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Kansas City Symphony
2011-2012 Classical Series
March 23, 24 and 25, 2012
Michael Stern, Conductor
Joyce DiDonato, Mezzo-Soprano
Overture to La Forza del Destino
Giovanna d’Arco for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra
from Péchés de vieillesse
The Deepest Desire, Four Meditations on Love
for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra
Prelude: The Call — More is Required — Love
I Catch on Fire
The Deepest Desire
Primary Colors
Suite from Der Rosenkavalier
March 23-25, 2012, page 1
Notes on the Program by DR. RICHARD E. RODDA
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Overture to La Forza del Destino (“The Force of Destiny”) (1861)
Woodwinds in pairs plus piccolo, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani,
percussion, two harps and strings.
• La Forza del Destino is based on Don Alvaro, a Spanish play of 1835 by Don
Angel de Saavedra, Duke of Rivas
• the opera was written for the Russian Imperial Opera in St. Petersburg and
premiered there on November 17, 1862
• Verdi incorporated several themes from the opera into its dramatic Overture
La Forza del Destino is set in 18th-century Spain. Alvaro has accidentally killed the father of
his beloved, Leonora, during the lovers’ attempted elopement. Separately, they flee. Leonora’s
brother, Carlo, swears vengeance on both her and their father’s murderer. Leonora first seeks
refuge at a convent, and then goes to live as a hermit in a cave. Carlo and Alvaro meet during a
military encounter, and Carlo discovers the true identity of his adversary just after Alvaro is
carried away, wounded. Alvaro joins the Church as a monk, but he is followed by Carlo who
enrages Alvaro to the point of a duel. They fight near Leonora’s cave, interrupting her prayers,
and she goes to see what is causing the commotion. As she emerges from her cave, the lovers
recognize each other, and Alvaro cries that he has spilled the blood of yet another of her family.
She rushes off to help her fatally wounded brother, but Carlo, with his last bit of strength,
stabs Leonora, and she dies in Alvaro’s arms. For this melodramatic tale, Verdi provided one of
his most richly expressive scores. The Overture, utilizing several themes from the opera,
reflects the strong emotions of the work though it does not follow the progress of the story.
Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868)
Orchestrated by Salvatore Sciarrino (born in 1947)
Giovanna d’Arco (“Joan of Arc”) for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra from Péchés
de vieillesse (“Sins of My Old Age”) (1832; orchestrated in 1989)
Flute, pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns and trumpets, and strings.
• Giovanna d’Arco is from a collection of small-scale pieces titled Péchés de
vieillesse (“Sins of My Old Age”) that Rossini composed after retiring from
operatic composition when he was 37
• many of the Péchés were first performed at his Saturday evening soirées
• Giovanna d’Arco resembles an opera scene in form and mood
After dazzling Europe with no fewer than 39 operas between 1808 and 1829, Rossini
abruptly stopped composing at the hardly advanced age of 37. Except for a little volume of
vocal entertainment pieces called Les Soirées [Evenings] Musicales jotted down between about
1830 and 1835, he thereafter retired completely from creative activity, traveling extensively in
Italy and France, and growing increasingly alarmed about the deteriorating state of his health.
March 23-25, 2012, page 2
In 1855, he settled in Paris, where the only variation in his schedule came on Saturday
evenings, when he hosted one of the most popular salons in the city. At his gathering of April
15, 1857, Rossini amazed the crowd by presenting to his devoted wife, Olympe, his first new
composition in 22 years, a series of six different settings of a poem by Metastasio appropriately
titled Musique Anodine (“Music to Soothe Pain”). From that date until he died eleven years later,
Rossini again composed with real enjoyment, devising some 180 pieces for solo piano,
instruments and various combinations of accompanied voices that he smilingly called Péchés
de vieillesse — “Sins of My Old Age.”
The most ambitious vocal work in the Péchés is the cantata for soprano and piano, really a
vest-pocket operatic scene, Giovanna d’Arco (“Joan of Arc”), which Rossini noted in the score
was “espressamente composta per Madamigella Olimpia Pélissier, Parigi 1832.” Mlle. Pélissier
was not a singer, at least not in public, but she was one of the city’s best-known demimondaines, mistress to Balzac, the novelist Eugène Sue, the painter Vernet and, beginning
soon before Rossini dated this manuscript extolling the virtues of a French virgin of yore, him.
They carried on their affair in a semi-public way until the death of the composer’s first wife, the
singer Isabella Colbran, in October 1845, and were married the following summer. They
remained faithful companions until Rossini’s death in 1868. Giovanna d’Arco may have been
performed privately soon after it was written, but its first known performance took place when
Marietta Alboni, with the composer at the piano, offered the piece at a soirée in Rossini’s
Parisian townhouse on April 1, 1859. For the Opera Festival in Rossini’s hometown of Pesaro in
1989, the Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino arranged the original piano accompaniment for
chamber orchestra; that version was premiered by Teresa Berganza. Giovanna d’Arco is a
dramatic setting of a text, apparently by Rossini aided by his friend the scholar Luigi Ferrucci,
that is concerned with the fabled Joan as she prepares to leave home to fulfill her destiny at
the head of the French forces.
E’ notte, e tutto addormentato è il mondo.
Sola io veglio, ed aspetto
che un destrier passi,
che una tromba chiami.
Ascolto, e nulla sento
se non son l’acque
e il mormorar del vento.
Muta ogni cosa ed afflitta
come l’ora che segue alla sconfitta.
O patria! O Re!
Novella un’aita verrà.
L’Onnipossente del gregge
suscitò la pastorella.
O dolce mio loco native, dolce famiglia,
O campi, O selve, addio.
Night, and the world is asleep.
I alone am awake, and wait
for a charger to pass by,
a trumpet to ring out.
I listen, and hear nothing
but the sound of water
and the whisper of the wind.
All is as silent and sorrowful
as in the hours after a defeat.
O my country! O my king!
Some new help will come.
The Almighty summoned
the shepherdess from her flock.
Let it be.
O my beloved childhood home, beloved family,
O fields, O woods, farewell.
O mia madre e tu frattanto
la tua figlia cercherai,
affannata chiamerai
e nessun risponderà;
ma fra poco d’alte imprese
verrà un suon conforto al pianto:
ogni madre, ogni francese
la mia madre invidierà.
O mia madre, se frattanto
la tua figlia cercherai,
se affannata chiamerai
questo suon risponderà.
O mother, you meanwhile
will be seeking your daughter,
will call her anxiously,
and there will be no reply;
but soon, from the scene of high endeavor
news will come to still your weeping:
every mother, all French people
will envy my mother.
O mother, if you meanwhile
are looking for your daughter
and calling her anxiously,
this will be your answer.
Eppur piange. Ah!
And yet she weeps. Ah!
March 23-25, 2012, page 3
Repente qual luce balenò nell’oriente,
non è il sole che s’alza,
sei la mia vision, io ti conosco.
Più grande che non suole
empie il ciel fulminando
e mi fa segno, angiol di morte,
tu mi chiami, io vegno.
What light is that streaming from the East?
That is not the sun rising;
you are my vision, I know you well.
Larger than usual,
it fills the sky like lightning,
and has a message for me. Angel of death,
you call me, I am coming.
Ah, la fiamma che t’esce dal guardo
già m’ha tocca, m’investe, già m’arde.
Presto un brando —
marciamo pugnando.
Viva il Re, la vittoria è con me.
Guida i forti la vergine al campo,
tra i leoni l’agnello s’avventa,
non han scampo —
il Signor li spaventa.
Viva il Re, la vittoria è con me.
Ah, the flame that issues from your eyes
now touches me, engulfs me, sets me aflame.
Quick, give me a sword ...
We’ll march and fight.
Long live the King! Victory is in my hands!
The virgin leads the strong men into battle,
the lamb hurls herself among the lions,
they have no escape ...
The fear of the Lord is upon them.
Long live the King! Victory is in my hands!
Corre la gioia di core in core
ma, queta e timida fra lo stupore,
chi se’, domandano, che il Re salvò?
Ah! vinse la vergine che in Dio sperò.
Joy runs from heart to heart
but all are wondering in amazement:
Who is the quiet, shy one who saved the King?
Ah! The victor is the virgin who had faith
in God.
Give me a sword ... We’ll march and fight.
Long live the King! Victory is in my hands!
Joy runs, etc.
Presto un brando — marciamo pugnando.
Viva il Re, la vittoria è con me.
Corre la gioia, ecc.
Jake Heggie (born in 1961)
The Deepest Desire, Four Meditations on Love for Mezzo-Soprano and
Orchestra (2002; orchestrated in 2005)
Woodwinds, horns and trumpets in pairs, percussion, piano and strings.
• American composer Jake Heggie has achieved wide renown with his vocal
• Heggie’s 2000 opera Dead Man Walking is based on Sister Helen Prejean’s
book about her work with death row inmates
• in the poems she wrote for the song cycle The Deepest Desire, Sister Prejean
reflected on her personal experience in her work
When Jake Heggie, one of America’s most gifted composers of vocal music, received a
commission for a song cycle for the 2002 Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival in Colorado, he
asked Sister Helen Prejean, whose work with death-row inmates she made the basis of her
powerful book Dead Man Walking on which the composer based his 2000 opera, to write texts
that would describe what he called “her internal, spiritual journey, as opposed to the opera,
which was her physical journey.” Heggie titled the cycle after a line in the third of Sister
Prejean’s poems: The Deepest Desire. The work was premiered on July 16, 2002 in Vail by
mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, flutist Eugenia Zukerman and the composer as pianist. The
songs were orchestrated in 2005 on a commission from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and
first performed in that version on May 19, 2005, conducted by Patrick Summers with soprano
March 23-25, 2012, page 4
Joyce DiDonato as soloist. The first of these “Four Meditations on Love” begins with an
instrumental prelude titled The Call that introduces Heggie’s settings of Sister Prejean’s poetic
reminiscence of her accepting the cause of her life and drawing others to it (More Is Required),
and then reflecting on the sharing of Love. I Catch on Fire recounts an incident when her
voluminous habit was ignited by an open candle flame before a classroom of fourth graders and
the lessons that she taught them and realized herself from the episode. The Deepest Desire
traces Sister Prejean’s evolution from meditative nun to social activist. The closing song,
Primary Colors, speaks of how she finds both “equanimity” and “fire” in her spirituality.
More is Required
More is required than being swept along —
All the currents pulling me
Easy and wide in a long, slow drift —
Without rudder, floating backwards, now to the side.
What can one person do against a sucking tide?
I coil like a bow;
I gather like a fist;
I forge like a rudder
And I lean into the wide, slow drift.
I tack and veer by God’s own will.
I raise my voice against the silence.
My voice alone until a chorus joins.
Love is the pure energy of God: pray for it ardently.
Be grateful when it comes into your life: give of it generously.
Lavish it on others: even the undeserving ones.
Cultivate friendship with care: it is the best love of all.
I Catch on Fire
Long black dress to my toes — flowing black sleeves and veil.
A walking bolt of black material.
Fourth grade religion class — teaching full force:
The Gospel according to ...
Lit candle.
Fifty little eyes wide. Twenty-five voices shout:
“Sister! Sister! You’re on fire!”
Flames shooting. Hands beating.
Silence. Breathing.
Children, this teaches us always to be careful with fire.
Now, years later, when I pray
I catch on fire.
The Deepest Desire
I thought I knew my heart’s desire:
To love God. To be with God in Heaven,
A bud unfolding; a dutiful, prayerful nun.
I pleased God, I thought,
By being obedient.
It made me feel holy.
But getting to heaven takes a long time.
And dwelling far below was a Voice, calling:
March 23-25, 2012, page 5
“Lose yourself!”
“Lose yourself upon the deeper currents!”
Then I heard cries from the heart of the city:
“Is there life before death?”
I saw. I heard. I followed.
I made my way to prison cells.
I made my way to death chambers.
I saw. I heard. I followed.
I witnessed.
A desire for justice woke in me.
A fierce desire that will not let go.
The deepest desire.
The deepest desire of my heart.
“Come home!”
“Come home!”
“Come home!”
Primary Colors
I live my life in primary colors.
I let praise and blame fall where they may.
I hold my soul in equanimity
And leave the fruits of my labors to God.
At night, when I pray, I catch on fire.
And when I put my head on the pillow,
I fall instantly to sleep.
Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Suite from Der Rosenkavalier (“The Cavalier of the Rose”) (1909-1910)
Piccolo, three flutes, three oboes, English horn, E-flat clarinet, three clarinets, bass clarinet,
three bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani,
percussion, celesta, two harps and strings.
• Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s brilliant libretto for Der Rosenkavalier is set in the
aristocratic Vienna of Mozart’s day
• the opera’s opulent and lyrical score was a significant change of style for
Strauss from the preceding modernities of Salome and Elektra
• Richard and Johann Strauss, Jr. were unrelated, but the waltzes in Der
Rosenkavalier evoke 19th-century imperial Vienna
The libretto of Der Rosenkavalier by the gifted Austrian man of letters Hugo von
Hofmannsthal is one of the masterworks of its type for the lyric stage. It gently probes the
budding, young love of Octavian and Sophie, poignantly examines the fading youth of the
Marschallin, and humorously exposes the blustering Baron Ochs. It is a superb evocation of
sentiment, wit and vigor wedded to one of the most opulently glorious musical scores ever
composed. New York Times critic Harold Schonberg wrote of the emotional milieu of the opera,
“In Der Rosenkavalier, there are no Jungian archetypes, only the human condition. Instead of
March 23-25, 2012, page 6
long narratives, there are Viennese waltzes. Instead of a monumental Liebestod, there is a sad,
elegant lament from a beautiful, aristocratic woman who begins to see old age. Instead of
death, we get a bittersweet and hauntingly beautiful trio that in effect tells us that life will go
on as it has always gone on. People do not die for love in Hofmannsthal’s world. They face the
inevitable, surrender with what grace they can summon up, and then look around for life’s next
episode. As Strauss himself later said, the Marschallin had lovers before Octavian, and she will
have lovers after him.” Der Rosenkavalier is an opera wise and worldly, sophisticated and
touching, sentimental and funny that contains some of the most memorable music to emerge
from the opera house in the 20th century.
The Suite that Strauss extracted from Der Rosenkavalier includes the Prelude to Act I, the
luminous Presentation of the Rose from Act II, the blustering Baron Ochs’ Arrival and Waltz from
Act II, the glorious trio and duet in the opera’s closing scene, and a selection of rousing waltzes
from the score.
©2011 Dr. Richard E. Rodda

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