The Animus Speaks – About Opera

Dear readers,

I am once again compelled by The Animus to pass along the following communique.  Please forgive the interruption.

Hello, it’s me again.  I’ve been listening to Radio Riel all day today.  The programming of the day is mostly opera and I have thoroughly enjoyed it, almost as much as I enjoy the Celtic music days.  Anyway, this infusion of librettos brought to mind an earlier epoch in my First Life.

Many years ago, about 20 actually (Yikes!), I was actually able to carry a tune in a bucket.  Too many years in a US Navy ship’s engine room ruined my musical ear since then and I tend to be rather flat now.  But, back then I had a fairly competent ability as a bass/baritone.  At least my vocal instructor in University thought so.  He cast me in a minor part in the opera Gianni Schicchi, one of the witnesses to the will, Pinellino or Guccio I can’t remember which.

I think what sealed the deal was my rendition of Ombra Mai Fu.  Of course, this was before the advent of YouTube, so I had nothing really to compare myself to, but I thought I did pretty good.  Now, this famous Handel aria was originally written for countertenor.   It is occasionslly sung by others, even other baritones.  One thing that makes me laugh about this piece is how exemplifies one of the absurdities of opera.  Some of the most moving and memorable pieces have the most ridiculous librettos.   Ombra Mai Fu is a song in praise of a tree’s shade.  It must have been a very hot day for poor Xerxes.

 I found a few versions on YouTube that I’d like to share with you.  There are performances by countertenors and sopranos aplenty.  Of those I like David Daniels, Andreas Scholl and Paula Rasmussen.  However, my favorites are these next two. 

This first one is by german tenor, Fritz Wunderlich (1930-1966)

The next one has to be my very favorite, though, because it is by baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and so is the performance which I may have come closest to emulating.  Although, I make no claims to being anywhere near this guy’s league.

There is another cut on YouTube of Dmitri singing Ombra Mai Fu at Cardiff in 1989, but it cuts off at the end.  Interestingly, 1989 is the same year I took my brief turn on the operatic stage.  For some reason the tenors seem to get all the press, but for my money, give me a good bass/baritone any day.

In parting, let me say a great big Thank You to all of you who have been following Onyx’s journal these last few months.  I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as we have enjoyed bringing it to you.   If you see us in world, please, mention anything you’ve read that you found noteworthy, good or bad.  Our fragile male egos can always use a good stroking boost.

Thank you for your indulgence, gentle readers.  At least he was better behaved this time, mostly.

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Published in: on 22 May, 2009 at 2:41 PM  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My dear Mr. Plutonian – delicately suggest to your Animus that that was *not* the engine room, but the brig. 🙂 Actually, I applaud and appreciate his service.

    • The Animus thanks you for your kind consideration, especially on this Memorial Day weekend.


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