The annual question of what new season we have begun -- Autumn or Fall -- has caused me to think of other things that have double names. Preface or Introduction? Prelude or Overture?
When I thought of the latter, I couldn't help thinking of one of my favorite pieces of music, the baritone aria at the beginning of "I Pagliacci," Leoncavallo's great opera about clowns. Sure, I love "Vesti la giubba," when the heartbroken tenor clown tries to convince himself that the show must go on.That's justifiably famous, thanks particularly to Luciano Pavarotti late in the last century.
But the first aria in "I Pagliacci" is unique, at least in my experience. After the orchestra overture, it's a vocal overture -- the baritone comes out on stage alone and narrates what's going to happen. My 45 RPM record of The Prologue (you could hear the capital letters when my father spoke of it), sung by Leonard Warren, is one of my treasures. For those who don't believe it's possible to sing an overture, here is a link to a YouTube film of Warren doing just that.
The experience of seeing that film has me thinking of other near-synonyms: incomparable, magnificent, wondrous... well, I could list them for ages. Operatic music will do that to me, expanding my vocabulary and reminding me of translations and new vocabulary alike. It's Serious stuff... did you expect any less?
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Filed under: Music and language