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Lyric Soprano

Maria Cebotari, Romanian Soprano

By October 11, 2023No Comments

Maria Cebotari was, like her colleague Ljuba Welitsch, a flash across the firmament of opera. She had a career that was cut short by cancer in 1949. The wonderful things to listen for in Cebotari are the interpretations of the characters that she sings. She was especially adept in Strauss, Puccini, and Mozart. I have posted some of the heaviver operatic arias here because she sang them well, and they are what she was known for.

Strauss, Salome, Letzte Szene

Ah! Du wolltest mich nicht deinen Mund
küssen lassen, Jochanaan!
Wohl, ich werde ihn jetzt küssen!
Ich will mit meinen Zähnen hineinbeissen,
wie man in eine reife Frucht beissen mag.
Ja, ich will ihn jetzt küssen, deinen Mund,
Jochanaan.
Ich hab’ es gesagt. Hab’ ich’s nicht gesagt?
Ja, ich hab’ es gesagt.
Ah! Ah! Ich will ihn jetzt küssen…
Aber warum siehst du mich nicht an,
Jochanaan?
Deine Augen, die so schrecklich waren,
so voller Wut und Verachtung,
sind jetzt geschlossen.
Warum sind sie geschlossen?
Öffne doch die Augen, erhebe deine Lider,
Jochanaan!
Warum siehst du mich nicht an?
Hast du Angst vor mir, Jochanaan, dass
du mich nicht ansehen willst?…
Und deine Zunge, sie spricht kein Wort,
Jochanaan, diese Scharlachnatter,
die ihren Geifer gegen mich spie.
Es ist seltsam, nicht?
Wie kommt es, dass diese rote Natter sich
nicht mehr rührt?
Du sprachst böse Worte gegen mich, gegen
mich, Salome, die Tochter der Herodias,
Prinzessin von Judea.
Nun wohl! Ich lebe noch, aber du bist tot,
und dein Kopf,
dein Kopf gehört mir.
Ich kann mit ihm tun, was ich will.
Ich kann ihn den Hunden vorwerfen und
den Vögeln der Luft.
Was die Hunde übrig lassen, sollen die
Vögel der Luft verzehren…
Ah! Ah! Jochanaan, Jochanaan, du
warst schön.
Dein Leib war eine Elfenbeinsäule auf silbernen
Füssen.
Er war ein Garten voller Tauben in der
Silberlilien Glanz.
Nichts in der Welt war so weiss wie
dein Leib.
Nichts in der Welt was so schwarz wie
dein Haar.
In der ganzen Welt war nichts so rot wie
dein Mund.
Deine Stimme war ein Weihrauchgefäss,
und wenn ich dich ansah, hörte ich
geheimnisvolle Musik…
Oh! Warum hast du mich nicht angesehen,
Jochanaan?
Du legtest über deine Augen die Binde
eines, der seinen Gott schauen wollte.
Wohl! Du hast deinen Gott gesehn,
Jochanaan, aber mich, mich, mich hast du
nie gesehn.
Hättest du mich gesehn, du hättest mich
geliebt!
Ich dürste nach deiner Schönheit,
Ich hungre nach deinem Leib,
Nicht Wein noch Äpfel können mein
Verlangen stillen…
Was soll ich jetzt tun, Jochanaan?
Nicht die Fluten, noch die grossen Wasser
können dieses brünstige Begehren löschen…
Oh! Warum sahst du mich nicht an?
Hättest du mich angesehn, du hättest
mich geliebt.
Ich weiss es wohl, du hättest mich geliebt.
Und das Geheimnis der Liebe ist grösser
als das Geheimnis des Todes…
Ah! Ich habe deinen Mund geküsst,
Jochanaan.
Ah! Ich habe ihn geküsst, deinen Mund,
es war ein bitterer Geschmack auf deinen
Lippen…
Hat es nach Blut geschmeckt?
Nein! Doch es schmeckte vielleicht nach
Liebe…
Sie sagen, dass die Liebe bitter schmecke…
Allein, was tut’s?
Was tut’s?
Ich habe deinen Mund geküsst, Jochanaan,
Ich habe ihn geküsst, deinen Mund.

Strauss, Salome, Final Scene

Ah! You would not let me
kiss your mouth, Jochanaan!
Well, I will kiss it now,
I will bite it with my teeth
as one bites a ripe fruit.
Yes, I will kiss your mouth,
Jochanaan.
I said it. Did I not say it?
Yes, I said it.
Ah! Ah! I will kiss it now…
But why don’t you look at me,
Jochanaan?
Your eyes that were so terrible,
so full of rage and scorn,
are shut now.
Why are they shut?
Open your eyes, lift up your eyelids,
Jochanaan!
Why don’t you look at me?
Are you afraid of me, Jochanaan, that
you will not look at me?…
And your tongue, it says nothing now,
Jochanaan, that scarlet viper that spat
its venom upon me.
It is strange, is it not?
How is it that the red viper
stirs no more?
You spoke evil words against me, against
me, Salome, daughter of Herodias,
Princess of Judea!
Well, Jochanaan, I am still alive, but you
are dead, and your head,
your head belongs to me.
I can do with it what I will.
I can throw it to the dogs and to the
birds of the air.
That which the dogs leave, the birds of
the air shall devour…
Ah! Jochanaan, Jochanaan, you were
beautiful.
Your body was a column of ivory set on
a silver socket.
It was a garden full of doves in the
splendor of silver lilies.
There was nothing in the world so white
as your body.
There was nothing in the world so black
as your hair.
In the whole world there was nothing so
red as your mouth.
Your voice was a censer,
and when I looked you, I heard
mysterious music…
Ah! Why did you not look at me,
Jochanaan?
You put over your eyes the blindfold of
one who wanted to see his God.
Well! You have seen your God,
Jochanaan, but me, me, me, you have
never seen.
Had you seen me, you would have loved
me.
I crave your beauty,
I am hungry for your body,
Neither wine nor apples can appease my
desire…
What shall I do now, Jochanaan?
Neither the floods nor the great waters
can quench my passion.
Oh! Why did you not look at me?
Had you looked at me, you would have
loved me.
I know that you would have loved me.
And the mystery of love is greater than
the mystery of death…
Ah! I have kissed your mouth,
Jochanaan.
Ah! I have kissed your mouth.
There was a bitter taste on your
lips.
Was it the taste of blood?
No! But perhaps it was the taste of
love…
They say that love has a bitter taste…
But what does it matter?
What does it matter?
I have kissed your mouth, Jochanaan.
I have kissed your mouth.

Mozart, Le nozze di Figaro, “Dove sono”

LA CONTESSA
E Susanna non vien! Sono ansiosa
di saper come il Conte
accolse la proposta. Alquanto ardito
il progetto mi par, e ad uno sposo
sì vivace, e geloso!
Ma che mal c’è? Cangiando i miei vestiti
con quelli di Susanna, e i suoi co’ miei…
al favor della notte… oh cielo, a quale
umil stato fatale io son ridotta
da un consorte crudel, che dopo avermi
con un misto inaudito
d’infedeltà, di gelosia, di sdegni,
prima amata, indi offesa, e alfin tradita,
fammi or cercar da una mia serva aita!

Dove sono i bei momenti
di dolcezza e di piacer,
dove andaro i giuramenti
di quel labbro menzogner?
Perché mai se in pianti e in pene
per me tutto si cangiò,
la memoria di quel bene
dal mio sen non trapassò?
Ah! Se almen la mia costanza
nel languire amando ognor,
mi portasse una speranza
di cangiar l’ingrato cor.

Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro, “Where are those happy moments?”

COUNTESS
And Susanna’s is not coming! I’m impatient
To know what the Count said
To her proposal; the plan seems to me
Somewhat rash, and with a husband
So impetuous and jealous …
But where’s the harm?
To change my clothes
With those of Susanna, and hers with mine,
Under cover of darkness … Oh heavens!
To what humiliation am I reduced
By a cruel husband, who after having
First loved me, then neglected and finally
Deceived me, in a strange mixture
Of infidelity, jealousy and disdain,
Now forces me to seek help from my servant!

Where are those happy moments
Of sweetness and pleasure?
Where have they gone,
Those vows of a deceiving tongue?
Then why, if everything for me
Is changed to tears and grief,
Has the memory oft hat happiness
Not faded from my breast?
Ah! if only my constancy
In yearning lovingly for him always
Could bring the hope
Of changing his ungrateful heart!

Strauss, Ariadne auf Naxos, “Es gibt ein Reich”

Es gibt ein Reich,
Wo alles rein ist :
Es hat auch einen Namen :
Totenreich.
Hier ist nichts rein!
Hier kam alles zu allem.
Bald aber naht ein Bote,
Hermes heißen sie ihn.
Mit seinem Stab
regiert er die Seelen :
Wie leichte Vögel,
Wie welke Blätter
Treibt er sie hin.
Du schöner, stiller Gott!
Sieh! Ariadne wartet!
Ach, von allen wilden Schmerzen
Muß das Herz gereinigt sein;
Dann wird dein Gesicht mir nicken,
Wird dein Schritt vor meiner Höhle,
Dunkel wird auf meinen Augen
Deine Hand auf meinem Herzen sein.
In den schönen Feierkleidern,
Die mir meine Mutter gab,
Diese Glieder werden bleiben,
Stille Höhle wird mein Grab.
Aber lautlos meine Seele
Folget ihrem neuen Herrn,
Wie ein leichtes Blatt im Winde
Folgt hinunter, folgt so gern.

Du wirst mich befreien,
Mir selber mich geben,
Dies lastende Leben
Du nimm es von mir.
An dich werd’ ich mich ganz verlieren,
Bei dir wird Ariadne sein.

Strauss, Ariadne auf Naxos, “There is a realm”

There is a realm,
Where everything is pure:
It even has a name:
The Realm of Death.
Here nothing is pure!
Here anything could happen.
Soon however will appear a Messenger,
HIs name is Hermes.
With his staff
He governs souls:
Like airy birds,
Like withered leaves
He drives them away.
You handsome, quiet God!
See! Ariadne awaits you!
Oh, from all pains
the Heart must be cleansed;
Then will you face nod to me,
Will you step before my cave,
Darkness will come to my eyes
Your hand will be on my heart.
In beautiful ceremonial gowns
Which my mother gave me,
These limbs shall remain,
The quiet cave shall be my grave.
But silently my soul
Follows its new lord
As a light leaf in the wind
Sinks down, follows so gladly.

You shall set me free,
You shall return me to myself
This burdensome life
You take it from me.
I shall become completely lost in you,
Ariadne shall stay with you.

Maria Cebotari
February 10, 1910 – June 9, 1949

During the 1930s and 1940s, the Romanian-born soprano was one of the best-loved and most popular sopranos of the day, who scored a considerable success in films as well as in opera. Glamorous, lively, impassioned, she portrayed all her roles with a total involvement that can be heard on her records. She was discovered by Fritz Busch, who encouraged and promoted her career at Dresden, where she created the role of Aminta in Die schweigsame Frau, expressly at Richard Strauss’s wish. She then moved to Berlin where she expanded her repertory to take in such taxing roles as Turandot and Salome; she sang the latter to great acclaim during the Vienna State Opera’s 1947 visit to Covent Garden, where she had previously appeared (1936) with the Dresden company as a charming Sophie and Zerlina. In 1947 she also sang the final scene of Ariadne under Beecham at the London Strauss Festival and recorded the same passage with the same conductor for RCA.
She recorded quite extensively for Electrola before the war, then for HMV after it.