Mercoledi Musicale

Many glowing tributes to my beloved Teresa Berganza over the past week have included clips from performances and albums and all of them spotlit the warmth and sheer beauty of her voice. However I found this simple unaccompanied medieval canticle to the Virgin Mary says everything to me about why I fell in love with her and her artistry.

The court of Alfonso X el Sabio (the Wise) was a centre of learning, science, and the arts in 13th century Castile. Alfonso encouraged Jewish, Muslim and Christian scholars at his court and commissioned translations into Castilian of books in Arabic and Hebrew. He set the foundations for the development of Spanish sciences, literature, and philosophy. Amongst the codices on astronomy, Mediterranean history, and chronicles of Iberia, the Cantigas de Santa Maria (Canticles of Saint Mary) stands out as a singular achievement. This vast collection of 420 lyric poems in the Galician-Portuguese language is the largest collection of vernacular monophonic (solo) songs to survive from the Middle Ages.

Each song contains a reference to the Virgin Mary – many recount her miracles, some like Cantiga 10: Rosa das rosas (Rose of roses) sing her praises and others are prayers for her intercession. Cantiga 100: Santa Maria is a prayer asking for her guidance and protection. The album cover shown here is Narciso Yepes, the renowned guitarist, however Teresa Berganza recorded it a capella as part of a compilation album with him.

The word for May 18th is:
Canticle /ˈkan(t)ək(ə)l/: [noun]
A song, hymn, or chant, often with a biblical text, forming a regular part of Christian worship.
Middle English: from Latin canticulum ‘little song’, diminutive of canticum, from canere ‘sing’.

Memes for a Monday

but on a Tuesday!

Unfortunately life, yes faithful reader I have something resembling a life, got in the way yesterday so I am a day late. Perhaps I should re-title this post Toons for a Tuesday??

I was looking for a picture that I thought I had of my Warsaw days (1998-2001) when I was teaching English at Polish Military Headquarters. I am lined up with the group of Generals who were my students. I know it’s somewhere amongst the many thousands of digital photos spread out over four or five hard drives.

But I digress! I thought of it as I was looking at a series of memes highlighting the dog’s breakfast that is English and the question oft posed by students: WHY? Now usually I would enter a witty, wise, or puerile comment before each one but I think I’ll just let them speak for themselves.

Okay! First, you knew I wouldn’t be able to be quiet that long. And second, you knew there had to be a canine one!

And lest there be any doubt that English is the language of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, the King James Bible and parrots I give you:

The word for May 16th is:
Digress /dīˈɡres/: [verb]
To leave the main subject temporarily in speech or writing.
Early 16th century: from Latin digress- ‘stepped away’, from the verb digredi, from di- ‘aside’ + gradi ‘to walk’.

Another Great Has Left the Stage

Teresa Berganza
March 16, 1933 – May 13, 2022

Teresa Berganza in 2018 receiving a Lfetime Achievement Honour at the International Opera Awards.

I awoke this morning to the news that my beloved Teresa Berganza had passed away earlier today. She was a singer I fell in love with the first time I heard her on a recording of Handel’s Alcina in 1962. Though I had bought the three record set because it starred Joan Sutherland I came away for it with Berganza’s voice sounding in my ears. She appeared in recital at Massey Hall several months later and when I met her afterwards she was warm and very indulgent of a teenager with a crush.

I had the good fortune to see her as Ruggerio in Alcina at Aix-en-Provence in 1978 and once again her “Verdi prati” had an simple elegance and grace that has never been matched. One thing I remember from evening was the silence at the end of the aria that was followed by thunderous applause. It is captured well in this clip from that production.

The warrior Ruggerio (Berganza) leads his lady love who is disguised as a knight (Ann Murray) to safety through the enchanted forest of the evil Alcina.

I am pretty sure I owned all of her records – particularly the complete operas and the various recitals. She was known for her performances as Rossini’s Isabella, Rosina, and Cenerentola. Unfortunately I never saw her in a Rossini opera – I had tickets for Cenerentola in Paris but took ill when in London and came home early. But I was to see her at the Paris Opera as Cherubino, another of her signature roles, in an all-star Nozze di Figaro that included my equally loved Teresa Stratas.

Berganza often sang “trouser roles” and her Cherubino was seldom equalled. She had sprung onto the scene at Aix-en-Provence and was much loved (with reason) there. And no I wasn’t there in 1962!

I’ve told the tale on here of one of the great evenings I’ve spent in an opera house: May 1980 – Carmen with Berganza and Placido Domingo at the Opéra Comique in Paris. I didn’t have a ticket but took a chance.

Standing in line for five hours at the Opera Comique waiting for a cancellation for the Berganza-Domingo Carmen. Enduring the abuse of the lumpy spun-sugar blond vendeuse at the box office. “Vous–etes fou d’attender” she heckled repeatedly, then magically produced a front row 1st loge seat 2 minutes to curtain time. The abuse was worth it – one of my great evenings at the opera.

There will never be another Carmen like her. This was not the hip-swaying slattern so often seen but a flirtatious, sensual free spirit. She was sly, seductive, playful and ultimately tragic. She was Carmen!

I was in the audience that May night in 1980, I’m sure you can hear me screaming my brava in that ovation at the end.

After her retirement from the stage she became a much sought after and loved teacher. Her master classes – many were filmed – were a reflection of her warmth as a person and her art as a musician.

Dear Teresa – you have given me much joy since that first recording; I thank you. Rest in Peace.

The word for May 13th is:
Beloved /bəˈləvəd/: [1. adjective 2. noun]
1. Dearly loved
2. A much loved person
Late Middle English: past participle of obsolete belove ‘be pleasing’, later ‘love’.

Throwback Thursday – Valencia

Laurent and I have been talking about a possible revisit to Spain and a few of the places that we saw only briefly back in 2013. A recent Facebook post by a friend about a stop he made in Valencia had me revisiting the only post I made about that city. Strangely it was about the food – go figure. So for Throwback Thursday I thought I’d relive a wonderful lunch in a tree-shaded square on a sunny Spanish Saturday.

Willy Or Won't He

One of the surprises on this trip was Valencia. I hadn’t really done much research into it and other than a vague notion of its place in European history my knowledge of its attractions was scanty. Given the cost of WiFi on the cruise ship attempts to find out the wonders it was to present proved to be expensive so we relied on the information distributed by the good people at Azamara. Fortunately it was enough to provide suggestions of a few of the highlights of what proved to be a wonderful city.

I’m currently working on two posts about some quirky little things I found there. Now that I have better – and free – Internet access it will be easier to do a big of digging to find out more about several of the things that intrigued me there.

Normally I like to see what Lonely Plant…

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Mercoledi Musicale

At dinner the other evening we were listening to a programme from Montreal that features music from the 40s-60s and they were playing one of my favourite songs: I’ll be seeing you. Written by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal in 1938 it has had many covers over the years. I didn’t recognize the voice and was surprised when the DJ said it was Liberace. I had forgotten, if indeed I ever knew, that it was his theme song and it ended most of his shows.

There was a time when the name Liberace was immediately recognized – he was Mr. Showmanship. His television show in the 1950s was one of the most widely watched in North America. I remember that in our family opinions of him varied widely: my Aunt Vic thought he was the cat’s meow and my mother snorted that he was a “fop”! His Las Vegas and touring shows were extravagant, flamboyant, high quality entertainment; and they were sellouts world wide. And they weren’t just about him. He featured some remarkable acts – which allowed for the 8 or 10 costume changes he indulged in. For many years the Toronto-based Famous People Players were featured in his shows

As with many of the entertainers I grew up with his name is now only a curiosity to most people beyond my generation. But I suppose that is to be expect because frankly I don’t recognize half of today’s “celebrities”. Sic transit etc.

The word for May 10th is:
Favourite /ˈfāv(ə)rət/: [1. adjective 2. noun 3. verb]
1. Preferred before all others of the same kind.
2.1 A person or thing that is especially popular or particularly well liked by someone.
2.2 The competitor thought most likely to win a game or contest, especially by people betting on the outcome.
2.3 A record of the address of a website or other data made to enable quick access; a bookmark.
3. To record the address of (a website or other data) to enable quick access in future.
Late 16th century (as a noun): from obsolete French favorit, from Italian favorito, past participle of favorire ‘to favor’, from Latin favor

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