Ruggero Leoncavallo, "Se!..."
Lunga Eric Hallam, tenor ; Enrique Mazzola, piano

Although he composed 20 stage works and more than 75 songs, Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857-1919), like Catalani before him, is remembered today chiefly for a single work—Pagliacci (1892), which, along with Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, established the verismo style on the operatic stage. Leoncavallo wrote songs not just in Italian, but also in French, which he spoke fluently. His output of songs meant a great deal to him, and given their opportunities for stupendous vocalism, it seems a shame that recitalists haven't given them the attention they deserve.

The unfamiliarity of "Se!..." ("If...") seems astonishing, since, for any singer with the necessary ease above the staff (up to high B-flat for a soprano or tenor), vocally it's a real gift. In the surging, full-blown lyrical style of this song, with its thrilling leaps to top notes and passionate legato phrasing, one can almost hear Silvio wooing Nedda in Pagliacci. In this text—written by Leoncavallo himself—the singer seems to breathe his lover's perfume in every flower. He sees her, too, in the ocean's waves and the gleam of the stars above him. However, in the song's closing phrases, he adds that neither the flowers nor the blue of the sea nor the stars can compare with his beloved!

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