In the spirit of the holiday season, here are a few patter songs. This form is one of Western Civilizations greatest achievements. While the patter song precedes him, Rossini is the undisputed champion.

Below are three of the master’s best examples of rapid fire comic singing. The first from the Barber of Seville is sung by the great Swiss basso buffo Fernando Corena. As is typical of Italian patter songs the fast part comes at the end.  A un dottor della mia sorte. The second aria is from La Cenerentola. The bass is Alessandro Corbelli. Sia qualunque delle figlie. Also from this opera is the long second act sextet. Though the patter singing only comes at the very end of the ensemble, the piece is so good that I’ve included all 12 minutes of it. La Cenerentola – Sextet 

 Cheti cheti immantinente from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale is one of the gems of this species. It’s sung by Sesto Bruscantini and Leo Nucci. You’ll be out of breath just from listening to it.

Lady in the Dark by Kurt Weil and Ira Gershwin contains Danny Kaye’s famous list of Russian composers. Tchaikovsky

Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man has the famous song Ya Got Trouble sung by Robert Preston. It’s an American version of a patter song.

Stephen Sondheim’s Company contains a true patter song that can stand next to Rossini and Donizetti. Not Getting Married Today. It’s performed by the American singer Katie Finneran.

George Rose the late British actor and singer gives a sparkling rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan’s – I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General from The Pirates of Penzance – a patter song as good as ever written.The words are so good and as they are sung so fast that you might miss them, they’re below.

George Rose as a Modern Major General

George Rose as a Modern Major General

I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I’m teeming with a lot o’ news,
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.
I’m very good at integral and differential calculus;
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

I know our mythic history, King Arthur’s and Sir Caradoc’s;
I answer hard acrostics, I’ve a pretty taste for paradox,
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,
In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous;
I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,
I know the croaking chorus from The Frogs of Aristophanes!
Then I can hum a fugue of which I’ve heard the music’s din afore,
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.
Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform,
And tell you ev’ry detail of Caractacus’s uniform
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
In fact, when I know what is meant by “mamelon” and “ravelin”,
When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin,
When such affairs as sorties and surprises I’m more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by “commissariat”,
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery –
In short, when I’ve a smattering of elemental strategy –
You’ll say a better Major-General has never sat a gee.
For my military knowledge, though I’m plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.