“Senza baci”

Alfredo Catalani, “Senza baci”
Maria Novella Malfatti, soprano; Enrique Mazzola, piano

Alfredo Catalani (1854-1893) lived only a few years longer than Bellini. Unfortunately, he was regarded with total disdain not only by Verdi, but also later by Puccini. Catalani has earned a niche in music history only for the last of his five operas, La Wally (1892), successful in its time and still valued today, especially for the heroine’s universally beloved aria, “Ebben! ne andrò lontana.” That exquisite piece demonstrates vividly that Catalani had a memorable gift for lyricism, and for writing more inward-looking music than we hear in the verismo works that dominated Italian opera at the time. 

That intimacy carries over into the last of his songs, “Senza baci” (“Without kisses”), published posthumously in 1895. It has only one brief climax, along with a beautifully tender, tapered final cadence. Musically Catalani is most definitely bringing Italian song forward, beyond the simpler, more straightforward songs of his predecessors. In “Senza baci” the singer knows that her young man will soon be near her again. She anticipates that when he’s with her, he’ll wonder if she’s been sad. She’ll answer that her sorrow has ended. Without him, she didn’t feel as if she were living, but now she hopes his arms will bring her back to life.

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