Ave Maria for the Children of Haiti now available on I-Tunes and CD BABY



One of the world’s most famous and beloved voices, Aprile Millo teams up with the marvelous young Canadian soprano Maria Vetere in a ravishing, hauntingly beautiful new Ave Maria, destined to become a classic. And 100% of all net proceeds from sales of the recording will benefit Hurricane Matthew Relief in Haiti.

When Peter Danish, the Classical Music Editor of BroadwayWorld.com, heard from the pastor of a local Haitian church that donations were down significantly because of the bad press surrounding the Red Cross and the Clinton Foundation’s work in Haiti, he contacted opera legend Aprile Millo with an idea.

He suggested Millo record a spiritual song, an AVE MARIA for the holidays, with 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the recording going to Hurricane relief. Millo, one of the world’s best-loved sopranos, known as “the high priestess of that old time operatic religion,” has had a career spanning 30 years on the world’s greatest operatic stages. Millo agreed and they went to work. “From the first time Peter played the song for me, the melody positively haunted me.” said Millo. Time was extremely short for a Xmas release, but Danish found everyone he reached out to gladly offered to help. And in just over three weeks from start to finish, AVE MARIA (For the Children of Haiti) was completed.

A GLOBAL VIRTUAL ORCHESTRA: Danish enlisted help of musician friends and in a little over two weeks over 20 musicians from 8 countries contributed their time and talents to the song: a choir in Venezuela, a string quartet in Israel, a cellist from Croatia, flutist from the Netherlands, Canada , Mexico, Ireland, Latvia and the list goes on! It has gone global with everyone performing their parts and then emailing the tracks to Danish in New York for the final mix. Danish turned to master engineer Frank D. Fagnano to handle the mixing and mastering, and Fagnano wove together dozens of parts into a ravishing mosaic.

“The out-pouring of offers was completely overwhelming!” said Danish. “The difficulty was that I hadn’t even written parts for all of these instruments. But we won’t turn anyone down that wants to help. It’s been crazy, but good crazy and for a great cause.”

The song, AVE MARIA holds a very special significance for the people of Haiti. “At holiday time, it’s especially important to remember those who are less fortunate than us. Think about the kind of Christmas the children of Haiti are going to have this year,” said Dordy Joseph, of the Church of God, in Nyack, NY. “We at Nyack Church of God are thrilled that Aprile Millo, Maria Vetere and Peter Danish have given so unselfishly of their time to help the kids. Every little bit helps.”


To download from CD Baby Click Here

To download from I-Tunes   CLICK HERE

Spend the Weekend with Aprile Millo in Toronto: Opera Spectacular!

Don’t miss this exciting event!  Legendary diva with the golden voice hits Toronto!

Come spend two nights with Aprile Millo as she presents Canadian talent and sings a long-anticipated recital in the heart of Toronto!

Thursday, November 13, 2014:  Opera Spectacular

Saturday, November 15:  Aprile Millo in Recital


Millo Recital 2014 Toronto


The legendary soprano returns to Toronto for a special weekend of music. The New York Post’s James Jorden wrote “The soprano, considered the foremost stylist of Italian romantic vocal music, always draws an audience of hard core cognoscenti, who are practically an opera in themselves”. Aware of the traditions in opera and keenly determined to see them continue on November 13, 2014 Miss Millo is presenting the promise of tomorrow in Opera Spectacular! where she is featuring a fabulous young soprano in Mary-Lou Vetere and her Vetere Studio filled with amazing Canadian voices. Then on Nov 15th, with renowned piano virtuoso, Linda Ippolito, she gives a recital of arias, art songs of Italy, lieder and Irish and American songs. Special guest artists will be joining her, Argentinian baritone, Gustavo Ahualli, and Mary-Lou Vetere showcasing another of her many talents on accordion as well, and magical harpist, Merynda Adams. Both nights will be like nothing you have ever seen.

Click here to purchase tickets to Aprile Millo Recital


Opera Spectacular!  Final Draft

Iconic soprano, Aprile Millo understands what it means to be a part of the great tradition of opera. Her mentors in her legendary career number some of the greatest who ever sang, Renata Tebaldi, Zinka Milanov, Magda Olivero, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Licia Albanese and Richard Bonygne and Randolph Mickelson and gloriously singing with Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Carlo Bergonzi and Canada’s great tenors, Ben Heppner, Richard Margison and the great Ermano Mauro, to name a few. Keenly aware of the need to continue the Bel Canto traditions, Mme. Millo met and mentored a talented young Canadian Italian soprano, (with a PHD yet!), in Mary-Lou Vetere and began working with her and her amazing group of young singers in The Vetere Studio. Opera Spectacular! is a glamourous evening of arias and scenes featuring some of those fabulous voices! Mme. Millo wanted to share her joy with the great nation of Canada her immense joy at finding so many wonderful artists in love with OPERA and eager to learn and promote culture and the arts. Fresh from their sold-out cheering performances in Niagara Falls, ON. this recital is unlike anything you have ever seen. Who said Opera is boring? Passion, romance, intrigue and grandeur wrapped up in a melodic little package all for the price of admission. It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to build a star. Come see Canada’s brightest hopes for the future and be a part of it all!!! Channel your inner Pavarotti and come join in, you will never be the same!


Click here to purchase tickets to Opera Spectacular

An Italian Operatic Journey: Il Tabarro, Puccini, La Tebaldi, and Zeffirelli

Tabarro Poster



A story of infidelity and deception, murder, and infinite purgatory, a man whose music transcends, and a woman who was born to sing with Golden beams of sound that cause frenzied audiences: the combination of a lifetime and the reason behind one of the most rewarding trips to Italy I have ever taken and may ever take. I’ve thought for awhile about writing this blog entry and how or if I was going to publish one at all because of the deeply personal value of this trip for me, however the experiences and personas that I encountered, the understanding of the current artistic situation in Italy, and the state of opera in general have to be shared in order for it to gain true value.

Several months ago, when Aprile Millo was contracted to sing Giorgetta in Puccini’s “Il Tabarro”, I became overly excited because I have spent so much time with the great Maestro’s music.  I was tickled by the fact that her ever beautiful, but now much more lush and buoyant sound, filled with “corpo” and a cut that few singers have in this day and age, would be mingled with the harmonies in Tabarro that had haunted me the first time I heard it.  I was really interested to see how an artist of her ilk, seeking perfection and being very selective about the heroines she chooses to portray, was going to wrap her mind around a woman who is definitely one of the least honourable of Puccini’s women.  It is truly a lesson as an artist to observe someone great go through a journey of this type and boy what an honour it was for me to see this unfold.

IMG_3656 Via XX Settembre, Genoa


View from the upstairs of the Teatro Carlo Felice

IMG_3688The beautiful Teatro Carlo Felice

Arriving in Genoa, the diva didn’t have much time to assimilate and acclimatize from the cold temperatures of New York to the more springlike temperatures of Genoa, nor the fact that we were in the north of Italy.  Nothing fazed her and off  she went to rehearsal the day after arriving.  I did not attend the first rehearsal but was busy exploring the area around the Via XX Settembre, which was of course filled with everything I adore:  bookstores, cafés, pen and stationary stores, and yes…shoe stores but we won’t talk about that…that’s another blog entry all on it’s own!

IMG_3675 Dress Rehearsal for “Il Tabarro”

The following day, I did attend the dress rehearsal in the Teatro Carlo Felice and was very interested in the construction of the theatre, especially the exposed stone walls that surround the stage.  I immediately fell in love with this orchestra.  Ma che bravissimi!!!  And, Maestro Donato Renzetti was truly a caring, diligent, and supportive conductor who allowed the singers and musicians to express while keeping the constraints of the music.  I cannot stand when Puccini is conducted like Mozart.  The music is very expansive with flex and fold and I usually become agitated when the passionate fervour of his orchestral palate is destroyed by a conductor who does not understand the important balance Puccini required  that in each of his operas is different.  Maestro Renzetti made sure to allow for expansiveness and flexibility which allowed the singers to express freely.

Donato Renzetti

Maestro Donato Renzetti


The cast list

It was at this rehearsal that I became entranced with what Aprile was doing with Giorgetta.  I had always listened to la Tebaldi sing it and enjoyed it very much, but in this Aprile brought her own personal interpretation which was different and one that I have to say I enjoyed even more than Tebaldi’s.  Every word was expressed to the point that even the softest piani were heard in the back of the theatre.  Her sense of “parlato” was impeccable and the diction clear as a bell.  She was able to expand the character both expressively and vocally with a huge range of colour and volume.  Personally, I had never really liked Giorgetta as a character, and we’re not really supposed to the way Puccini presents her, but what I found was that I actually liked Millo’s Giorgetta.  I felt for her…I understood why she was acting the way she was.  The opera suddenly became more valuable to me within the repertoire.  I was also deeply moved by the rich chocolate baritone of Carlos Almaguer and the mezzo of Renata Lamanda who expressed their roles with elegance and personality.

The performance was gaining a lot of buzz around Italy and I was very happy to find this in the newspaper the day of the show:


A full 3 page article discussing Puccini’s heroines in the Genovese newspaper and yes THAT is how it’s done in Italy people.  Opera gets headline news!!!  Viva L’Italia!!!  The theatre was buzzing that night and important persons were present, especially of note Signora Simonetta Puccini, the granddaughter of Giacomo Puccini himself.  She personally asked to meet Aprile before the performance and the two who are both soldiers for opera and the preservation of its authenticity became fast friends.  However, it must be noted that after the performance, Signora Puccini in my presence told Millo that her performance of “Tabarro” was the best she had ever heard.  She wished to include her photo at Torre del Lago of the great interpreters of his roles.  I already knew something historic was happening that night and Signora Puccini also realized what was being presented.  This would not be the final meeting with Signora Puccini…


Aprile Millo and Signora Simonetta Puccini

The performance was electric.  A very lovely Suor Angelica was presented prior to, sung by the renowned Italian soprano Donata D’Annunzio Lombardi, who sang with beautiful tone and attention to every detail.  Also, of note was the singing of mezzo-soprano Annunziata Vestri who sang the role of La Badessa.  When Tabarro began, immediately the harmonies sweep you away into something you’re not sure you want to be in but you can’t help yourself.  Millo and her colleagues dove right in from the first utterances of “O Michele Michele.” which caused a hush in the theatre.  I was even more impressed by the expansiveness Millo showed that evening with the softest piano and two hairsplitting high C’s that are so full and yet penetrating that you’re not really sure what happened to you once they ring in the theatre walls.  The audience was in great appreciation with multiple curtain calls and a Signora Puccini who was applauding with great enthusiasm. Needless to say, honouring Puccini that evening was a great success for the Teatro Carlo Felice.

Review of Il Tabarro from the Bergamo Opera-click


Lots of pictures and line ups of aficionados


Maestro Valerio Galli, Aprile Millo, and Renato Bonajuto


Renata Lamanda in praise of her colleague

Part II:  Villa Puccini


Not only did Signora Puccini enjoy the performance, she invited Millo (and me in tow) to Puccini’s villa in Torre del Lago a couple of days later.  For me, this was the invitation of a lifetime.  I’ve spent 20 years studying the music of the great maestro and he is of course my “preferito” and so I could not believe that I was going to his home, where he had written so many of the operas I adore and those that I have fallen crazy in love with.  We arrived in Torre del Lago in what seemed to be a violent tempest of rain.  Blowing wind, water that seemed to be jumping up over the edge of Torre del Lago like some kind of wild animal, and very poor visibility because of the buckets of rain that fell.  As soon as we drove into the little town, the energy became electric for me.  Every street has the title of an opera and it is a long road that leads to one place only…the place Puccini loved, that he spent his most beloved hours in life.

IMG_3743Puccini’s statue in the distance looking at the wild water of the Lake.


Exterior facade of the Villa Puccini

Upon arriving at the villa, my heart was pounding so hard I could hardly hear anything else.  After so much time adoring this man I never even met and probably spending more time studying him and his music than I have with even my own family, I realized that I was on sacred operatic ground.  Not only was his villa intact with everything he owned, his furniture, photos, hunting materials, and his beloved piano on which he composed, he was also buried in the villa.  Needless to say my legs were shaking.  We were met by Signora Puccini, adorable in a red toque at the door after traversing the blowing wind and rain to get in.  Aprile and I were immediately overwhelmed by the idea of where we were standing.  The first room was filled with old letters, manuscripts, and photo signed by all of the great interpreters of Puccini, a beautiful statue of Enrico Caruso in La Fanciulla del West, and a glass case in which lay the white vest and cummerbund that Maestro wore.  I looked at it almost as if trying to figure out exactly how big a man he was.  Note:  none of these photos were taken by me personally.  They are taken from online sources.

Manuscript room

We continued through the house and entered into a room in which both of us were in tears.  Everything as he left it, preserved beautifully by his granddaughter.

Puccini villa 2

Upon seeing that piano, the presence of the Maestro was palpable.  I think Signora Puccini was not sure what to do because we were both so overwhelmed with emotion.  She graciously had the glass over the keys removed so we could touch the keys and Maestro Galli, who we were with, played “Tu che di gel sei cinta” on the piano.  Never will I forget the sweet but prominent tone of that piano on which my favourite composer in the world composed the operas that steal my heart.


But more overwhelming was the move into the the room just behind the piano where the Maestro is buried right behind the piano he loved so much to play and on which the first melodies of Boheme rang against that wall.  It was not a place of sadness but of joy, of music, of someone trying to say, my music is important and I left it for you, please honour it.  We had brought a huge bouquet of red long stemmed roses which now was placed at the foot of his sepulchre.  Finally, I was able to put my hand where he rests and say “thank you” for the beauty and joy he brings to my life every day.  Even without knowing him, the room was filled with smiles, especially from Signora Puccini who by this point understood that Aprile and I were completely devoted to her grandfather.

We were so blessed to have spent time with her and I will never forget the wonderful things she spoke about, which I will not write here simply because of the nature of a private conversation, but I must document one important thing.  It became clearly evident how much the preservation and “authenticity” of her grandfather’s music was to her and to him.  Hearing her discuss her feelings on modernizing his productions made me furious with those who think it’s ok to simply ignore Puccini’s markings, instructions, and indications on the score.  It is NOT OK for directors to just rethink Puccini.  He did the thinking!!!  Modernizing is not the issue, it is when the composer’s wishes are bypassed in order to “rethink” his art.  I will forever stand in solidarity with Signora Puccini who made it clear that her grandfather would not have been too pleased.

In all, this was a day none of us will ever forget.

IMG_3747Simonetta Puccini and Myself

Part III:  The Home of Renata Tebaldi


This angel continues to influence young singers every day.  I did not go on this trip and expect to be so close to her and yet so far. Another person I have admired and adored, who I never met, and yet now I feel like I have.  Aprile, who had a very beautiful friendship with La Tebaldi had not been to her home since her death and so this experience was different for her than it was for me.  It was one of realization and some sadness, but joy in being with those who devote their life to her still.  In Milano now, we were greeted at the door by the president of the Renata Tebaldi foundation, Giovanna Colombo, who is busy preparing for the opening of the Tebaldi Museum in Busseto in June.  I stood beneath a huge plaque that indicated this place as one of honour in Milano because she had lived there.  Again, shaking is an understatement.

Up the little elevator we went and down a hallway where we were greeted by Marisa and a little dog who ended up stealing my heart.  Bonnie (III) is the little dog of Tina Viganò who had spent more than half her life in service to “la signorina” (she never calls her by first name).  I could not believe I was meeting her.  I was immediately hit in in the face with a gorgeous life-size portrait of Tebaldi on the wall that was so radiant you would think it was going to speak to you.  Out came Tina, a sweet, gentle smiled woman with open arms so happy to see Aprile who Tebaldi had adored as a friend and an artist.  I  was so moved to meet her but I became mute as I usually do when something affects me deeply.  All of la Tebaldi’s things were in the apartment, untouched, almost as if she was still living there. Especially moving was the piano that was the centrepiece of the room, covered with photos of important people and of the angel herself.  When I was asked by Tina to play it, I felt like I couldn’t possibly touch this instrument but I sat at the bench and collected myself before touching the keys as respectfully as I could.  A beautiful sweet sound, one that I could imagine her voice mingling with.  What a gift.

Afterwards we spent a lovely dinner talking about “la signorina” with little Bonnie (III) keeping an eye on everything but mostly on her Tina who was so watchful of her.  So many things, so many memories, I felt honoured to hear them and I felt like somehow La Tebaldi would’ve been tickled to know that Aprile was with Tina.

My beautiful pictureAprile with Renata Tebaldi

DSC_0091Aprile holding Bonnie III, Tina, me, and Giovanna Colombo

To visit the Official Renata Tebaldi Page and learn more about the beautiful Museum set to open soon please click here:

Sito Ufficiale del Comitato Renata Tebaldi

Part III: Franco Zeffirelli

Rome:  one of the greatest directors of all time celebrating his birthday and of course Aprile Millo, one of the greatest Liu’s in history, was invited to celebrate with him.  Another unexpected meeting for me, but one I was honoured to experience.  His house was a thing of beauty.  Art, and music everywhere, photos of great actresses he had worked with and singers.  The vibrance and elegance of this man, and a huge personality abounds.  With one of his many little dogs firmly planted on his lap the entire evening, he smiled broadly, welcoming everyone who was beautifully dressed  and so happy to be there.  I kept thinking of how I felt when the curtain opens on the Imperial Scene in Turandot and how majestic it is and Act II of La Boheme.  SHAME ON ANYONE who is trying to replace his magnificent artistic and creative productions.  Viva Zeffirelli per sempre!!! Happy Birthday Maestro…I was so happy to meet you!!

Aprile and Franco

Zeffirelli and Aprile Millo

1938039_10152223612963497_1304165351_n The sweetest man and a great artist

Part IV:  Various and Sundry

Some photos for your pleasure


The facade of the Vatican


Teatro Carlo Felice (Genoa)


The interior window of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele (Milano)


Interior of the Galleria (Milano)


Exterior of the Galleria at night (Milano)


Duomo Milano (at night)


Il Colosseo (Roma)


Piazza del Duomo (Milano)


Il Duomo (Milano)


La Scala and someone who loves her


Beautiful and rainy Venezia


Santa Maria della Salute (Venice)


A room with a view


If one could only wake up to this every day


The bridge of Sighs (Venice)


St. Mark’s (Venice)


Interior of St. Mark’s (Venice)


Gondolas on the water


One of the beautiful bridges (Venice)




Yay for female gondoliers!  I wonder if she sings?


Santa Maria della Salute (Venice)


I tried very hard to take this from the train.  The Alps were magnificent

Part IV:  Verdi’s Grave

It would not have been right for one of the greatest interpreters of Verdi in the world to go and pay respects to Puccini and not to her “preferito”, Giuseppe Verdi.  Straight from a long train ride from Venice to Milano, we took a cab to the Casa di Riposo Giuseppe Verdi.  Although this was a deeply personal moment for her, I feel the need to recount it for its beauty and honesty. I knew this was going to be an emotional moment for la Millo because she had not ever been to this spot (I had several years ago during a research trip to Milano and had a totally breakdown in front of that great man’s tomb).  We both became very muted and there was no one around, just the sound of her walking on the stone path that leads to his and Giuseppina Strepponi’s grave.  In the courtyard, one of the residents known to sing constantly, was singing Act II of La Bohème with such beautiful “nella maschera” singing that you could hear her from the street and she was probably 70-something years old.  I walked behind Aprile and gave her space to approach this man to whom she is so utterly connected.  In my mind I recalled her unparalleled “Ballo in Maschera” and “Aida” and all of the operas of his that she had left an inedible mark on. She stopped before entering the chapel in which the great man is buried and I watched her catch her breath although she was visibly shaking.  She entered there and immediately fell to her knees at the stone wall that separates the graves from the public.  The head bowed in complete prostration and the tears falling upon the stone….we stood in complete silence but I broke the solemnity to take this photo which I think speaks a thousand words and ought to be public for its beauty and for the devotion of this artist to this composer.  I know he would have smiled at you Aprile, for the honourable manner in which you continue to serve him not just on stage but every day of your life. Viva Verdi!!!

DSC_0519Aprile Millo at Verdi’s Grave

And so ended this time with little Tina Viganò, and Bonnie III coming in the early morning to hug Aprile and myself and say goodbye.  How beautiful it was that she came to wave and watch the car drive away, as Aprile had done the last time she saw Tebaldi leave.  We were both moved and I personally felt such a protectiveness toward Tina that I didn’t want to leave.  I cried outright at leaving this lady who in her devotion to Tebaldi became a solider of the arts herself.  This time that was filled with opera and singing, history, tears of joy, tears of gratitude, song, new friends, old friends, and the beauty of a country that remains in my heart every day.  How proud I am to be Italian and although I was born in Canada I owe so much to my great-grandparents Erminia and Ernesto for instilling in me the ways of life in Italy, traditions I keep to this day.  I promise that I will return to her much sooner than later and with a song in my heart willing to be expressed in honesty and devotion to these beautiful memories that I was absolutely blessed to have experienced.  Viva la patria!  Grazie Aprile and congratulations on a huge success. Stay tuned everyone for much more to come from her very soon!  I’ll keep you posted!

Christmas Through The Ages: Aprile Millo (with Mary-Lou Vetere) available now


Now available on I-Tunes, CD Baby, and Amazon.com

Released December 2013 


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Published in: on December 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm  Comments (1)  
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Opera On Demand (Good)Produced and Presented by:

Dr. Mary-Lou Vetere, PhD

With Special Guest of the Metropolitan Opera:

Aprile Millo


Lindsey Duggan, soprano

Charlene Flikkema, mezzo-soprano

Sara Weiss, soprano

Darya Danesh, soprano

Debra Kingsley, mezzo-soprano

Anthony Bellissimo, bass

Joel Ricci, tenor

Kaila Raimondo, soprano

Khadidia Tall, soprano

Heather Thomas, soprano

Julie Giesbrecht, soprano

Haleigh Cumiskey, soprano

Stephen Teves, tenor

Jennifer McKillop, soprano

Brittany Wilson, soprano

Shane Glabb, tenor

Giacomo Folinazzo, tenor,

Daniel McColgan, tenor

Sarah Iles, soprano

Jessica Lalonde, soprano

Gillian Stecyk, soprano

Amy Bourdon, mezzo-soprano

Kaylah Paquette, soprano

Doug Tranquada, baritone

Brian Gow, tenor

Mary Duggan, soprano


 the newest members of The Vetere Studio

Stephanie Yelovich, soprano

Lindsey Schwenker, soprano

Julian Yager, tenor

Cathy Estrela-Teves, soprano


Anthony Iannazzo, tenor

What is more thrilling than opera in the heart of the city of thundering waters and shimmering rainbows?

Don’t Miss it!

Tickets available at:


“Figlia.” “Mio Padre:” Verdi’s Patriarchal Obsession


When we pick up an opera score or listen to a recording, oftentimes we do so in a detached way, just to listen to something beautiful or find music for a romantic dinner, or we do so in order to digest a role and an opera, which again forces us to look at the written score and reference the best historically accurate recordings we can find.  What we don’t often do, as singers, is delve further into the reasons why these operas were composed, what motivated the composers beyond just creating music, and why they oftentimes added their own characters to pre-existing dramas or wrote specific familial and socio-familial relationships within their operas.

In each composer’s respective repertoire, these operas hold significant developmental musical and compositional attributes as well the philosophical, psychological attributes.  Unlocking secrets behind the composition of these works and sometimes secrets about the composers themselves offers performers and the aficionado a more valuable starting point on which to base their characterizations and dramatic impetus.  Before approaching the issue of Verdi’s patriarchal obsession, it is first important to note that there were certain conventions during his time that had to be met.


“La Solita Forma and the Uses of Convention” is the title of a very important article by historian Harold S. Powers written in 1987.  In it, he argued about the analysis of, in my personal opinion, one of the greatest Verdian historians of all time, Julian Budden.  The argument between these two musicological giants refers to what is called “Verdian Tinta”:  a term that is not solely preoccupied with musical attributes but, rather, a musico-dramatic presupposition of Verdi himself.  There are many words that float around in history books that are specific to Verdian analysis.  For example:  Abramo Basevi’s other  terms “colorito” or “tinta generale,” referring to a general flavour that makes up the entirety of the opera; again, not necessarily musical.  Other popular terms associated with Verdi’s style during this period are: Versi scolti:  used for the scena (not unaccompanied but in a parlato type style) and Versi lirici:  used for action pieces and arias.  formal stanzas grouped symmetrically.

La Solita Forma: Abramo Basevi

Introductory music, usually instrumental

Tempo d’attacco: Recitative or dialogue to an initial or basic tempo

Adagio/Cavatina/”Pezzo concertato”

Tempo di mezzo (middle movement, interlude, often sounds “interrupting”)

Cabaletta and (in the case of the final scene of an act)

Finale Stretta

Also the scenes have a specific structure, they are not simply written out.  During this period in Italian opera, it was mandatory to follow these set structures at the behest of getting your opera censored.  Yes, things were that specific.  For example:  a Verdian duet, of which there are several in Rigoletto, begins with a “Tempo D’attacco”: a first lyric moment of a scene, usually adagio and in informal language.  Then comes the “cantabile” which usually contains a sustained flowing vocal line.  What is interesting is that Verdi began to break these traditions. For example, in Rigoletto he does not use this form in the Rigoletto/Sparafucile duet, nor the Gilda/Rigoletto duet “Pari Siamo” or the Gilda/Duca duet.  Thus, structurally, Verdi was beginning to break away from tradition, a process that he would struggle against until the end of his life and especially once a young man named Arrigo Boito came into the picture.

placido domingo

Rigoletto and Gilda

Early Background:

Verdi came from a peasant background and it was only through his future father-in-law that he was able to pursue a musical education.  Eventually, he became the greatest Italian opera composer even though, of course, I still argue for Puccini and Boito’s place in that echelon.  Just like our present time is a politically charged one, and we read of opera companies having to close their doors and threats to the livelihood of opera, Verdi too lived during a politically charged period called the Italian Risorgimento, or re-birth.  Italy had been oppressed politically, socially, and artistically, and once the country became unified in 1861, the arts were changed dramatically. It is not unforeseen why Nationalism was such a large threat in Verdi’s desire to write, at the beginning of his career.  Operas like Oberto, and I Lombardi alla prima incrociata, as well as Nabucco were all very nationalistic, however Verdi would later turn to treatments of more “human” dramas.  He became the principle authority in Italian music of Romanticism (the details of which have filled thousands of books); essentially, this meant that Verdi who had stemmed from the Scuola di Bel Canto (Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini) began incorporating specific romantic idioms into their music.  Verdi also began a fascination with Shakespearean dramas because he felt they were the most “human,” especially Macbeth (which he set), Anthony and Cleopatra (which he abandoned), Otello (which he set) and King Lear (which he apparently set but burned).   Topics of passion for a lover and duty to family became a central element, one that engulfed the majority of the musical atrributes as well.  Most often, Verdi places his characters in a horrid situation between love for someone they should not love, and duty for their family, or more specifically and relevant to us:  a father figure, a point I’ll return to momentarily.



Death of his wife and Children:

In May of 1836, Verdi was appointed “maestro di musica” for the town of Busseto, and two months later he married the woman he loved, Margherita Barezzi.  The couple travelled to Milan for their honeymoon, but it was not simply a honeymoon.  Verdi was there to re-establish contacts where a promise of success shimmered.  It was during this time that he composed the Sei Romanze, which are in the Verdi Liriche book that many of you own and have studied from.  The most famous of these is “In solitaria stanza” which would present the germ of the melody of Leonora’s “Tacea la notte placida” in Il Trovatore.  He also composed “Meine Ruh ist hin” from Goethe’s faust  “Perduta ho la pace” in which there is an echo of “Tutte le feste al tempio from Act II of Rigoletto.

Portrait of Margherita Barezzi Verdi, Wife of Giuseppe Verdi by Augusto Mussini

Margherita Barezzi

We do not know much about Verdi’s relationship with Margherita.  No letters survive between them.  Passive in every other aspect of his life, it is probable that he remained so even in private matters and that he consented as usual to play the role of a docile marionette whose strings were gently manipulated by his father-in-law. Margherita’s character comes to life only once in a famous letter Verdi wrote to Giulio Ricordi from Sant’Agata on October 19, 1879.  In this letter, he wrote that he had been suffering from angina and that he was having trouble paying the rent.  Seeing his distress, Margherita took up the few gold trinkets she possessed, went out of the house, and managed to gather together the necessary amount and gave it to Verdi.  He was very moved by this gesture.  There is only one portrait of them, in the Museo Teatrale alla Scala which shows Margherita at the time of her marriage.  She is described as plain, natural, and not one who gave an overall great impression.  During the same period, Verdi wrote,

“My small son fell ill at the beginning of April:  the doctors could not discover what was wrong, and the poor child died painfully, in the arms of his desperate mother.  But this was not enough: a few days later, my little girl also fell ill…and this illness also proved fatal!…and even this was not enough: in the first days of June my young wife was struck down by violent encephalitis and on June 19 1840, a third coffin left my house!  I was alone!…alone!! In the space of about two months, the three people most dear to me had vanished forever:  my family had been destroyed.”

It is from this moment that we might understand why Verdi had an obsession with the patriarchal in his operas and why the role of the “father” who was suffering or struggling with the loss of a daughter, either to some man who he knew would destroy her, or to illness.


The young Verdi with a look of sadness

The historian Helen M. Greenwald in 1994, wrote a seminal article on this patriarchal obsession.  Greenwald identifies certain aspects of Verdi’s operas, that they tend to be more masculine where, for example, Puccini’s operas are more feminine.  It is also not surprising that several of Verdi’s operas began to focus less on Nationalistic subjects but to merge them with the crucial father-daughter relationships that became the underlying current within them.

Verdian Operas that depict the Patriarchal Obsession

Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio and his daughter Leonora (1839)

Nabucco, King of Babylon and his daughters Abigaille and Fenena (1842)

Arvino the Count of Toulouse in I Lombardi and his daughter Giselda (1843)

Ataliba chief of the Peruvian tribe in Alzira and his daughter Alzira (1845)

Macbeth, and his son Malcolm (1847)

Massimiliano (the Count Moor in I masnadieri) and his niece Amalia (1847)

Luisa Miller and her father Miller (a retired soldier) in Luisa Miller (1849)

Rigoletto and his daughter Gilda (1851).

It is at this point that the father daughter relationships begin to be even more prominent in Verdi’s repertoire with:

Violetta Valery and her potential father-in-law Giorgio Germont in La Traviata (1853)

Simon Boccanegra and his daughter Amelia Grimaldi (1857)

Il Marchese di Calatrava and his daughter Leonora di Vargas in La Forza del Destino (1862)

Don Carlo and Elizabetta di Valois in Don Carlo (1867)

Amonasro King of Ethiopia and his daughter Aida (1871)

Ford and his daughter Nannetta in Falstaff (1893).

Rigoletto (1851)

Rigoletto is undoubtedly one of Verdi’s masterpieces:  even those critics who would consign the pre-Rigoletto works to oblivion are agreed on this fact.  It marks the beginning of his second or middle period.  In it, he continued the process he seemed to have begun in the last act of Luisa Miller: a move toward opening the closed forms of Romantic Italian Opera.  He continued to write his operas in separate numbers but with a more flexible approach and he continued to use the solita forma in many aspects but gradually he began to move away from convention.

In Rigoletto, Verdi’s working unit is no longer the aria, but the scena.  What is most interesting in the opera is that Gilda has three major scenes with her father, who rather than let his daughter be free to grow up in a normal environment, encloses her, smothers her, and controls her because he cannot bare losing her.  He had already, like Verdi lost his wife and all that remains of that love is Gilda.  His beautiful, “Deh non parlare al misero” in which he tenderly remembers his dead wife may be Verdi’s own thoughts about Margherita Barezi, and is expressive and consoling, as are the moving phrases in his reply to Gilda’s question about family, friends, and country.

In regards to Gilda, her coloratura is always dramatically or emotionally meaningful.  Never does Verdi give her runs for the purpose of aimlessly dazzling display.  For example, “Caro Nome, which is completely written in character is not the type of coloratura aria in which you would decorate the second stanza of the cabaletta, as is typical of Bellini or Donizetti and Rossini.  Verdi writes in what he wants, it is intended and should be sung emotionally not as a feat of vocal prowess, even if it requires one.

The duet “Piangi faniciulla” between Rigoletto and Gilda is most affecting, her disjointed tearful phrase contrasting with his legato. Verdi’s genius produces music of heart rending beauty by the simplest and most economic means.

The final act is telling because Rigoletto believes his daughter has gone to Verona and is safe.  His entire mood becomes one of revenge and so the last act is brilliantly constructed.  The storm scene is operatic writing at its finest, real music theatre as opposed to the concert-in-costume of a great many pre-Verdian Italian operas.

The final duet between Rigoletto and the dying Gilda is so difficult dramatically and well-written because the dying music is effective due to its combination of simple sincerity with the composer’s ability to draw beautiful lines out of the air.  The final release of “Lassu in cielo” is ethereal and must have been how Verdi himself wanted to hold his daughter or his wife as they died without his being able to save them.

Although all of the characters in Rigoletto are valuable to the plot.  Some might argue that the story is trite, however, dramatically speaking, even if one character were removed from the drama, the story would no longer work or make sense.  The remarkable psychological insight of the characters is integral to the overall structure of the opera but also to the structure of the music.  This attribute makes Rigoletto one of the most popular operas as well as one of the finest musically and dramatically.  The entire opera is infused with a humanity but in a very real sense, beneath the obvious surface differences, Rigoletto functions on the relationship between Gilda and her father: his protection of her, his control over her, his constant retelling of inner pain and loss over his wife, his withholding of information, his desire to be the only man in Gilda’s life…all this to protect his daughter, when in the end his own actions bring about her death.  Every time Gilda dies, Verdi’s children die again for him, and perhaps Rigoletto’s selfish actions in being so strict with his daughter are exactly what Verdi wished he had been able to do for his own children, but more poignantly to protect them from death.  Powerful as he was, he could not save his children, but they live immortal in Gilda and all of the daughters of the Verdian repertoire.


©Mary-Lou Vetere

Aprile Millo Christmas Concert 2011: Sunday December 11th, 2011 at 7pm

Don’t miss it!

L’Accordéoniste to make “Latin Heat” at Opera in Concert Opening 2011 (Toronto)

L’Accordéoniste: Peter Tiefenbach (piano), Kimberly Barber (mezzo-soprano), Mary-Lou Vetere (accordion) with

Carol Bauman, percussion

The Generalization of Opera and the old “Maniera D’Eleganza Superiore”

What of the singing and the majesty of an art form that is anything BUT ordinary?

“So They Want Singers To Be Ordinary….” (from Operavision)

Callas surrounded by crowds

    I thought it relevant to post a link to Aprile Millo’s recent blog post, which expresses an intimate and personal opinion about the differences between our conceptions of singers today and how singers were once perceived.  They were larger than life, in possession of a sacred gift that was revered, received with grace, and even worshipped.  The Golden Age of voices saw droves of fans lining up to catch a glimpse of Tebaldi, or Callas, and those mega-stars who often seemed (and were) super-human where vocal stage-feats are concerned, carried themselves in what the Italians call “una maniera d’eleganza superiore” (a manner of superior elegance).  This is not to say that singers today fail to carry themselves with elegance, but it seems that the  high class stigma associated with opera and the present need to bring it to the masses, or what I think is a complete “dumbing down” with modern and unnecessary brick-a-brack, has forced singers to detach themselves from the elegance that once was.

Gigli with Fans

      Ms. Millo’s opinion is well-stated and she fervently states that “opera can not be small if it is to be opera,” a statement I agree with wholeheartedly.  Oftentimes, I find myself sitting in my study listening to old recordings and looking at old pics of singers and wishing that I had been born a tad earlier so that I could have experienced that Golden Age more viscerally rather than through literature and recordings.  In reading Ms. Millo’s post, I asked myself if singers are now forced to consider themselves ordinary just to make themselves feel less pressure, to be more approachable in an attempt to make opera accessible to all?  Opera has ALWAYS BEEN accessible to all.  Do we modernize the symphony in order to make it more accessible to our present day audiences?  Of course, now opera flourishes in the movie theatre, which is a wonderful idea for those who cannot travel to New York or Milano to see opera live ( but if you love opera, then you’d best go hear an opera live to experience the voice of your favourite singer…one can never judge from a record or video), however, these stage-films require that the singers are not ordinary but look like A-class movie-stars, waif-like and more like ballerinas than singers.  How do we expect a dramatic soprano to support that type of voice if she ways 120 pounds?  The voice has become much less important, looks more important, and accessibility to common people has become everything….apparently.

Tebaldi with adoring fans

      Personally, I have become dumbfounded by the generalization of things, and because I spend much of my time reading through historical texts, recollections, reception history, and letters of composers, I’ve realized just how much opera has changed.  It is not simply a generalization of, “let’s all look beautiful and pretend we’re nothing special” but also of voices.  Lyric sopranos are being cast in roles that are much too heavy for their fach and yet it’s acceptable.  And what, I ask, would have happened had we done this in the age of Verdi, Puccini, and Mascagni, or even Wagner and Strauss.  The fact is, and I say with an acceptable amount of historical knowledge, IT WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED!  So, what makes it alright today?  These issues remain and for those of us who expect the art form as it was intended  to be might be disappointed for some time.  Food for thought.

Vetere To Present “Boito’s Code: Solving the Secrets of the “Scapigliati” and Revealing the Language of Chaos”

Boito: An under-rated genius

On April 30-May 1st the New York/St. Lawrence Chapter Meeting of the American Musicological Society will hold its annual conference a Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.  For the first time, Dr. Vetere will be presenting a portion of her research on Boito and the seemingly miscontrued enigmatic movement, the Scapigliatura.  Proving elemental to Italian opera and its development in the nineteenth-century, the Scapigliatura has received little attention in musicology, where Verismo has been more readily examined.  Dr. Vetere is attempting to re-define the Scapigliatura’s presence in history and its artistic value as an independent movement based on its own set of aesthetic principles and motives between Verdi and Verismo.  Her paper, “Boito’s Code: Solving the Secrets of the Scapigliati and Revealing the Language of Chaos” will be given on Sunday, May 1st at 10:40am.


Scapigliatura Entry in Wikipedia with Dr. Vetere’s Contribution

Boito and Verdi

Click here for the conference programClick the link above to access the Chapter Website