“Ave Maria”

Giuseppe Verdi, "Ave Maria"
Katherine Beck, mezzo-soprano; Enrique Mazzola, piano

When we think of Verdi's "Ave Maria," we instantly hear Desdemona, singing her immensely touching version of this prayer in the final act of Otello. However, in 1880, seven years before Otello, Verdi composed another equally lovely "Ave Maria," originally for soprano and strings, adapting it in a version with piano accompaniment later the same year. A good deal of the text is recognizably the "Hail Mary" as we know it today, but toward the end of the prayer, the singer asks for the grace to live on earth so that she may eventually be admitted to Paradise.

Following the exceedingly dignified introduction, the vocal line begins strikingly with repeated bars of middle-voice F-sharps, so that the ascending arpeggio that follows makes a significant impact musically. The accompaniment is mainly chordal—stately in the first half, then moving into a more flowing mode of expression later. For the singer, Verdi's legato requires a direct, simple, yet truly noble communication of the text.

Meet the artists

*** Ryan Opera Center Ensemble

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About the Ryan Opera Center

About the Ryan Opera Center

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center is Lyric's preeminent artist-development program that nurtures the talents of some of the most promising operatic singers and pianists of each generation. The program's Ensemble members earn their coveted spot by successfully auditioning among more than 400 artists worldwide. Its alumni are among the dominant names in opera today. Donor generosity ensures continued unparalleled training, performance experience, and professional readiness of Ensemble members. This highly competitive program, established in 1974, is honored to enjoy the support of acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming as Advisor, along with full-time staff Director Dan Novak, Music Director Craig Terry, and Director of Vocal Studies Julia Faulkner.

Photos: Kyle Flubacker