Tuesday, April 25, 2017

FERNANDO DE LUCIA

Fernando De Lucia sang in many of the world’s greatest opera houses from his d├ębut at the San Carlo of Naples in 1885.
His old friend Raffaele Esposito, proprietor of the small Neapolitan recording house of Phonotype, offered him the opportunity of making records for his company.
The twin facts that De Lucia lived for most of his life in his native Naples, and that his artistic life coincided almost precisely with the heyday (1880 – 1910) of the Neapolitan song, give particular authenticity to his interpretations of those songs, which make up almost one quarter of his enormous recorded output. The great ones of the genre – De Crescenzo, De Curtis, De Leva, Gambardella, Tirindelli, Tosti, Valente – all dedicated songs to him. Their works, very often written in minor keys, frequently embody a strain of sadness: it is well said that ‘they seem to sigh, to laugh and then to die, with words and music so interdependent that that one could not exist without the other’.

Friday, April 14, 2017

PASTIERA

Pastiera is the queen of Neapolitan sweets, yet its composition is relatively simple. Shortcrust encases a filling of ricotta cheese, eggs, boiled grains of wheat, custard, candied fruit and aromatics, including orange flower water. All of this is topped with a lattice of the same pastry.
As with almost all the great Neapolitan pastries, pastiera was born in a convent – specifically, the Convent of San Gregorio Armeno in Naples’s centro storico. The nuns there were the first to bake hundreds of pastiere for the Neapolitan bourgeoisie. And that’s why the best pastiera is still to be found around the monastery.
And, as with many great pastries, this one has a legend associated with it. Here’s how it goes: Maria Cristina of Savoy, wife of King Ferdinand II, who ruled Sicily and southern Italy in the first half of the 19th century, was nicknamed “the Queen who never smiles.” One Easter, the court chef prepared pastiera for her. The Queen tried just tried a little bit and was so enraptured that she let out a beautiful smile in public. The king, like all husbands who complain about their sad wives, said: “We needed a pastiera to make my wife smile. Now I have to wait until next Easter to see her smile again.”

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

NAPLES AND NEAPOLITAN OPERA

Few of music's Golden Ages remain so obscure as the Italian eighteenth century, and few operatic repertories have so deterred our revivalist fervour as the Neapolitan of that period. Yet in the opinion of many good judges of the time, Naples, and its opera specifically, was, as de Brusses put it, "the capital of the world's music", and we may well wonder whether we can ever hope really to understand eighteenth-century music until this repertory is as familiar to us as Bach and Handel.
In 'The Neapolitan Environment" Dr. Robinson examines the institutions that nurtured opera in Naples, the theatres and the conservatories; and the relations of both with the court. It is a lucid and a richly-documented account in which the author marshals a huge amount of material with commendable adeptness. Followed by 'Heroic Opera', 'The Orchestral Items' and two chapters on 'Comic Opera'.