I'm talking OPERA of course! Well I thought it was clever but I never profess to be great wit. Anyhow, seamless link over I'm doing another five to check out but after the bright lights and pounding beats of Dance I've gone in a very different direction for this one. I'm no more knowledgeable about this one either so frankly as a blogger I'm failing but hopefully my hokey charm will save me. So here goes, five Opera songs I absolutely love...
Barcarole by Offenbach (from The Tales of Hoffman)
Unsurprisingly my adoration of this piece originates from it being used to stunning effect in a wonderful film. If you have seen La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) - and I'm sure you have - you will recognise it from that. I was actually lucky enough to visit the town where the film was made Arezzo in Tuscany on my honeymoon but that's a needless tangent. The music is utterly enchanting, like being swept along in a dream and it perfectly encapsulates that feeling of being utterly in love in someone. Enjoy.
Un bel di vedremo by Puccini (from Madame Butterfly)
If Barcarolle is all about the enchanting feeling of being in love, Un bel di vedremo is all about the pain that love brings. I can honestly say I have never heard a more utterly heartbreaking yet at the same time completely compelling female vocal than Maria Callas performing this track from Puccini's opera. I especially love the brevity of the track - it is short yet fuelled with emotion and sticks in the mind long after it has finished. A side note which some of you might like to know is that Pinkerton by Weezer is said to be loosely based on the story of Madama Butterfly. The album is named after B.F. Pinkerton and is based around similar themes of lost love and sexual longing with a heavy Japanese influence. River Cuomo and Puccini - who knew?
Una furtiva Lagrima by Donizetti (from L'elisir d'amore)
One thing about Opera that I have always quite liked is quite frankly I often massively misread the message of the song due to the language issues. This is a classic example - for me the tenor appears defiant yet forlorn when in fact he has apparently just found out his 'love potion' works. This might be treason but the story in Opera is usually an absolute load of bollocks but despite massive flaws a narrative is vital to effectively tie the collection of songs together. Let's face it if a naff story about borderline date rape inspired Donizetti to write this then fair play to it. I've included a first for the blog - a vocal which is over a hundred years old. According to those who know about these things i.e. not I, Enrico Caruso is the greatest tenor of all time and based on this performance it is hard to disagree. Masterful.
va, Pensiero by Verdi (from Nabucco)
Stirring can't begin to cover this hypnotically powerful patriotic ode. This song has such power to move the emotions that the myth was long perpetuated that a defiant encore of va, Pensiero was the trigger for the final unification of Italy. This differs from my other choice so far as it does not focus upon a single vocal instead showcasing the majesty of orchestra and choir working in perfect harmony.
Nessun Dorma by Puccini (from Turandot)
I'll be honest - I was sceptical of including this. I feared it had become the Hey Jude or Bohemian Rhapsody of Opera; loved by the masses yet loathed by the purists. Then I listened to it and realised I would be a pretentious dick not to include what is arguably the greatest vocal ever created by man. One listen immediately transported me back to special night at the Arena di Verona where as our honeymoon came to a close my wife and I sat in the cheap seats (well steps) and experienced the wonderful theatre of a live Opera. Expectations could not be higher as I knew the big number was approaching. This tends to be the cue for a let down but not one bit of it - for around four minutes it felt as if the world stood still as an entire amphitheatre was captivated. No matter how many times I hear it I can't help but feel moved and if that makes me an Opera chav than so be it. Over to the big fella...
Let me know your thoughts and I'd love some suggestions of other genres to get the five treatment.