It’s the holiday season with Easter and Passover taking place at the same time. As a result, OperaWire is taking a look at some of the operas that are set during these very sacred holidays.
For those not familiar with what Easter Sunday celebrates, it is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day after his crucifixion and burial.
First up is Mascagni’s tragedy, which has some of the most glorious verismo music in the repertoire. “Cavalleria Rusticana” takes place on Easter Sunday and Mascagni wrote a passage of music that celebrates this holiday. In the drama, the choir sings “Regina Coeli,” an Easter Hymn which is accompanied by Santuzza. But this is the only uplifting section of the opera, the remainder of it violent. Santuzza at one point tells her lover, “A Te, La mala Pasqua,” basically damning Turridu.
On a brighter and more transcendent note Wagner’s “Parsifal” features a Good Friday scene in Act three. The prelude to Act 1 is frequently performed either alone or in conjunction with an arrangement of the “Good Friday” music which accompanies the second half of Act 3 Scene 1. In the Good Friday scene, Parsifal looks about and comments on the beauty of the meadow. Gurnemanz explains to him that it is Good Friday when all the world is renewed. As a result, Parsifal baptizes the weeping Kundry and bells are heard in the distance. It is a scene of purification for the sinful Kundry.
For those not familiar with the holiday, Passover commemorates the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, and their transition from slavery to freedom.
Moses und Aron
Arnold Schoenberg’s opera is one of his most famous works in the genre and is based on the Book of Exodus. The work in three acts was not completed and instead, it was finished by Hungarian composer Zoltán Kocsis who finished the last act, with the permission of Schoenberg’s heirs. “Moses und Aron” has its roots in a play from the composer called “Der biblishe Weg“ (The Biblical Way, 1926–27), which was a response to the growing anti-Jewish movements in the German-speaking world after 1848 and a deeply personal expression of his own “Jewish identity” crisis. To this day it considered one of his greatest masterpieces and has recently been played with the final Kocsis music.
Mose in Egitto
Rossini’s Bel Canto tale is loosely based on the Exodus from Egypt of the Israelites, led by Moses. The 1818 bel canto work opens as the plague of darkness is dispelled by Moses’ prayer, and concludes in a spectacle with the famous parting of the Red Sea and the drowning of Pharaoh’s hosts. It is also famously in French and Rossini revised the work in 1819 introducing Moses’ prayer-aria “Dal tuo stellato soglio.” That later became the most popular piece in the opera and was the inspiration for a set of variations for violin and piano by Niccolò Paganini.