On Saturday, December 14, 8pm at Tribal Connections (41 McRae Street, Okotoks), I welcome you to join cellist / pianist /organist Liz Tremblay & I for a casual yet operatic & classical Christmas… what the heck is on our set? My favorite operatic tear jerkers, perfect if you need to cry your guts out–but that’s only about 40 minutes! After that, we’re picking up some classical music from new, living, hip composers; people who were discovered on Youtube; who have made an excellent living composing for video games, film and TV – check out our program notes below! I invite you to join us; it’s only $10 admission. You can eTransfer me the cost, or call Tribal Connections to book your tickets at (403)995-1898. Show will be about 2 hours. Christmas caroling at the end, with a couple of my favorite un-Christmas surprises care of Danny Elfman!
Rosanna D’Agnillo (BA, MA; voice/piano) is a first generation Italian-Canadian, trained in San Francisco and Los Angeles before returning to her native Calgary. She is the pianist, vocalist and guitarist for the trio Alchemy Rose, the conductor of Cantiamo, a children’s choir, and an instructor of voice, piano, guitar and ukulele. She has composed numerous works used in film & TV during the last 20 years and teaches meditation to children, patients, athletes and choirs throughout the Calgary area.
Liz Tremblay (cello/piano) is originally from Great Britain where she studied cello & piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She worked in Bermuda for many years heading up the Menuhin Foundation of Bermuda, the Pembroke Players (a string quartet) and a Classical Trio performing at two hotels in the islands. Liz was principal cello for many years of the Bermuda Philharmonic and founding member of the Daylesford Sinfonia.
Part 1: A Trip Down Tear Jerker Opera Lane
The first half of our program features some of Rosanna’s favorite lyrical works from the Baroque early days of opera through to opera’s peak in Puccini’s later works. Rosanna will sing, accompanied by Liz at the piano. I’ve always wanted to put these arias on an album called “Opera for the Broken Hearted” that I can listen to when I have bad PMS.
Lascio ch’io Pianga (“Let me cry”) by George Frederick Handel (1685-1759) from his opera Rinaldo (1711). Handel recycled the music for this aria 3 times before it became a big hit in this opera. He was a German composer who worked mostly in London.
Sposa son disprezzata (“I am cast aside”) from Vivaldi’s opera Bajazet (1735). Vivaldi (1678-1741) of Four Seasons fame, poached this music from another opera, as was common at the time–without getting sued for plagiarism.
Il mio ben, quando verra (“When I see my beloved again) by Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816) from his opera Nina (1786). This opera was also called “The Girl Driven Mad by Love, but it’s actually a fluffy rom-com with a happy ending. Paisiello was the most popular opera composer of the late 1700s and had a strong influence on Rossini and Mozart.
Porgi, Amor (Give me, Love, some comfort) from W.A. Mozart’s (1756-1791) opera The Marriage of Figaro (1786). This opera tells the story of how servants scheme to foil a lecherous aristocrat. Just a few years before the French Revolution, the plot was scandalous, censored, but naturally very popular. In his short life of 35 years, Mozart was often poor and sick, but left a profound influence on Western music.
Giusto Ciel (Heaven, send justice) is from Rossini’s (1792-1868) opera Maometto II (1820). Much like we see real-world cultural problems portrayed between the lines in film, this Turks vs. Venetians conflict set in the 1400s was really about Rossini’s modern-day conflict brewing between southern Italy and the endlessly pillaging northern neighbors. Rossini is most famous for the Barber of Seville; this opera is a much less well known work.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) dominated Italian opera for the last half of the 19th century. His plots were very politicized, so he wrangled with religious and political censors non-stop. The three arias are from his earlier works. D’amore sull’ali rose (Love, on rosy breezes) is from Il Trovatore (1853) described as a “high flown, sprawling melodrama flamboyantly defiant of the Aristotelian unities, packed with all manner of fantastic and bizarre incident.” Yes, that’s true; it’s a kooky plot that he hated later in his life. Ah, fors’e lui and Addio del passato are from La Traviata (also 1853, and remains Verdi’s most-performed work) and the latter made very famous with Julia Roberts’ trip to the San Francisco Opera in Pretty Woman. Morro, ma prima in grazia is from Un Ballo in Maschera (1859), which is about the assassination of a king. The endless griping of censors really pissed off Verdi. After that he decided to retire and grow vegetables and grapes, but he didn’t last long only as a farmer; his later mature masterpieces (Aida, Otello, Falstaff) emerged regardless. His zucchini and eggplants were also well respected.
Senza Mamma is from the seldom-performed Suor Angelica (1918) by Puccini (1858-1924). Verdi’s successor, he moved Italian opera toward more realism (“verismo”). He had a pretty troubled personal life, about as melodramatic as many of his tragic characters. Sister Angelica in this opera is an aristocrat who got pregnant out of wedlock; her family took the baby away and sent her to a convent, where she is pretty miserable and heartbroken.
Part 2: Modern Classical Music
Classical music is alive and well, and this part of our program features some accessible, popular pieces by modern composers who earned their fame from Youtube, video games, or film/TV.
Sam Pottle (1934-1978) is the Muppets Theme Song composer, also remembered for his work on Sesame Street. I was crazy about the muppets growing up; that’s why this song is here, to introduce our second act.
Zelda’s Lullaby is by the legendary Japanese video game electronica composer Koji Kondo (b. 1961), who is most famous for the scores to the video games Super Mario and Legend of Zelda.
Happiness Does Not Wait is by the young Icelandic electronica artist & DJ Olafur Arnalds (b. 1986). He used to drum for heavy metal bands and now mixes piano/strings with short mantra-like melodies that build slowly. He is most famous for the Broadchurch theme.
River Flows in You is Yiruma’s most well known piece. This South Korean piano virtuoso, born in 1971, has several hundred million YouTube views, and from this has developed a sell-out concert career. He is an icon in South Korea.
Yann Tiersen (b. 1970) is a French musician and composer most well known for film soundtracks. La Valse d’Amelie (Amelie’s Waltz) and Comptine d’un autre ete (Nursery rhyme from another summer) are from the movie Amelie (2001.)
Indaco and Fly are by Ludovico Einaudi (b. 1955), a decorated Italian pianist and film/TV composer, most well known for the music for The Intouchables and Doctor Zhivago (the TV series).
This arrangement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is by The Piano Guys, a busy multimedia collective of four fellows from Utah who have also achieved YouTube fame with stylized video performances featuring modern mashups of classical themes and pop music on piano & cello. Two of our Christmas carols, O Come Emmanuel and Silent Night are also from the Piano Guys.
Finale – Christmas Caroling – audience invited to participate…but first, Jack’s Lament and Sally’s Song are from The Nightmare Before Christmas (1997) and hence made it to the Christmas section of our program! The prolific genius Danny Elfman (born 1953) was the singer of Oingo Boingo in the early 1980s, but now is most famous for his film scores in Tim Burton projects such as Edward Scissorhands. He also wrote the Simpson’s theme song. Some other films that show his quirky style are all the Men in Black films, Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo.