Alfredo Catalani (1854-93) is best known for his opera La Wally. And the opera would barely survive were it not for the soprano aria which is the subject of this piece. It occurs near the end of the 1st act. Wally has been ordered by her father to marry a baritone or leave home. Naturally, she chooses the latter and sings the aria. It’s also noteworthy for Wally’s death – she throws herself into an avalanche that has carried away her true love – the tenor, of course. This death scene is right up there with that of Auber’s La muette de Portici which ends when the title character (a mute, how’s that for the title character of an opera?) throws herself into an erupting Mt Vesuvius.
Back to ‘Ebben? Ne andrò lontana’. I don’t know why the question mark appears after ‘Ebben’ which means ‘well then’; so where’s the question? But it’s in the libretto so I’ve included it. The aria is hauntingly beautiful. I’ll start with Renata Tebaldi (1922-2004). She appeared in at least three staged productions of the opera. This recording is from the 1953 performance at La Scala. While the sound is not as good as her latter recordings of the aria, her voice is in glorious shape with none of the shrillness or faulty intonation that marked the later part of her career. Ebben? Ne andro lontana Tebaldi
Maria Callas (1923-77) recorded the aria in 1954 when she was still at the zenith of her vocal power. The kind of music played right into her unique gift for vocal characterization and expression. This is probably the most emotionally affecting rendition of this aria. Ebben? Ne andro lontana Callas
Magda Olivero (1910-2014), the dates are correct, was renowned for the dramatic intensity of her performances and the longevity of her career. She made her Met debut at age 65 in Tosca. This recording was made in performance in 1972. Olivero made very few studio recordings. Ebben? Ne andrò lontana Olivero
When Montserrat Caballé (b 1933) first appeared in New York Zinka Milanov said, “She sounds like early me.” This 1976 recording shows why Zinka was so impressed. Ebben? Ne andrò lontana Caballe
Kiri Te Kanawa (b 1944) was the first opera singer from New Zealand to achieve international renown. Though she sang the works of many composers, she was best known for her Mozart, Verdi, and Strauss roles. This recording was made during a 1993 recital. It display the rich tone that was characteristic of her work. Ebben? Ne andro lontana Te Kanawa
The remaining four interpretations of this aria are by artists still active and were all taken from recitals. Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu (b 1965) made this recording (from a recital) relatively early in her career – 1994. The beauty of her singing explains why she keeps getting re-engaged by the world’s leading opera houses despite a reputation for being “difficult”. Ebben? Ne andro lontana Gheorghiu
Renée Fleming (b 1959) recorded the aria in 2003. Ebben? Ne andro lontana Fleming. Anna Netrebko (b 1971) performed the piece in 2007 . Ebben? Ne andrò lontana Netrebko. Finally, German soprano Anja Harteros (b 1972) did the number in 2010. Ebben? Ne andrò lontana Harteros
All of the performances are of the first rank. One can only wonder if Catalani would have been more than a one hit wonder, like all of Puccini’s coevals, had he not died prematurely from tuberculosis. The Italian words are below followed by an English translation.