Old School perfection: Gigli

When asked sometimes to explain the “old school” I love to use and feel examples are the best way.

Here in one of my favorites renderings of the “Lamento di Federico” from F. Cilea’s opera “L’Arlesiana”.

For me, important, for me, the old school was a perfect alchemy of all the “participants” in the complete realization /expression of a piece of music.

THE ORCHESTRA, = was the conscious, the observer, the reactor, the catalyst sometimes, the audience’s interior thought; the head nodding in agreement or pain, or disbelief.

The VOICE = expressing EMOTIONS not just words, thru various rhythm’s, loud and soft nuance..and emphasis and colors.

WORDS conveying the explanation of the sound we are hearing; confirming it.

Today many SING the notes, rely on a color or tone for the whole aria…..no matter what they are saying with the words. MISTAKE.

Listen to it and read this…..

Here it is set up by a melancholy but straightforward, contemplative orchestra…….
before the voice, setting the tone of the aria to come.

“E’ la solita storia del pastore…”

(notice accent in length in the word “storia”, he is a lovesick young man wishing for the simple oblivion of the simple shepherd. The orchestra gives the early morning flute melodies in various keys to remind of the shepherd)

“Il povero ragazzo voleva raccontarla,”

(straightforward story telling with the voice taking on a slight lullaby feeling for the next words….)…….

“…. e s’addormì.”

“C’è nel sonno l’oblio. Come l’invidio!”

(the last so filled with wistfulness,
“I wish so much to have the peace, there is oblivion/escape in sleep……I envy him…..

The orchestra plays the last bars before the composer brilliantly employs a distinct change in color and tone like falling leaves with the flute melodies all falling away, the last petals of denial falling away……trouble is coming…..the story becomes serious.

The waiting flute and oboe…….poised for this…..

“Anch’io vorrei dormir così,”

(His voice a bit more dark, “anch’io” so filled with the history of failed attempts…..at peace)

“…nel sonno almeno l’oblio trovar!”

[“l’oblio trovar!” he employs the same envy as in “come l’invidio” before; at least in sleep a peace is possible.]

Bringing us all to the reason of the aria, the beginning of the utter heartbreak that he shares….

“La pace sol cercando io vò: vorrei poter tutto scordar.”

(the emphasis on “pace” and “vorrei POTER”, poter being the key word, be able to, “tutto scordar” to forget everything. Heartbreaking in it’s effect.]

The orchestra reacts as we do, a quickening, a growing understanding and simpatia…..more urgent.
More story is to come…..you can hear it in the orchestra first)

“Ma ogni sforzo è vano…” (why?)

“Davanti ho sempre di lei…… il dolce sembiante!”

(Perfect wedding of the use of mezza voce for the “lullaby” “longing” “envy” and her sweet face…. “il dolce sembiante”)

The orchestra in total symbiosis, total understanding……agony shared.
Explaining the words to come, with accents on the ascending melody…..leading to…

“La pace tolta è sempre a me…”

( sung as fact, key pain on “tolta”)

“Perché degg’io tanto penar?”

(Complete heartbreak, “why must I suffer such pain?” “deggio, “tanto” “penar” heartbreaking….)

Rushing to the total agony and ……

“Lei!… sempre lei mi parl’ al cor! Fatale vision, mi lascia!”

(The high note {not just a note for showing off} here an expression of pain and agony, to represent a man being driven insane by his longing……concluding with this stunning use of “smania” in the very accurate for the italian language and sentiment, quick and accented….)

“mi fai tanto male!”


(logical conclusion……riveting and why people used to rise and scream and cheer when this man “sang” a story to them…..I had goosebumps…..and cheered at home myself for him.)

Amazing use of voice, color, words and the orchestra voices to tell a story.

THIS is what the old school meant/means to me…..”


It’s the usual story of the shepherd…
The poor boy wanted to say it,
but fell asleep.
In sleep there is oblivion.
How I envy him!

If only I could find sleep like this –
to find, at least, oblivion in my sleep!
I only want to find peace:
if only I could forget everything.
But all my struggle is in vain..
I still see her sweet face before me!

And peace has left me for ever…
why do I have to suffer so much pain?
She always speaks straight to my heart!
Oh fatal vision, leave me alone!
You wound me so much!
Oh poor me!

~ by aprilemillo on May 26, 2008.

%d bloggers like this: