Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Boito's Mefistofele

"Dio di pietà! son essi!"

"Lontano, lontano, lontano"

Here are two selections from Arrigo Boito's opera Mefistofele. It's a pretty faithful rendering of Goethe's Faust (far more so than Gounod's opera). The singers are Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti. Margarita is in prison, and has just sung her madwoman aria (apparently all the rage in the 19th Century). Mefistofele has secreted Faust in to see her. In the first selection, the lovers are seeing each other for the first time since her imprisonment. I'm mainly including it because it leads into their wonderful love duet, "Lontano, lontano, lonato." The lyrics are:

Lontano, lontano, lontano
sui flutti d'un ampio oceano,
fra i roridi effluvi del mar,
fra l'alghe, fra i fior, fra le palme,
il porto dell'intime calme,
l'azzurra isoletta m'appar.
M'appare sul cielo sereno
ricinta d'un arcobaleno,
specchiante il sorriso del sol.
La fuga dei liberi amanti,
speranti, migranti, raggianti,
dirige a quell'isola il vol,
a quell'isola il vol.
La fuga dei liberi amanti, ecc.
Lontano, lontano, lontano, ecc.

Far away, far away, far away
beyond the broad billowing wave,
where the dew-laden sea breeze
plays on sea-weed and flowers and palm trees,
as a haven where two hearts can share
love and peace, a blue island appears.
Under clear skies I see it, a halo
around it of shimmering rainbow
reflecting the sun's happy smile.
As free as two love-birds migrating,
radiant, with sweet hope vibrating,
we wing our swift way to this isle, to this isle.
As free as two love birds, etc.
Far away, far away, far away, etc.

This opera is a personal favorite for a number of reasons. I like the Faust story, and this is the most faithful version in opera (although Berlioz' version is also worthwhile). It's the first opera I really researched before I went to see it, back when I was first checking out opera. Meanwhile, Boito is generally considered one of the three great librettists, and I have to root for writers that make it good as directors, composers, etc. Some of the passages are quite lovely and/or memorable, particularly "Lontano, lontano, lonato." I've listened to it countless times, which has spoiled other versions for me. But Freni and Pavarotti sing well together, and Pavarotti hits those swells passionately and beautifully.

Incidentally, Mefistofele premiered tomorrow, March 5th, in 1868. (Boito revised it serveral times, though, most of all for a 1875 version which chopped the overall length but added "Lontano.")

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