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Friday, 27 June 2014

Friday's French music break - Wilhelmenia Fernandez, "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana"

This week's Friday's French music break is a treat for all opera lovers out there; the American soprano Wilhelmenia Fernandez singing "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana" from Alfredo Catalani's "Le Wally".

Wihelmenia Fernandez (screenshot from "Diva")

No, not much French about it at all, except that this version of the aria is probably one of the more popular and most well-known (but not necessarily "best") as it featured in Jean-Jacques Beineix's 1981 art house classic film "Diva" in which Fernandez played (and sang) the part of Cynthia Hawkins, "a beautiful and celebrated opera singer who has never consented to have her performances recorded."

So why dig up a version that's more than three decades old of an aria from an opera that first opened in 1892?

Well, even though many famous sopranos have had "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana" in their repertoire (just do a search on YouTube and you'll come up with, among others, versions by Angela Gheorghiu, Renée Fleming and the late Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi ), "La Wally" as an opera is rarely performed.

Apparently that's because it's difficult to stage as it's set in the Tyrolean Alps with the heroine throwing herself to her death into an avalanche at the end, which sounds like hogwash as a reason, given the (sometimes improbable) plots in other operas (think Puccini's "Tosca" for example, in which the heroine "hurls herself off a parapet" at the end).

Anyway, right now "La Wally" is coming to the end of a run at the Grand Théâtre in Geneva - the first time it has been performed there since the venue reopened 50 years ago.

Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta (screenshot  from clip of "La Wally" Grand Théâtre de Genève)

Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta (pictured) shares the lead role with English-born Morenike Fadayomi (you can read her full official biography here) who takes over for the last two performances.

And for those of you who might fancy seeing the Geneva performance of "La Wally", Arte still has the June 20 "live transmission" in its site.

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