Opera and alcohol are frequently paired. Accordingly, here are some drinking songs. I’m using the term loosely. Most would fit under this appellation, but some do not and not all the selections are from operas. They are presented in no particular order. If randomness works for quantum mechanics, it’s OK here.
First is likely the most famous of drinking songs. It’s from the first act of La Traviata. Everybody knows it, even if they can’t quote its source. This selection is from a recent Met performance of Verdi’s sinner. Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Flòrez are featured. Libiamo, ne lieti calici
Sigmund Romberg’s operetta The Student Prince was made into a movie in 1954. Mario Lanza was supposed to play the prince, but he was fired (or walked out) before filming began. He had recorded the work’s songs prior to departing. British actor Edmund Purdom was hired to replace Lanza. He mouthed the songs. Drink, Drink, Drink require no big explanation. It’s sung by a bunch of students who like beer.
Fin ch’han dal vino, also known as the Champagne Aria, is from Act 1 of Don Giovanni. It’s very short – less than 1.5 minutes. In it the Don say he’ll devote the rest of the day to pleasure – which , of course, is all he ever does. The singer, from a very lively performance at the Met is Bryn Terfel.
Another Champagne song occurs in Act 2 of Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. A big party is going on and everyone is very happy. Im Feuerstrom der Reben
Jacques Offenbach’s operetta La Péricole was first performed in 1868. The Met did it in a version by Cyril Ritchard in 1955. It had 55 performances over the next 15 years, but has lain dormant since then. The heroine sings Ah, quel diner in the first act. She’s tipsy while singing the aria. That’s about all you need to know. Anne Sofie von Otter performed the piece in a recital in 2001.
Next three more by Verdi. Lady Macbeth sings a drinking song in Act 2 scene 3. She gets through one iteration of the song before Macbeth goes temporarily insane. He’s driven mad by the ghost of Banco whom only he can see. Maria Callas sings the ditty from a live performance in 1952. Macbeth Drinking Song. Iago leads a drinking song in Act 1 of Otello. This song is an integral part of the plot. Iago gets Cassio drunk which causes him to start a drunken brawl which Otello stops. Cassio is relieved of his post setting in motion the pleas by Desdemona for his reinstatement which only stokes Otello’s jealousy. Tito Gobbi is Iago in this performance. Otello Drinking Song. At the beginning of Act 3 of Falstaff, the portly knight is sitting in front of The Garter Inn feeling sorry for himself. He was tossed into the Thames along with the dirty laundry after his failed attempt at seduction of Alice in the previous act. He drinks a glass of wine which has an almost magical restorative effect on both his body and spirit. This reinvigoration is marked by a trill in the orchestra which eventually encompasses every instrument in it. It’s a brilliant invention which like much of the opera, which moves at almost light speed, is gone after a few seconds. Falstaff drinks wine
Orsini (contralto) is Gennaro’s best friend in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia. At the beginning of Act 2 He sings a drinking song. Lucrezia has poisoned the wine and everyone dies, including Gennaro who is Lucrezia’s son. Marilyn Horne sing the anti-mortem brindisi. Orsini’s Drinking Song
Flotow’s Martha is still occasionally performed. The Met last did it more than 50 years ago. The Porter’s Song (Lasst mich euch fragen) is sung by Plunket at the start of Act 3. It doesn’t have much to do with the plot. Martha Drinking Song
Turridu in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana sings a drinking song just before he’s confronted by Alfio. The former has been cavorting with the latter’s wife – a deadly encounter as things turn out. Jonas Kaufmann is the tenor. Drinking Song Cavalleria Rusticana.
Smetana’s The Bartered Bride deserves more performances than it gets outside of Prague. The beginning of Act 2 is a song in praise of beer. It’s jolly enough even if it has nothing to do with opera’s story. To pivečko! (Beer). A bit of incidental medical material – one of the two tenor leads (yes two!) Vašek stutters when he sings. Stutterers typically do not stutter when they sing, only when they speak. Talking and singing likely use different parts of the brain. But anything is possible in opera.
Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde was described by him as a symphony. Regardless of what you call it, it’s in six parts for two singers. Two of the six are about drinking. Part 1 is called “Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde” (“The Drinking Song of Earth’s Sorrow”). Part 5 is Der Trunkene im Frühling (The Drunken Man in Spring). Rene Kollo is the tenor. Leonard Bernstein conducts.
Carmina Burana is Carl Orff’s most successful work. A cantata in 25 parts, it was first performed in 1937. Orff’s involvement with the Nazis remains unclear, but he had no difficulty working under its regime. The cantata is based on 24 poems in Latin from the medieval collection Carmina Burana. Part 25 is a reprise of the first poem. “In taberna quando sumus” ( “When we are in the tavern”) is # 14 in the series.
Well, I’m dried out by now. Stay awake.