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In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera

DR. VON LYRIC: Another candidate for the most beautiful song ever written

Feb 25, 2015 3:06:00 PM
By BLO Staff

While searching out a video of Ezio Pinza for the Crossover post, I came across  a version of the aria "Ombra mai fu" from Handel's XERXES, sung by that great bass (a perhaps unexpected item in our era  of "authentic" Handel). Since we were already thinking about extraordinarily beautiful "songs" ("Summertime", "Some other time") I thought, here's another prime example...simple, elegant, elegiac, unforgettable.

This is perhaps Handel's most famous work (after the Hallelujah Chorus, I suppose). In only three minutes or so, he creates a completely contained world full of wonder and mysterious feeling. And, lest we forget, the ostensible subject of the outpouring of restrained but obviously heartfelt love is...a tree. It has been recorded by almost every opera singer you can think of (check the almost-endless postings on YouTube). Here are only a few for your contemplation.

First, two contemporary ("authentic"?) offerings from two of my favorite artists:

Then the Pinza version:

Following that, a group of performances from seemingly highly unlikely sources. What do you make of this group?

And, of course, I must include some more outré examples, pulled from my delighted wanderings through the internet byways:

But I end with the real discovery of the whole expedition. I have always been a huge fan of Jussi Bjorling, but I had never come across this. Have you ever heard such a beautiful legato, control of breath, such an effortless stream of silver sound, and such eloquent, but tellingly restrained, passion?

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