estremamente italiano

In addition to learning the musical language of Verdi, this late Romantic period gorgeousness, we are learning as well the profound text of the Requiem Mass. The Latin Requiem Mass has been set to music by many composers (we have sung settings by Mozart, Fauré, Cherubini, Rutter), and each composer decides which “extra” movements to include. So in the Verdi we have, in addition to the Introit, Kyrie, Sequence, Offertory, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, the Lux Aeterna and the Libera me. The translation of Verdi’s work is found on our website – search for Translations and it pops up.

The other language we’re learning is a boatload of Italian. Verdi was meticulous about marking not only his tempi (Allegro, Adagio, etc) and metronome markings, but he also peppered his scores with expressive phrases to guide the performers to the exact emotion of each moment. Here are a few glorious and evocative phrases:

con voce cupa e tristissima – “with a hollow voice and the utmost sadness”

sempre ppp e sotto voce – “always ppp and in an undertone” (sotto = below)

animando – “becoming more lively”, quickening

estremamente piano – “extremely soft”

piangente – “weeping”

dolciss. (abbreviation of dolcissimo) – “as sweet as possible”

senza misura – “without time”, in free time

ancora più piano – “still more softly”

tutta forza – “all accented” (forza = force; forzando = strongly accented)

And of course…

morendo – “dying away”

3 thoughts on “estremamente italiano

  1. “Cupa” is a difficult word to translate in this context. When talking about colors, the word simply means “dark” (“azzurro cupo” = “dark blue”). However, “cupo” also means “gloomy.” Either way, it’s difficult to know what Verdi intended in vocal terms. If it is taken literally as “dark,” he simply wants more closed vowels. However, Verdi did not generally come at it from the point of view of a voice teacher. For instance, he says that Lady Macbeth should not be sung too beautifully! As always, we have to interpret the composers instructions and figure out the technical means to achieve them.

    • Thanks, Leonardo! I like the image of “hollow” which I’ve seen in a few places as an attempt at “getting” the word cupa.

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