Learn more about Lawrence Brownlee & Eric Owens in Recital with program notes, artist bios, and more.
Mozart, “Così dunque tradisci,” K. 432
Written to the famous librettist Metastasio’s text for Antonio Caldara’s opera Temistocle (1736), Mozart’s K. 432 concert aria was first heard in 1783. It tells the story of Sebaste, who reproaches the woman who betrayed him and then sinks into bitterly remorseful reflections on his own treachery. Tormented by remorse, Sebaste is taken back by these feelings he had not previously experienced.
Donizetti, La fille du régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment), “Ah, mes amis… Pour mon âme quel destin”
First performed in 1840 by Paris’s Opéra-Comique, the captivating romantic comedy La fille du régiment was Donizetti’s first opera set to a French text. Marie, the adopted “daughter” of a French army regiment, has fallen in love with young Tonio, whose only chance at winning Marie’s hand is by enlisting himself. Having been introduced to the Marquise of Birkenfeld as her long-lost niece, Marie is taken away to the Marquise’s castle in order to be prepared for a marriage befitting her rank.
One of the opera’s most exhilarating moments is Tonio’s aria; after joining the regiment, he proclaims his love of country and of Marie. The aria requires no fewer than nine high Cs, an impressive test of technique and vocal confidence.
Verdi, Ernani, “Infelice” Based on a play by Victor Hugo,
Ernani was commissioned by Venice’s Teatro La Fenice. A work full of dazzling arias, as well as highly dramatic duets and grand-scale ensembles, it was received with critical acclaim after its 1844 premiere, and in 1904 it became the first opera to be recorded complete.
Act One begins with the bandit Ernani (who is actually a nobleman, Don Juan of Aragon) explaining to his cohorts that he loves Elvira. She is about to marry her uncle, Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, against her will. Ernani asks the bandits to help him kidnap her. In Elvira’s chamber, King Carlo – disguised as a peasant – tries to force himself on Elvira when Ernani enters and breaks up the altercation. Carlo invites Ernani to fight, but Silva suddenly enters and sees Ernani. Suspecting the worst from Elvira, he is prompted by sadness and disappointment to sing “Infelice,” one of the finest of all Verdi arias for bass.
Donizetti, L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love), “Ecco il magico liquore”; “Una furtiva lagrima”
Donizetti’s romantic comedy masterpiece L’elisir d’amore premiered in Milan at the Teatro alla Canobbiana (later known as the Teatro Lirico) in the spring of 1832. One of the most performed operas of all time, the work was written in just six weeks, to a libretto based on Eugène Scribe’s libretto for Daniel Auber’s Le philtre (1831).
Nemorino, a poor peasant, is in love with Adina, a beautiful landowner. Tormented by her indifference towards him, Nemorino overhears Adina telling the story of Tristan and Isolde. Convinced that Isolde’s love potion will help make Adina his true love, he thinks he’s found it when he meets Dulcamara, a travelling salesman and quack doctor. In their Act One duet, Dulcamara (who doesn’t recognize the name Isolde!) uses his commercial talents to sell Nemorino the potion – which turns out to be just a bottle of cheap wine. Later in the opera Nemorino sings his aria, having seen what he believes is certain proof that Adina does indeed love him.
Gounod, Faust, “Le veau d’or”
Faust’s libretto was based on Michel Carré’s play Faust et Marguerite, in turn loosely based on Goethe’s Faust, Part 1. Originally rejected by the Paris Opéra for not being sufficiently “showy,” its premiere at the Théâtre Lyrique was postponed because Adolphe d’Ennery’s drama of the same name was playing at the time. The opera was finally introduced in mid-1859, and while it was not well received, its revival in 1862 was a hit. Within a few years the work’s popularity spread around the world, leading to the choice of Faust as the opera to inaugurate New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in 1883. “Le veau d’or” appears in Act Two, sung by Méphistophélès – a familiar spirit of hell. He provides the crowd in a town square with wine, and sings this rousing, irreverent song about the Golden Calf.
Bizet, Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers), “Je crois entendre encore”; “Au fond du temple saint”
Les pêcheurs de perles was written in 1863 and premiered at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris. Not yet 25 at the time, Georges Bizet had yet to establish himself in the Parisian music scene. Reviews of the premiere were mixed; the public seemed to love the piece, and despite a hostile and dismissive reaction from the press, other composers, notably Hector Berlioz, found in it much to praise. In recent decades it has gained considerable popularity in opera houses worldwide.
The opera tells the tale of two pearl fishermen, Zurga and Nadir, whose friendship was almost torn apart by the love of the same woman when they were younger. Now the pair is reunited, and they affirm their bond, vowing to be faithful until death in one of the most famous of all operatic duets. Then Leïla, a virgin priestess, appears, offering the prayers needed to ensure the safety of the fishermen. Though neither of the two men recognizes the veiled Leïla, this is the same woman who almost destroyed the fishermen’s friendship. Left alone, Nadir recalls how he had broken his vows to Zurga and pursued his love for Leïla.