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Five encores concluded the recital, which only ended when Rutenberg, sensibly, gathered up his scores and made it clear that it was time to go home, for the audience kept crying out for more.

For those who have missed it, rumour has it that there will be a repeat performance due to high demand, which should take place in Munich some time in September when Heppner returns.

Copyright © 18 May 2004 Tess Crebbin and Sissy von Kotzebue, Germany

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Ben Heppner's Tosti CD

Ideale
Songs of Paolo Tosti
Ben Heppner - Tenor
with members of the London Symphony Orchestra
Language Coach: Rosalba La Duca
Deutsche Grammophon 471 557-2

Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846-1916) was a composer, singer and accompanist who spent most of his productive years in London. In the three decades prior to World War I, salon repertoire was expected from the great singers and Tosti was one of the foremost composers for this genre whose songs were interpreted by the likes of Caruso. Ben Heppner's admiration for Tosti's L'alba sepera prompted his further exploration of Tosti songs and eventually led to this CD. Heppner was especially impressed with Tosti's Bel Canto orientation, the manifold vocal rewards in his songs and their textual and musical accessibility. Heppner's particular favorites, aside from L'alba separa include Io ti Siento and Lasciali dir!

Tosti rose from humble beginnings as the son of a cereal dealer to become a favorite of Queen Victoria, composing some four hundred songs in total. He was also one of the foremost voice teachers of his time. Following his move to London in 1880, he taught the stars of Covent Garden as well as students from the Royal Academy and the Royal College of Music. Thus was his reputation that he was appointed as singing teacher to the young children of Queen Victoria whose secret diaries reveal her admiration for Tosti.

Born in 1846 in the coastal town of Ortona, near Naples, Tosti's own instructors included the opera composer Saverio Mercadante. He was cathedral choirmaster in his hometown from 1866-1869, suffered a breakdown and began composing his first songs during his period of convalescence. In 1870 he moved to Rome and in 1875 he made his first trip to London, fell in love with the city and finally moved there five years later. In 1906, Tosti became a British citizen and was knighted two years later by Edward VII. In 1912 Tosti returned to Rome for good and remained there until his death in 1916. He was known for his charm and graciousness, something that also transfers to his Lieder.

 

Craig Rutenberg

Rutenberg studied with John Wustman, Geoffrey Parsons and Pierre Bernac. He has worked with many famous singers, among them Angelika Kirchschlaeger and Thomas Hampson. Currently he is visiting lecturer at the Stockholm Opera School in Sweden and also teaches master classes at the Chicago Lyric Opera, at Washington Opera, at the Royal Opera House in London and at the Royal College of Music.

 

Text - L'alba separa

L'alba separa dalla luce l'ombra ('Dawn divides the shadows from the light', from: Quattro Canzioni d’Amaranta No 2 (1907) by Gabriele d'Annunzio)

L'alba separa dalla luce l'ombra
E la mia volutta dal mio desire
O dolci stelle, e l'ora di morire
Un piu divino amor dal ciel vi sgombra

Pupille ardenti, o voi senza rittorno
stelle tristi, spegnetevi incorrotte!
Morir debbo. Veder non voglio il giorno
Per amor del mio sogno e de della notte.

Chiudimi, o notte, nel tuo sen materno
Mentra la terra pallida s'irrora
Ma che dal sangue mio nasca l'aurora
E dal sogno mio breve il sole eterno!


Dawn divides the shadows from the light
And my pleasure from my desire
O gentle stars, it is my time to die
A love more divine drives you from the heavens

O eyes full of passion, o sad stars that
Will not return, die, uncorrupted!
I must die. I do not wish to see the day,
for love of my dream and of the night.

O night, enfold me on your motherly breast
while the pale world is bedewed
But let my blood give rise to the dawn
And my brief dream to the eternal sun!

 

Watch out for a forthcoming in-depth interview with Ben Heppner!

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