Hymns of Love
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Mikhail Simonyan, conductor
DEUTSCHES SYMPHONIE-ORCHESTER BERLIN
1. GIACOMO PUCCINI
‘Recondita Armonia’ (Tosca, Act I) 2.56
2. CHARLES GOUNOD
‘Ah, lève-toi soleil!’ (Roméo et Juliette, Act II) 4.23
3. GIACOMO PUCCINI
‘Donna non vidi mai’ (Manon Lescaut, Act I) 2.30
4. GEORGES BIZET
‘La fleur que tu m’avais jetée’ (Carmen, Act II) 4.27
5. PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
‘Net! Chary lask krasy myatezhnoy’ (Iolanta, Act II) 4.00
6. AMILCARE PONCHIELLI
‘Cielo e mar’ (La Gioconda, Act II) 4.49
7. PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
‘Ja liublu vas!’ (Eugene Onegin, Act I) 2.58
8. CHARLES GOUNOD
‘Salut! demeure chaste et pure’ (Faust, Act III) 6.18
9. ALEXANDER BORODIN
‘Medlenno den ugasal’ (Prince Igor, Act II) 4.50
10. GIACOMO PUCCINI
‘Che gelida manina’ (La bohème, Act I) 4.44
11. ANTONIN DVORAK
‘Vidino divná’ (Rusalka, Act I) 6.36
12. FRANZ LEHÁR
‘Dein ist mein ganzes Herz!’ (Das Land des Lächelns, Act II) 3.45
13. UKRAINIAN FOLK SONG
‘Raven black brows, eyes like a hazel’ 3.18
“When we think of opera we immediately think of love. Love, trepidation, and passion. I wanted my first solo album to be filled with these feelings. I have been privileged to perform famous roles such as Don José, Rodolfo and Cavaradossi on so many great stages. While singing their arias, with each declaration of pure love and absolute joy, I become wrapped up in the characters’ feelings and identify with their emotions, and in these moments, just like them, I never want it to end!
And so, this program was born, a collection of love declarations, direct and indirect, and other moments of elation that my characters experience, often just before the storm. I was thrilled to unite and explore these beautiful arias of different languages and different musical styles.
While revisiting these arias I also made quite an interesting realization. While many tenor arias call for a rich and powerful sound it is a very intense vocal piano that is required in the moments when the emotion is at its strongest. These culminations sometimes pose a real technical challenge but only by following the exact composer’s directions can one achieve the right emotion. This is vital for the French arias presented in this programme, among them ‘La fleur que tu m’avais jetée’ which I learned to refine over time during numerous performances of Carmen.
I was especially happy to revisit the aria ‘Medlenno den ugasal’ from Prince Igor which fits perfectly into this collection, for the rapturous Prince Igor’s son Vladimir Igorevich was in fact the first major role that I performed at the very beginning of my career.
I have also decided to include the famous ‘Dein ist mein ganzes Herz’ from Lehar’s Operetta ‘Das Land des Lächelns’ which has recently become my go-to aria for Gala performances.
And last but not least, one of the most poetic and melodious Ukrainian folk songs which, through the symphonic orchestration, truly reaches the heights of operatic scale and has been performed by some of the best tenors in my home country.
I hope that you my listeners, together with me, will be inspired by the beauty and intensity of these hymns of love.”
Tosca (1900) by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) is a supreme example of verismo (‘realism’): the operatic depiction of everyday life. Puccini based his opera on French writer Sardou’s play, La Tosca, of which he declared: “I see in this Tosca the opera I need, with no overblown proportions, no elaborate spectacle, nor will it call for the usual excessive amount of music.” The opera opens in the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, where the painter, Mario Cavaradossi, is working on his picture of Mary Magdalene. He sings of the ‘hidden harmony’ – ‘Recondita Armonia’ – in the contrast between the blonde Magdalene in the painting and his brunette lover, the singer, Floria Tosca.
Charles Gounod (1818-1893) introduced some important innovations into the world of 19th-century French opera, notably his use of “spoken rhythm” within regular musical phrases, emphasising the “expression of truth” rather than “the exactitude of language”. He also embraced Wagner’s influence, in the love music of Roméo et Juliette (1867) especially. This five-act opera, based on Shakespeare’s play, is to a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, who were also behind the text for Gounod’s Faust. Roméo sings ‘Ah, lève-toi soleil!’ in Act II, in the garden of the Capulets, imploring the sun to rise so that he may see Juliette.
Manon Lescaut (1893) earned Puccini an international reputation as the successor to Verdi. In Act I we meet Manon, who quickly captivates both the Chevalier des Grieux and the wealthy Geronte. In ‘Donna non vidi mai’, des Grieux declares his feelings for Manon: “I have never seen a woman such as this one!”
In 1872 the Opéra-Comique in Paris commissioned an opera from Georges Bizet (1838-1875), specifying that the librettists should be Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, but leaving the subject-matter open. Bizet suggested a daring story that had arrested his attention: Mérimée’s Carmen. The result, finished in 1874, was Bizet’s first mature full-length work. Naive soldier Don José is seduced by a passionate gypsy, Carmen. In Act II, Carmen dances for José only to be interrupted by a bugle signalling the resumption of his military duties; Carmen mocks José, and he responds with his ‘Flower Song’, ‘La fleur que tu m’avais jetée’, showing her the flower she threw to him in Act I.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) composed 11 operas; the one-act Iolanta, Op. 69 (1892) was his last. The libretto was written by his brother, Modest, based on a Danish play that presented a romanticised account of the medieval princess Yolande, Duchess of Lorraine. Progress was slow and was hampered by other tasks, as Tchaikovsky wrote in the summer of 1891:
“Everything depends on Iolanta. Until now it has been progressing slowly and sluggishly, mainly because of the fact that alongside this I had some intolerably tedious work – proofreading the full score of Eugene Onegin, which Jurgenson is republishing. This required the corrections of many of my own mistakes and oversights, and a far greater multitude of Jurgenson’s; this task poisoned my life. Finally I completed it, took the score to Moscow, and I’ve now returned so that I can devote all my time to the opera. By the way, tell Modest that the more I immerse myself in composing the music to Iolanta, the greater admiration I have for the quality of his libretto. It is excellently done, and the poetry is sometimes very, very beautiful.”
In this embellished version of the story, Iolanta is an isolated princess who has been kept ignorant of her status and even her blindness. Count Vaudémont is a Burgundian knight who falls in love with her; in Vaudémont’s Romance, ‘Net! Chary lask krasy myatezhnoy’, he sings of his love to some of Tchaikovsky’s most ardent and hopeful music.
Verdi cast a long shadow over the next generation of Italian composers, and Amilcare Ponchielli (1834-1886) was one of the few who managed to claim the spotlight. In La gioconda (1876), based on Victor Hugo’s Angelo, Tyrant of Padua, Ponchielli included multiple principal roles and the now-famous ballet, ‘The Dance of the Hours’. The tenor role, Enzo, is a prince disguised as a sailor; Act II is set onboard his ship and focusses on his relationship with Laura and her rival for his love, la Giaconda, who realises during this Act that Laura saved her mother’s life. In ‘Ceilo e mar’ Enzo longs for Laura, Boito’s libretto using Enzo’s naval surroundings – the sea and sky – as symbols for his feelings.
On reading Pushkin’s novel, Eugene Onegin, in 1877, Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother, Modest: “You won’t believe how inflamed I am with this subject. How delightful it is to avoid the usual Pharaohs, Ethiopian princesses, poisoned cups, and all these other lifeless ideas. What infinite poetry there is in Onegin!” Tchaikovsky had completed the opera by the following February. The plot follows a conceited anti-hero, loved by the modest Tatyana. Tchaikovsky wrote his own libretto, focussing on plot rather than action: “I know that there will be little in the way of stage effects or movement in this opera. But the amount of poetry, humanity, simplicity in the subject, and a text of genius, will more than compensate for these deficiencies.” In Act I, Onegin’s friend Lensky, who is engaged to Tatyana’s sister, Olga, sings ‘Ya lyublyu vas’ (‘I love you’).
Goethe’s 1823 version of the Faust story sent ripples through 19th-century Europe, with adaptations proliferating in France. Among these were the play Faust et Marguerite (1850) by Michel Carré, who permitted librettist Jules Barbier to adapt his text freely. The result was set to music by Gounod, and an Italian version of the opera became a staple at London’s Covent Garden, where it was performed during every season between 1863 and 1911. In 1890 George Bernard Shaw wrote: “Something had better be done about this Royal Italian Opera. I have heard Gounod’s ‘Faust’ not less than 90 times within the last 10 or 15 years; and I have had enough of it.”
Gounod himself was surprised by the opera’s success, preferring his own Roméo et Juliette. He wrote in his Mémoires d’un artiste that Faust was “the greatest theatrical success I ever had. Do I mean that it is the best thing that I have written? That I cannot tell. I can only reiterate the opinion that I have already expressed, that success is more a result of a certain concatenation of favourable elements and successful conditions than a proof and a criterion of the intrinsic value of a work.” Debussy gave Gounod credit for avoiding Wagner’s influence, creating instead a work that “represented a moment in French sensibility”. In Act III Faust sings a cavatina (a melodious song, simpler and less virtuosic than an aria), ‘Salut! demeure chaste et pure’, in praise of the innocence of the opera’s heroine, Marguerite.
The idea for the opera Prince Igor (1869-87) by Alexander Borodin (1833-1887) came from the critic Vladimir Stasov, who acted as a spokesman for the group of Russian composers known as ‘The Mighty Handful’: Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Cui, Balakirev. Stasov suggested a libretto based on the 12th-century epic prose poem, The Lay of Igor’s Host. Borodin responded: “Your outline is so complete that everything seems clear to me and suits me perfectly. But will I manage to carry out my own task to the end? Bah! As they say here, ‘He who is afraid of the wolf doesn’t go into the woods!’ So I shall give it a try…” Borodin worked on Prince Igor from 1869 onwards, but died suddenly in 1887 before he could finish the work. The opera was faithfully completed and orchestrated by fellow composers Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov; Glazunov had an exceptional memory and even reconstructed the Overture based on his recollection of Borodin’s piano performance. In Act II, Igor’s son, Vladimir, sings ‘Medlenno den ugasal’ (‘Slowly the day has faded’, known as Vladimir’s Cavatina), hoping that his love, Konchakovna, will join him as night falls in the Polovtsian camp.
With La bohème (1896), Puccini initially puzzled both audiences and critics with his use of impressionistic scoring and a naturalistic, conversational vocal style, devices designed to communicate the feelings of the protagonists with immediacy and directness – an effect unfamiliar to those accustomed to more stylised operatic writing. La bohème is set in Paris in about 1830. During Act I, Rodolfo becomes fascinated by the consumptive seamstress, Mimì; in ‘Che gelida manina’ he takes her ‘cold little hand’ and tells her of his life as a poet.
Rusalka (1901) is the ninth and most successful opera by Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904), composed towards the end of his life to a libretto by Jaroslav Kvapil. The work’s heroine is a water nymph – in Slavic mythology a ‘rusalka’ is a water sprite – who falls in love with a human prince. When the Prince sees Rusalka in human form he sings ‘Vidino divná’ which, along with Rusalka’s ‘Song to the Moon’, is one of the highlights of the opera.
Hungarian composer Franz Léhar (1870-1948) wrote his operetta Das Land des Lächelns (‘The Land of Smiles’) as a vehicle for his friend, tenor Richard Tauber. The work is set in Vienna and China, its title referring to the traditional Chinese custom of smiling even in the face of adversity; this bittersweet quality was a great hit with Viennese audiences. Léhar composed what came to be known as Tauberlieder for his star tenor: a pivotal number showcasing the singer’s great talents. In the case of Das Land des Lächelns, the principal Tauberlied is ‘Dein ist mein ganzes Herz!’ (‘You are my heart’s delight!’); this became the most famous of the Tauberlieder and was repeatedly given as an encore by the tenor.
Ukraine has a rich history of folksong and folk-inspired art songs, many of them made popular by singers such as Boris Hmyria, a Ukrainian singer and friend of the composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Our recital ends with the traditional Ukrainian song, ‘Raven black brows, hazel eyes’ (Chyorni brovi, kari ochi), a passionate, brooding outpouring of yearning.
© Joanna Wyld, 2020
Ukrainian tenor Dmytro Popov began his career as a soloist with Kiev National Theatre where he made his professional debut as Lensky Eugene Onegin. He came to international attention in 2013 when he performed the role of Rodolfo La bohème at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Dmytro was the youngest ever opera artist to be granted the title of ‘Honoured Artist of Ukraine’ (2003) which recognises outstanding contribution to performing arts. In 2007, he also became a winner of the prestigious Placido Domingo Operalia Competition.
Dmytro maintains close relationships with Opéra de Paris, Royal Opera House London, Metropolitan Opera New York, Opernhaus Zurich, Dresden Semperoper, Wiener Staatsoper, Bayerische Staatsoper, and Hamburg Staatsoper, and performs regularly at these houses. Elsewhere, he has performed at the top opera houses and theatres around the world, including Teatro Real Madrid, Teatro Regio di Torino, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Sydney Opera House, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Oper Köln. His roles include Don José Carmen, Rodolfo La bohème, Pinkerton Madama Butterfly, Vaudémont Iolanta, Cavaradossi Tosca, Alfredo La traviata, Prince Rusalka, Pollione Norma, Rodolfo Luisa Miller, Andrej Mazeppa, Riccardo Un Ballo in maschera, and Duke Rigoletto.
Dmytro is also an avid recitalist and concert performer, with recent performances including a recital of Russian Song with Iain Burnside at Wigmore Hall, Verdi’s Requiem at the BBC Proms with the LPO under Andrés Orozco-Estrada, with LPO under Vladimir Jurowski, and on tour of Europe with MusicAeterna under Teodor Currentzis, and Dvorak’s Stabat Mater with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Andris Nelsons. He features on recordings of Rachmaninov’s The Bells under Sir Simon Rattle with the Berliner Philharmoniker, and as Vaudémont in Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta for the label Oehms under Dmitri Kitajenko.
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
For almost 75 years the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (DSO Berlin) has distinguished itself as one of Germany’s leading orchestras. The number of renowned music directors, the scope and variety of its work, and its particular emphasis on modern and contemporary music, makes the ensemble unique. Founded as the RIAS Symphony Orchestra in 1946, it was renamed the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin in 1956 and has borne its current name since 1993.
Robin Ticciati has led the DSO as its music director since the 2017–18 season. Since its inception, the orchestra has been able to retain outstanding artist personalities. As the first music director, Ferenc Fricsay defined the standards in terms of repertoire, acoustic ideal and media presence. In 1964, Lorin Maazel assumed artistic responsibility. In 1982, he was followed by Riccardo Chailly and in 1989 by Vladimir Askenazy. Kent Nagano was appointed music director in 2000 and has stayed associated with the orchestra as an honorary conductor. As his successors Ingo Metzmacher (2007–2010) and Tugan Sokhiev (2012–2016) set decisive accents with the DSO in the concert life of the German capital.
With its many guest performances, the orchestra is present on the national and international music scene. The orchestra has performed in recent years in Brazil and Argentina, in Japan, China, Malaysia, Abu Dhabi and Eastern Europe, as well as at major festivals such as the Rheingau Musik Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Salzburg Festival and the BBC Proms. The DSO also has a global presence with numerous award- winning CD recordings. In 2011, it received the Grammy Award for the premiere recording for the production of Kaija Saariaho’s opera ‘L’amour de loin’ conducted by Kent Nagano.
The Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin is an ensemble of the Radio Orchestra and Choirs GmbH (ROC). The shareholders are Deutschlandradio, the Federal Republic of Germany, the State of Berlin and Radio Berlin-Brandenburg.
For more information please visit dso-berlin.de