Sun, Moon, and Stars
We’re in the dog days of summer over in the Western hemisphere. All things considered, it’s been a pretty good season, weather-wise. Though summer has never been my favorite of the four seasons (I’m much more of an autumn and winter girl if you must know), I have to admit that I’ve gotten to experience some pretty great summertime weather.
In the spirit of summer, I thought I’d share some of my favorite operatic selections that make mention of those celestial bodies we all cherish–the sun, moon, and stars. Enjoy!
1. Ain’t it a pretty night? from Susannah
The eponymous character’s monologue of awe, wonder, and hope for life is one of my personal favorite arias. Floyd’s often thick orchestral texture perfectly recreates the secluded, mountainous woodland that Susannah and her friend Little Bat call home. This dense orchestration, however, is always conveniently absent when Susannah speaks the first line of the aria and repeats her question. The stillness of her a capella line is not just evocative of dusk; it is evocative of her deep contemplation and dreams for the future.
2. O du mein holder Abendstern from Tannhäuser
Loved by baritones everywhere, this is Wolfram’s solemn prayer for the protection of Elisabeth as she embarks on a journey to impending death. Also known as the “Song to the Evening Star”, Wolfram’s aria contains some of Wagner’s most lyrical and lilting vocal writing. As for me, I can hear the evening star’s miraculous, serene appearing to Wolfram right before the line “Da scheinest du.” Can you?
3. Hymn to the Sun from The Golden Cockerel
A real coloratura showpiece! More than that, Rimsky-Korsakov practically steals sunbeams and writes them directly into his vocal line.
4. Song to the Moon from Rusalka
Before it became Renée’s signature piece, it was merely (well, never merely) the water nymph Rusalka’s plea to the moon for her lover. The glissandi following the verses of Rusalka’s singing are reminiscent of the rippling water in which the fairy-tale creature finds herself. This aria is the perfect soundtrack for a dreamy, sleepy summer night.
5. E lucevan le stelle from Tosca
It’s no secret that opera characters turn to the sun, moon, and stars in times of trouble (much like actual humans do–see, they’re just like us!). In this aria, the painter Mario Cavaradossi, alone and awaiting his execution, reminisces of a time when the stars shone and he could embrace his lover.
Did I miss any of your celestial favorites? Let me know your reactions in the comments! What operatic scenes just scream “summer” to you?