Friday, March 23, 2007

Verdi's "Va Pensiero" [no longer] in Polish

So someone is having a Hebrew Slaves Party at work!
How crazy, insensitive and politically incorrect can you get?
But this is America and we can get away with anything but the N-word...and you can even say that it you're black.

So I got to thinking...You Tube! Right. I never go there just to browse, but this time I have a mission. I want to enjoy hearing the famous chorus from Verdi's Nabucco, one of the most memorable choruses in all opera. Makes the hair rise on your neck if it's done right.

So what do I find?
This wonderful Polish rendition, in Polish already, with festive psychedelic costumes and a BOOM-Chuk-Chuk cadence that is as irresistable as a beer hall sing-along.

Sorry. That video got pulled from You Tube.
Too bad.
This one is not as much fun, but you get the idea. This is the ending of the 2006 Winter Olympics with children singing...

[Okay, then. Embedding disabled. What a crock!
Here's the link to the You Tube site directly. I can never figure out how anyone thinks they will go viral if embedding is disabled. Goofy thinking.]
This is not your Mama's grand opera.
This is opera for the next generation.
Compare with this stiffer, cleaner, more formal rendition.
Lots of versions available on You Tube. Va pensiero seems to be a cult pop song in Europe.

I'm a stickler for class, but I prefer the rowdy version myself. Too much exposure to modern praise music, I suppose.

The story of the introduction of Verdi's Nabucco is one for the books. Verdi was not sure if his new production was ever going to get to the stage, and if it did how well it would be received.
His personal description is one of the great accounts of all time. I can't find it at the moment but he describes how everything seemed to be going to hell the day before the dress rehearsal. Musicians were in a foul mood, workmen were making noise with the sets and the scene looked like a sure catastrophe was about to happen. But when the chorus started to sing "Va Pensiero" the workmen stepped to listen. The whole place got quiet as the chorus continued. At the end the entire crew of workmen and others who were present burst into applause and went wild. Verdi knew at that moment he had a winner.


Chuck said...

Sorry Bub, you blew it. Not only is the Polish version souped up,
the score has been rewritten... compare this to the tape:
You can't do that to Verdi. After all,he's the guy who wrote Rigoletto.
Why not just fix Shakespeare... or the Old Testament?
The concert version you offer for comparison is pretty vanilla, but a
full production would demonstrate my point.
If you want to have fun with an Opera, pick on Donizetti. WIth
Luci di Lammermoor you get not one but two E-flats to play
with. You also get bagpipes. The Scrotum Prince of Opera,
Mozart, goes you one better, in Die Zauberflaute there is an F.
It is an easy task to locate the story behind Verdi's
original production of Nabucco (Nebuchanezzar). The scene
involves the Jews leaving Babylon. The chorus sings the
incomparable va' pensiero sull'ali dorate, During the late
evening rehearsal, workmen who had been building the set,
stopped to listen... likening the Jews' situation to their own
in Verdi's thinly masked political drama.
THe melody is arguably the most representative of all
Italian Grand Opera. By the first tutti, the conductor need only
stand and watch, as the music evokes a very throaty and
spine-tingling forte from the chorus. At the conclusion of the
rehearsal version, the workman created such an uproar, that
an unscheduled encore was required to restor order.
Now, That's opera!

Hoots said...

Ooo-wee! Looks like I hit a nerve. Sorry 'bout that. I am well aware the piece is "souped up." Aside from the cadence, even an untrained ear can hear the key change at the last "verse" aimed at pushing an already mushy mood over the top. (Better than a Picardy third, but there was no minor key from which to jump.)

If you read my comments more closely (including the same apocryphal story about that last-minute rehearsal) you will see we are mostly in agreement about the excellence of Verdi in general and this selection in particular.

I will overlook that scatalogical reference to Mozart as a zit on an otherwise perfect complexion of flawless good taste.

FWIW, two years of music at the university level were nearly wasted on me, but I learned two lessons:
First, in order to be successful in music one should be either rich or gifted.
Second, one can become a Musical Snob very easily. I know I did. It took over a decade to get over it.

That was a long time ago, and I don't regret either what I learned or what I had to overcome having learned it.

Chuck said...

Don't want to beat this thing to death, but I'll see your Picardy Third and raise you a sharp in bar 34. Technically not a key change but it will do. Besides, who needs a PT when you've got six sharps already in the game.

Also dear Hoot, if there was ever a risque composer his name was WAM, even though he redeemed himself with his Serenade in G.

Not to worry, there's a chance
I'll be in Salzburg in September, if so I'll pick you up some Marzipan!


Hoots said...

Touché. I yield. I know when I'm out of my depth.

I cook better than I make music. But I like all kinds of stuff and this, warts and all, makes me cheerful when I hear it. Maybe I relate to the singer. I never heard of her but according to Wikipedia she's something of a Polish icon. I don't know when this was recorded, but if it was recently she's a woman after my own heart, born in 1945! That's my generation for sure.

Come see me again. And marzipan sounds great.

Hoots said...

Sorry, folks.
YouTube pulled it for some reason.
Too bad. This was one of the most vigorous renditions of the piece ever recorded. I got to hear it a dozen times between the time I posted it and now, May 16.

I don't know exactly when it got pulled. Probably more than a week or so back. I was combing the archives, compiling a list of favorites in a single place and discovered it gone.