This week’s Song of the Day curator is Russian soprano and international star Dina Kuznetsova. You can hear Dina in NYFOS’s upcoming show From Russia to Riverside Drive on November 8 (Boston) and November 10 (New York), performing songs by Rachmaninoff, alongside some of the Jazz Age music that Rachmaninoff heard during his time living in New York.
from Dina Kuznetsova:
Claudia Muzio (1889-1936) was a great Italian soprano. Both of her parents were involved in opera (father, a stage director, mother, a chorus singer), and Muzio grew up in the theater wings. She went on to have a distinguished career in lyric and dramatic Italian repertoire, performing extensively across Europe, South America and the United States. Muzio’s equally famous colleague, tenor Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, descibed hers as a “unique voice made of tears and sighs and restrained interior fire.”
I am just very happy she recorded, because her voice and emotional delivery “get to me” on the deepest level. The color of the voice works its magic, but it is the interpretation that makes me go back and listen over and over again. Muzio uses words to convey pathos, and yet never crosses the line into overdrama. It is also somehow a wise voice, a voice whose owner has felt and thought and lived through much.
When I was looking for Muzio’s recordings on youtube, I was glad to see that the great American soprano Aprile Millo features her as her favorite on her personal youtube page. 80 years have passed since Muzio’s last recording, and yet her voice still has the power to move hearts.
Though Muzio was primarily a tragedienne, my first selection shows her in a lighthearted mood, in a song by Leo Delibes, “Les Filles de Cadix.” Many a famous soprano has performed it, as it is a great soprano showpiece.
I went to Spain for the first time this summer, and we visited Cadiz just for an afternoon. Walking its weather-beaten and yet charming streets, I played Muzio’s recording of the song in my mind and imagined the port of Cadiz in the 19th century. As the song describes, it’s Sunday, a Holiday, “the bullfight is just over, and three lads and three young women dance a bolero”… Here is the complete translation. I love how Muzio laughs in the refrain; how she keeps it vocal yet natural, how her voice glides down on the last laughing note, especially in the second verse, conveying flirtatiousness that is informal, street-wise and yet delicate.
And here is Muzio in all her dramatic glory in “Ombra di Nube” by Licinio Refice, written specifically for her the same year it was recorded, in 1935. This recording is uploaded by Aprile Millo, and is accompanied by a great discussion.
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