Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Amongst the Clouds of Gold

Detail from Avalance in the Alps (1803) by Philip James de Loutherbourg

Even for those familiar with operatic repertoire, the name of Alfredo Catalani draws a momentary blank; it sounds familiar, but what did he write? As the mental list of titles runs through the mind, a sweet and haunting song rises from the unconscious.

"Ebben? Ne andrĂ² lontana"

The famous aria from La Wally!!! The one-hit wonder of Italian opera! That's Catalani. If YouTube had existed back in the 1890s, people would have been Catalani-rolled.

Well, that's not really fair. Given his short life, he produced a respectable body of work. They aren't "works of genius" but they're enjoyable bits of music, charming and graceful. The rise of modernism and experimental operatic concepts resulted in an already obscure composer falling into even greater obscurity. But the music remains beautiful, a ghostly echo of traditional opera, a style that was fading away even as Catalani was penning these notes.

Detail from The Dance (1856) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

But we don't have to let his music fade away. Instead, let's celebrate it tonight, marking his birth date, June 19, 1854.

Here are a few vids:

"Ebben? Ne andrĂ² lontana" performed by Renee Fleming

"Dance of the Water Nymphs", performed by Arturo Toscanini

"A Sera"


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