deportment, and his beautiful and expressive voice, particularly in the high register. His repertory included Verdi (Germont, Rigoletto, Amonasro, Iago and Don Carlos in Ernani), Puccini (Lescaut and Marcello), Mascagni (Alfio and David in L’amico Fritz), Mozart (Don Giovanni and Figaro), Wagner (Wolfram, Telrammund and Hans Sachs), and several French roles such as Nevers, Escamillo and Valentin. After retiring in 1916 Mario Ancona devoted himself to teaching voice. He died in Florence.