Friday Performance Pick – 144

Puccini, O mio babbino caro


Gianni Schicchi Original Costume (1918)

This week we venture into opera with a popular aria “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s one-act comedy Gianni Schicchi. If you don’t know the opera, you may still recognize the tune from television ads or movies.

We have had 143 performance picks up to now without any opera arias, and this can’t continue. If you think you’re not a fan of opera, it’s time to change your mind. It’s not hard. I have seen Professor Carol put quite a few audiences through her Opera Boot Camp, and resistance is futile.

For people who complain that they can’t understand the words, I’ll give you the short version. She sings, “Daddy, if can’t marry the man I love, I will throw myself off the Ponte Vecchio and into the Arno River.” You can find a more elegant translation here. Gianni Schicchi then proves what a devoted Dad he is by committing fraud to get the fortune required to make this happen.

The aria’s utility in selling yogurt and automobiles shouldn’t count against it. Puccini was a great melodist and his works have always found favor with general audiences.

When we created Professor Carol’s Discovering Music course a few years ago, we faced a real shortage of available examples from the opera repertoire. We included a few audio examples on the Listening Set, but opera companies were not in the habit of releasing photographs, much less video, for use in projects like ours.

Fortunately that’s changing. The most significant development came with the Metropolitan Opera’s HD simulcasts. And now it’s becoming easier to find high-quality videos of opera arias, many of them concert performances like this one.