During a coaching last Saturday, I was studying a big and hairy 15 page Rossini song called Tirana alla spagnuola, with lots of runs, two high c’s…en fin, we are going over this thing when my pianist friend accused me of having too much hispandamonium…I asked him to explain: I was shortening final syllable vowels, and in essence turning Italiano to Itañol…hence the dangers of being bi-lingual…but how could I not feel confused in some way, Rossini and Spain, well its like peanut butter and jelly… It’s no secret of Gioachino’s predilection for Spain. His first wife, Isabella Colbran (despite the italianization of her name) was very much a Spanish woman. He was extremely close to the andalusian García Family (probably the most important family in opera, ever) Manuel having been the first Count Almaviva in Il barbiere, the first Otello, and his children, the future opera divas Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot-García growing up practically upon his knees. I get the feeling he was just at home scarfing down tapas in early 19th century Madrid, as he would of been chowing down on pasta.
The very piece I was studying, which I will do at a competition in late October, was his take on the tirana, an 18th century Spanish music song genre of the tonadilla escenica. Rossini makes it his own, using the old Metastasio text “Mi lagnero tacendo”; I knew of all the zillions of “Mi lagnero tacendo” texts he musicalized, but this one clearly takes another title, although the text is the same Metastasio one. In the song collides 17th century opera seria diva/drama hysterics, musicalized to a 6/8 peppy tirana. How would think it could work? the texts of Spanish 18th century music theater are all about double entendre, irony, tounge in cheek comments with salicious and off color humor (how little Spanish character changes throughout the centuries, I might add)…I was playing it very cool and in earnest, which Doug, in his best soprano voice (scarily alike Maestro Wenerto, of whom he has no knowledge of, must remedy that) showed me that the piece works best as a mini mad scene. Kind of not my natural inclination, but my friends, it was really the way to go with this one. Rossini meets Latin american telenovela, something like that. I now of course want to build a program of Rossini and his vision of Spain. You know friends, one needs to remember that this is pre-flamenco time (or if I am not mistaken, it was during this early part of the 19th century when flamenco was starting to evolve, but did not have the world wide popularity of today, although the Grand Tour travelers where getting a taste during their jaunts to La alhambra in Granada). What was definitely “the” hit parade of all Europe at the time was the Spanish Style Escuela Bolera: Spanish classical dance, the Seguidilla boleras accompanied by guitar, made popular by Manuel García himself, and of course Spanish fashion…it was all the rage; you can see some pretty cool images in the Gustav Doré engravings of Spain of this bolera style (you can buy a copy through Dover publishing, some are on the internet).
Rossini composing his own version of la tirana is not by any means a long shot; I’m still researching this curious song. I have not been able to find this version of “Mi lagnero tacendo” in the regular printed collections as of yet. Wonder who sang it first, where, etc… I have not been able to locate a recording, its got Cecilia written all over it. I will record it when its ready for prime time and post on the blog. Its definitely a program “ender”, you really can’t follow up that song with ANYTHING else…it is over the top, but deliciously so.