The trouble with opera

I spent many years being prejudiced against opera. It wasn’t really opera’s fault. What happened was that when I was a teenager, my parents divorced. I lived with my Mum and every couple of weeks traveled to stay with Dad.

Dad was a loving and kind man but, like many Australian men of his generation, not especially good at showing it. He was a better talker than listener, and tended to assume that he knew exactly what people needed in their lives. So, it was with the best intentions that he chose to bond with his 13-year-old son by discussing free-market economics and taking him to the opera.

6011 Puccini 1959 sleeve

Madame Butterfly was not an optimist

I am not being critical. He was doing his best. But in case there are any divorced parents with teenage children reading this, can I suggest that you ask what he or she would like to do before you buy tickets to the whole of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

Anyway, the result was that for many years I had an aversion to opera. Still not my favourite musical form, in truth. One thing about operas – they do go on for a very long time. Which makes the sort of record that has bobbed up today on Planet Vinyl a great way to get past prejudice and to enjoy opera for what it is: lovely music, beautifully sung. That the music is often draped around a melodramatic and slow-moving plot can be ignored.

Coronet was a budget reissue label owned by CBS, and one of their innovations was to issue records like this one: 7-inch discs which play at 33⅓ rpm. Each side plays for about eight minutes – enough time for a worthwhile-but-not-overwhelming serve of classical music.

6011 Puccini 1959 label

Coronet records had cool octagonal labels.

This particular disc includes four arias from the works of Giacomo Puccini. The singer is Bidu Sayao, a Brazilian soprano who enjoyed huge success in the United States. I have not been able to find out when these songs were recorded – from the quality of the sound I would guess earlier than 1950. There are two arias from La Boheme, one from Madame Butterfly, and one from … Gianni Schicchi?

No, I had never heard of that opera before either – even the liner notes describe it as “the lesser known short opera”. But here on Planet Vinyl, we lean towards the lesser-known, and also I have chosen it because it is called “O mio babbino caro”, oh my beloved father.

My Dad passed away two years ago, and I love him and miss him. And I am working on enjoying opera.

  • Artist: Bidau Sayao
  • Composer: Giacomo Puccini
  • EP Title: One Fine Day and Other Puccini Arias
  • Side 1, Track 2: “O mio babbino caro”
  • Format: 7” EP 33⅓ rpm
  • Label: Coronet KCG 131
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1959

 

 

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