Open this playlist in spotify, here.
The exact clips I prepared for the recordings I list here are Recondita Armonia – 1:48-3:00, Manon: Il Sogno – 0:41-2:00 (or to the end), O Suave Fanciulla 0:00-1:14, and In Quelle Trine Morbide – 0:48-1:26.
I explained this recording once before in the introduction to this series, but if you missed it, here it is again: This is almost the exact recording that first made me consider loving opera. It is so beautiful and poetic. Originally I was inspired by the melody that Puccini wrote at the end of the aria when Pavarotti sings, “Ah! Il mio solo pensiero sei tu! Tosca sei tu!” The aria is about a painter. When he paints different women, he always ends up adding the features of the woman he loves to the painting. The title, “Recondita Armonia” means roughly “Hidden Harmony” and the music that gracefully moves from high to low and settles in the middle, poetically conveys the thoughts of these two women. The last phrase he sings is translated, “Tosca, my only thought is you.” How is that for poetry?
This is arguably the most beautiful aria that I know of in opera, and here I will try to do it justice in an explanation. In it, Chevalier Des Grieux sings to the woman he loves (Manon) and tells her of his dream for the both of them. Here are the lyrics in the original French (Gigli sings it in Italian), and I will translate some of it below for you (French is so gorgeous, and if you want to hear it in the French I have a recording of it in this section, 3. Diminuendi):
Là-bas… une humble retraite,
Toute blanche au fond des bois!
Sous ses tranquilles ombrages
Les clairs et joyeux ruisseaux,
Où se mirent les feuillages,
Chantent avec les oiseaux!
C’est le paradis!… Oh non!
Tout est là triste et morose,
Car il y manque une chose,
Il y faut encore Manon!
A humble retreat,
a small white house in the woods!
It is in the tranquil shade.
There is light and a joyous stream,
where the leaves sing with the birds!
It is paradise! But no…
Everything is sad and morose,
because one thing is missing,
This is the poetic moment I talk about most often. Rodolfo and Mimi are singing a duet after having fallen in love. Here are the lyrics and what they mean:
di mite circonfuso alba lunar
in te, vivo ravviso il sogno
ch’io vorrei sempre sognar!
illuminated by the moon,
in you I see the dream I have
always wanted to dream!