Monday, November 8, 2010

11/8 Maria Callas on Beethoven (Ah, Perfido!)

Maria Callas is probably one of the most famous figures in classical music so I won't go into too much background on her.  On a personal level, it did take a few years for her voice (and opera in general) to grow on me - but Beethoven helped change all that!

Here's 'La Divina' singing "Ah, Perfido", one of my favorite Beethoven aria's.  B. is not particularly famous for aria's, but he actually wrote over a dozen settings for vocal soloist and ensemble.  This one however has the distinction of being premiered right before the 5th Symphony!  This video is only has clips of photos of Ms. Callas, apparently there is almost NO footage of her live...

About "Ah Perfido from Allmusic:
"The text deals with a young woman betrayed by her lover, expressing the rage she experiences. At first, she pleads with the gods to punish him, but then asks for mercy for him. Then she offers to die for him, instead. After bewailing her fate, she asks for mercy. The music begins dramatically with the soprano intoning the words, "Ah, perfido! spergiuro, barbaro traditor, tu parti?" (Ah, unfaithful liar! vile deceiver, you leave me?). The music then slows, and the young woman's emotions for a time seem contained, but tension quickly develops. Still, for all the rage she expresses, she does not erupt with a potent outburst to vent her feelings, but instead maintains an intensity that seems to border on just such an outburst. When the aria, "Per pieta, non dirmi addio" ("For pity's sake, do not leave me") is reached, the spirit of Mozart appears. (The character of the theme in the third movement of Mozart's "Gran Partita" Serenade No. 10, K. 361, is not unlike that of the attractive melody here.) The aria music, marked Adagio, is most moving and effective in its heartrending beauty. Even if it is strongly reminiscent of Mozart, it is it charming enough not to seem derivative. The tempo returns to Allegro as the soprano lashes out at her cruel treatment at the hands of fate. There is a brief return to an Adagio tempo before the Allegro conclusion."
More here.  

BEETHOVEN “Ah! Perfido,” Scene and aria, Opus 65
Ah! perfido, spergiuro,
Barbaro traditor, tu parti?
E son questi gl'ultimi tuoi congedi?
Ove s'intese tirannia più crudel?
Va, scellerato! va, pur fuggi da me,
L'ira de' numi non fuggirai.
Se v'è giustizia in ciel, se v'è pietà,
Congiureranno a gara tutti a punirti!
Ombra seguace, presente, ovunque vai,
Vedrò le mie vendette,
Io già le godo immaginando.
I fulmini ti veggo già balenar d'intorno.
Ah no! Fermate, vindici Dei!
Risparmiate quel cor, ferite il mio!
S'ei non è più qual era, son io qual fui,
Per lui vivea, voglio morir per lui!

Per pietà, non dirmi addio!
Di te priva che farò?
Tu lo sai, bell'idol mio!
Io d'affanno morirò.

Ah crudel! Tu vuoi ch'io mora!
Tu non hai pietà di me?
Perchè rendi a chi t'adora
Così barbara mercè?
Dite voi se in tanto affanno
Non son degna di pietà?

English below:
Ah! You treacherous, faithless,
barbaric traitor, you leave?
And is this your last farewell?
Where did one hear of a crueller tyranny?
Go, despicable man! Go, flee from me!
You won't flee from the wrath of the gods.
If there is justice in heaven, if there is pity,
all will join forces in a contest to punish you.
I follow your trail! I am wherever you go,
I will live to see my revenge,
I already take my delight in it in my imagination.
I already see you surrounded by flashes of lightning.
Alas! Pause, avenging gods!
Spare that heart, wound mine!
If he is not what he was, I am still what I was.
For him I lived, for him I want to die!
Have mercy, don't bid me farewell,
what shall I do without you?
You know it, my beloved idol!
I will die of grief.
Ah, cruel man! You want me to die!
Don't you have pity on me?
Why do you reward the one who adores you
in such a barbaric way?
Tell me, if in such a grief
I do not deserve pity?

Here's a real gem:  Ms. Callas giving 2 masterclasses on "Ah, Perfido" (Callas at Juilliard, Spring 1972).  She's a real card...

Before we leave Ah Perfido, here's a live performance on

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