Oh enough already of rowdy pop rock and pretty teenage singers dominating the radio and television during the holiday season. All the head bopping and hip gyrating danciness (if that isn’t a word, it is now!) has got to wear you down at some point. It’s the dawn of the new annum, the first post-solstice advance of the strengthening daylight. What better way to aid your wallowing in the optimism of the emerging new plights than to dig up some acoustical formaldehyde from the eras past for some sonic rust to dust yourselves with?
After all, if you are one of those who like to pull an all-nighter on New Year’s Eve, there are many unhealthier ways of keeping your nerves well ionized well beyond the twilight than just downing one cup of joe or egg nog after another. Here are a few operatic numbers that will chase old Hypnos not only off your back but also well away from your immediate vicinity by the time-tested strength of their sonic drowsiness (click on tune name for direct link to sample Youtube clip):
1. ‘Dopo notte’ from Handel’s Ariodante: Among George Handel’s many operatic superheroes, none is more sportingly cloudy to one’s senses than the grump in shiny armor by the name of Ariodante. He spends the opera bouncing from one mood to another like a bipolar in need of a heavy dose of lithium only to finish the night with this yawn yell-inducing Ba-rocky flirtation with metal punk rag. The original Ariodante was a soprano castrato, so nowadays he is either a girly-voiced man or testosterone-overloaded woman on the stage. I personally prefer the latter as the drag-iness of the spiel fits very well with the drag-someness of the character. And when the draggy Ariodante is as vocally macho as one Vesselina Kasarova is… Forget Tylenol PM. Whoever needs to sleep anyway?
2 & 3. ‘Di te mi rido‘ and ‘Sta nell’ircana‘ from Handel’s Alcina: Ok, I spoke too soon. Handel had a thing for tiresome operatic leading machos and his Ruggiero is just as narcolepsogenesistical (that is definitely not a word, though I really don’t care) as Ariodante is. If there is ever a confused stage superhero, Ruggiero spends much of this operatic love fest trying to rediscover his brain by following the voice of his heart. Unfortunately, the heart turns out to be one heck of a schizophrenic adviser and a prodigious spawner of drama that it takes the composer hours to tell the story in whole. But all you really need to know now is that Ruggiero’s main problem is that he is loved by two different women; his betrothed Bradamante, to whom he directs the vicious melodic spatting that is ‘Di te mi rido‘, and Alcina, the sorceress enchantress who is the target of his vocal assault in ‘Sta nell’ ircana‘. I’m including both for the sake of those whose hadn’t set as one of their New Year resolution to chase after only one romantic relation at a time… Don’t end up like Ruggiero did!
4. Act 3 Prelude from Wagner’s Lohengrin: But New Year is for the forward-looking, and there is hardly any more can’t-wait-to-charge-ahead bit of music to ring it in with than this famous third act prelude that, in the context of the opera, actually gives way to an even more popular bit from Wagner’s romantic opera. All that brass and no jazz! What an apt spazz! Truly, if this colorful operatic raucousness doesn’t wake the dead, it should at least keep the living from drowsing off into a peaceful slumber before the ball had drop at the stroke of midnight.
5. ‘Brotherhood and Sisterhood‘ from Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus: And if you had well utilized the musical drowse of the previous numbers (with judicious abetting from a few cup of liquid caffeine) to remain wide alert past the last hours of the last day of the year, then you have surely earned the license to indulge in a bit of tuneful drunkenness. And as the mischievous Dr. Falke and the draggy Prince Orlofsky would agree, it is much better to be collectively intoxicated than a lone sot.
6.’Ah quel diner’ from Offenbach’s La Perichole: Except when the lone sot is a charming street woman who can even burp in tune, that is…
7. ‘Libiamo ne lieti calici’ (Brindisi) from Verdi’s La Traviata: But since most of us aren’t capable of burping in tune (nor are we as charming as Juliette Galstian is), we might as well keep up a good supply of malt and make sure that everyone drink with us to love, to amorous eyes, and to kiss-warming wine… As Alfredo and Violetta enthusiastically do in Verdi’s ‘pretty woman’ opera. Much to the delight of their cheery company!
From the stalest corner of the operatic vault, I wish you barrels of timeless happiness and cheerful boredom – as much as these tunes can induce in you! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a wakeful 2011!