The greatness of Giuseppe Verdi’s operatic music lies not only in the perfect balance between the instrumental dimension and the contribution of the text, which is almost permanently produced by Macbeth onwards, a prerogative that represents the macroscopic side, but also and above all in what it is the microscopic component, if one can say so, namely the arias, the duets, the recitatives, the cavatinas that make up the operatic work itself.
This means that the fascination and the involvement that causes listening to Verdi’s music is given by the stylistic and content perfection that is present in every operatic segment, effectively transforming every air into a “micro-work” in its own right, ideally made. Listening to Verdi means looking at a solid wall, observing brick by brick and knowing that every brick is practically indestructible.
Just listen to the eight operatic tracks of this program, which see protagonist Italian Roberto Scandiuzzi, one of the most well-known basses in the international scene, to realize this fact. Eight pieces covering a lapse of time of twenty-three years, from cavatina Infelice!… e tuo credevi from Ernani (1844) to aria Ella giammai m’amò from Don Carlos (1867), passing over aria Mentre gonfiarsi l’anima from Attila (1846), aria Come dal ciel precipita from Macbeth (1847), recitative Grâce! mon Dieu! from Jerusalem (1847), the scene Che mai narrasti!… from Luisa Miller (1849), aria E tu, Palermo from I vespri siciliani (1855) and recitative A te l’estremo addio, palagio altero from Simon Boccanegra (1857).
Cavatina taken from Ernani shows the arrival on the scene of Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, great of Spain, master of the castle where the operatic work is carried out for the most part. Verdi takes just over six minutes to outline the psychological dimension of this character who sees fiancée Elvira threatened by King Charles and in love instead of Ernani. On one hand Silva shows the strong side of his personality, of the one who is used commanding but, in the central part of the cavatina, without being heard by Charles and Ernani, he admits his own weakness, a disarming sensitivity (Ah! perché l’etade in seno/giovin core m’ha serbato!/Mi dovevan gli anni almeno/far di gelo ancora il cor). But the strong “mask” still has the upper hand and Silva returns to be a great of Spain, lord of himself and his castle.
Verdi was fascinated by human weakness, above all by that demonstrated by those who have authority and prestige and an operatic work like Attila is a very valid example in this sense and aria Mentre gonfiarsi l’anima a perfect evidence. The king of the Huns is about to destroy Rome, after having razed Aquileia, but in his tent he is the victim of a nightmare that tells the slave Uldino. Also here Verdi (with the faithful librettist Francesco Maria Piave) shows the two faces of man, with Attila who at first is terrified by the nightmare in which an old man appears who prevents him from going into Rome (In me tai detti suonano/cupi, fatali ancor, e l’alma in petto ad Attila/s’agghiaccia pe’l terror) and, soon after, as if reawakening (in the libretto there is the indication “rekindling”), the fear leaves space to the barbarian (Già più rapido del vento, Roma iniqua, volo a te).
Another topic often handled by Verdi in his works is that of man before death, of how he reacts, how he behaves, how he confronts it. And the scene of Banco, Come dal ciel precipita, who is going to fall victim to Macbeth’s assassins is typical. In notte ugual trafissero Duncano il mio signor, confides the man to his son Fleanzio, highlighting how the death of other people becomes an omen of his own death, mirror of an irreversible fate.
Master of human psychology and its many facets, Verdi has been able to outline like few other composers the dimension of remorse that is expressed here in recitative Grâce! mon Dieu! by Roger, brother of the Count of Toulouse, with whom the second act of Jerusalem opens. For Verdi the remorse is a test of bravery, a challenge with oneself, the worst guilt to expiate, as Roger recalls, now became a hermit, after having his brother killed by mistake: Ô jour fatal! Ô crime! Tombeau de ma victime, du fond de cet abîme, toujours je te revois.
Even the lack of understanding between fathers and sons takes centre stage of Verdi’s musical and psychological analysis (how can we forget the relationship between Alfredo Germont and his father Giorgio in Traviata?) and another example is the relationship between the count of Walter and his son Rodolfo in Luisa Miller, with the scene Che mai narrasti!… in which the parent is displeased knowing his son does not want to marry Duchess of Ostheim, but the most humble Luisa: Di dolcezze l’affetto paterno/a quest’alma sorgente non è…/Pena atroce, supplizio d’inferno dio sdegnato l’ha reso per me.
The role not only cultural, but also political of Verdi in the social mechanisms of Risorgimento are well known (the acronym VERDI, Viva Emanuele Re d’Italia, that means Long live Emmanuel King of Italy, written on Milan walls during Austrian occupation is famous) and among the different examples in the musical field there is aria E tu, Palermo, sung by the patriot Giovanni da Procida in I vespri siciliani, which condenses the poignant greeting of those who set foot back on their land in search of redemption and freedom: Chiesi aita a straniere nazioni,/Ramingai per castella e città:/ Ma, insensibili ai fervidi sproni,/Rispondeano con vana pietà!
Still the pain, the agony caused by the death of a loved one, as a father can prove it to whom his daughter dies; Verdi, as few ones, musically, supported by valid librettists (in this case Francesco Maria Piave) has been able to better describe this blinding suffering, as happens in Simon Boccanegra, when in the Prologue, the noble Jacopo Fiesco leaves his palace, shocked by death of the daughter Maria, in recitative A te l’estremo addio, palagio altero, with the painful instrumental accompaniment that if on one hand rises to a delicate funeral march (Il lacerato spirito/Del mesto genitore/Era serbato a strazio/D’infamia e di dolore), on the other it becomes a tormenting lullaby with which Fiesco seems to want to protect the eternal sleep of Maria, invoking her prayer (Resa al fulgor degli angeli/Prega, Maria, per me).
Finally, another peculiarity of the psychological aspects investigated by Verdi, that of unveiling, of giving rise to the human soul a trait previously concealed and that suddenly emerges from the inner folds. In this sense, one of the most involved characters is certainly Philip II in Don Carlo, initially described in a negative way because of his cynicism and ruthlessness to which he uses for “reason of state”. But in aria Ella giammai m’amò, which opens the fourth act, here is that the king shows all his bitterness in not having been returned of Elizabeth of Valois love (No, quel cor è chiuso a me,/Amor per me non ha…!), wishing to find at least peace and rest in the grave that awaits him at Escorial (Dormirò sol nel manto mio regal/Quando la mia giornata è giunta a sera;/Dormirò sol sotto la volta nera/Là, nell’avello dell’Escurial!). But it is only a moment, the entrance of the Grand Inquisitor will return him to his ruthlessness, trusting the old man his intention to put to death his son Charles.
Album notes by Andrea Bedetti
Roberto Scandiuzzi: One of the last representative of the Italian school of great artists such as Ezio Pinza and Cesare Siepi, Roberto Scandiuzzi is considered today one of the world’s most appreciated basses. He was only 24 when he made his company debut at Teatro alla Scala, in Le nozze di Figaro conducted by Riccardo Muti. After his acclaimed performance as Jacopo Fiesco in Simon Boccanegra at Royal Opera House Covent Garden, under the baton of Sir Georg Solti, he started a shining international career that led him to such theatres as Metropolitan Opera of New York, Opéra National de Paris, Wiener Staatsoper, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, San Francisco Opera, working with such renowned conductors as Claudio Abbado, Sir Colin Davis, Valerij Gergeev, James Levine, Fabio Luisi, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Antonio Pappano, Georges Prêtre, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Sir Georg Solti and Marcello Viotti. His vast repertory ranges from Verdi bass roles to the French and Russian repertoire, as well as from “Scapigliatura” (Boito's Mefistofele) to Verism (Ponchielli's La Gioconda). Also active on concert field, he has worked with such renowned orchestras as Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia di Roma, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Berliner Philharmoniker, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Die Münchner Philharmoniker. Among his greatest successes in recent years, it can be reported: Pelléas et Mélisande (Arkel) at Opera di Firenze conducted by Daniele Gatti, Faust (Méphistophélès) at Staatsoper Berlin, Aida (Ramfis) at Opéra National de Paris and at Seoul Arts Center, Norma (Oroveso) at NCPA Beijing, Il barbiere di Siviglia (Basilio) at Royal Opera House of Muscat, Teatro San Carlo di Napoli and Grand Théâtre de Genève, Don Pasquale (title role) at Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, La Gioconda (Alvise) at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Luisa Miller (conte Walter) at New Israeli Opera Tel Aviv, Don Carlo (Filippo II) at Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse. His wide discography includes Simon Boccanegra (dvd Decca), Don Carlo, Jerusalem and Aroldo by Verdi (Philips), Messa da Requiem and Gioconda (EMI), Cristoforo Colombo (Koch), Stabat Mater by Rossini, Rigoletto and Stabat Mater by Dvorák (DGG), La Sonnambula (Nightingale), La bohème (Erato), Macbeth (Sine Qua Non – dvd TDK) , two recordings of Turandot (Decca and Nuova Era), Jérusalem and the only one recording of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem with Giuseppe Sinopoli and Staatskapelle Dresden.
Pellegrini, Sergio (Conductor): As clarinettist he collaborated with many orchestras like Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, Orchestra del Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Orchestra Toscanini of Parma, Orchestra da Camera Italiana with Maestro Salvatore Accardo, Orchestra da Camera di Mantova, Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Parma. As for XX Century music, he collaborated, as principal clarinet, for two years with the “European Music Project” of Ulm (Germany). In 1993 he won the National competition for wind instruments groups “Amilcare Ponchielli” of Cremona. In 1997 he founded The “Parma Opera Ensemble”, today denominated Solisti dell’Opera di Parma, formed, along with him, by prestigious instrumentalists. The group was later on denominated I Solisti del Teatro Regio di Parma. This ensemble played at the Rossini Opera Festival of Pesaro, the Teatro Regio of Parma, the Teatro Grande of Brescia, the Teatro Municipale of Piacenza, the Unione Musicale of Torino, the Sagra Musicale Umbra, the Festival Internacional de Musica of Cambrils, the Chelsea Festival of London, the Kyoi Hall of Tokyo, the Tofokuji Temple of Kyoto, at the “Otobutai festival”, at the Ginko Hall of Fukuoka, the Festival of S. Feliù de Guixols, at the headquarter of the United Nations and at the Carnegie Hall, in New York, at the Festival of Reus. Besides, he has been invited by the Philarmonic of Mosca to the Tchaikovsky Hall; to San Pietroburgo, Kaliningrad, Liepaja and Riga. Since 1999, as president and artistic director of the Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Parma, which he founded, in Parma he took part to all the opera, symphonic and chamber music seasons, and to the Festival Verdi, until 2012. This activity provided the Orchestra 180 workdays per year. The Orchestra played in International festivals, in Opera and concert seasons all over the world: Italy, France, Spain, USA, Germany, Mexico, India, Japan, Korea and China. The Orchestra was – between 2003 and 2007 – conducted by Bruno Bartoletti and collaborated with conductors such as Muti, Maazel, Temirkanov, Bartoletti, Chung, De Burgos, and Plasson. As orchestra conductor he collaborated as guest conductor with orchestras like the East European Philarmonic Orchestra, the Russian Philarmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra Philarmonic of Arad (Romania), Philarmonic Orchestra of Bakau (Romania), with the Orchestra del Teatro Olimpico of Vicenza and the Philarmonic Orchestra of Oporto (Portugal) both in opera and symphonic seasons. With the Orchestra of Teatro Regio di Parma he collaborated with soloists like Nikolaj Luganski, Corrado Giuffredi, Andrea Oliva, Andrea Bacchetti and singers like Leo Nucci, Vladimir Stoyanov, Fiorenza Cedolins, Desirèe Rancatore, Roberto Aronica, Roberto Scandiuzzi, Luca Salsi. In March 2012 he conducted the soprano Barbara Frittoli at the Lisinski Concert Hall of Zagabria. He collaborated in several recordings – both as clarinetist and artistic director of the Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Parma – with Sony, Unitel e Stradivarius.
Giuseppe Verdi: (b Roncole, nr Busseto, 9/10 Oct 1813; d Milan, 27 Jan 1901). Italian composer. By common consent he is recognized as the greatest Italian musical dramatist.