Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Well, the protagonists of some operas while not up to Superman’s level make some impressive leaps or jumps. No leap of faith here, has to be a real jump to make it into this article.
Only in a comic opera does a jumper survive. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is a series of wacky events scattered over one day. The play on which the opera was based was also called The Crazy Day by its author Pierre Beaumarchais.
In the second act, Cherubino has hidden from Count Almaviva; he’s in a closet. Susanna is behind a screen. The suspicious and jealous count drags his wife out of the room and locks the door. Cherubino and Susanna emerge from their hiding places, and Cherubino escapes by jumping through the window into the garden. He comes to no harm, though he damages a flower bed which is described by an irate gardener later in the act.
Daniel Auber’s 1828 opera La muette de Portici (also called Masaniello after its leading character) set the mold for the five act French Grand Opera which dominated the Parisian vocal scene for rest of the 19th century. The opera is thought to have triggered the Belgian revolt of 1830 after a performance in Brussels. Also remarkable, is that the title character (La muette – the mute girl) is incapable of making a sound. She’s Masaniello’s sister ( Fenella) and is typically played by a dancer. Anna Pavlova played the part.
Masaniello is a fisherman who leads an unsuccessful revolt against Spanish rule in Naples; it’s the 17th century. At the opera’s end, though poisoned, he rescues the soprano before expiring. Simultaneous with this action is a stupendous eruption of Mt Vesuvius. When she gets the bad news about her brother, Fenella jumps to her death from a terrace. Some accounts have her jumping into Vesuvius, but that’s impossible even in a French Grand Opera. The opera’s finale is from a 1996 recording featuring Alfredo Kraus and June Anderson.
Auber’s opera is actually a double leaper. The first Masaniello was the renowned tenor Adolphe Nourrit. His fame in Paris gradually yielded to that of Gilbert Duprez, the first tenor to sing the high C from the chest. Nourrit went to Naples to learn the technique from Donizetti. I don’t think Vesuvius was active during his stay there. He didn’t succeed, but his health worsened and he became depressed. He jumped to his death from the Hotel Barbaia just 5 days after his 37th birthday.
Les Huguenots is Meyerbeer’s masterpiece. The duet that ends the 4th act is as finely written as any in all opera. Incidentally, the first Raoul was Monsieur Nourrit who insisted that the composer expand this duet. The opera is about the events leading to the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. The video linked below features the fine Australian tenor Anson Austin and soprano Amanda Thane. It’s from the 1990 Sydney production that was Joan Sutherland’s farewell.
Raoul and Valentine declare their mutual love. But Raoul is torn between love and duty and opts for the latter. Duty means death with his coreligionists. Les Huguenots – Tu m’aimes, duet act 4. If you wish to see the complete production from which this excerpt is taken, the entire performance is up at YouTube.
La Battaglia di Legnano was first performed in January of 1849 in Rome. It has always been better appreciated by musicologists than by audiences. Verdi’s opera has remained far outside the standard operatic repertory. Its name is unfortunate as its more about a standard operatic love triangle then the eponymous battle that frustrated Frederick Barbarossa’s Italian ambitions. The opera’s composition was stimulated by the uprisings that took place across Europe in 1848.
The baritone is married to the soprano who, of course, loves the tenor – just like the plot of Un Ballo in Maschera. He catches the two of them together in a room at the top of a high tower. Instead of killing one or the both of them He (the baritone) locks them in the tower and goes off to war. What does the tenor do when alone with the woman of his dreams? He cries “Viva l’Italia” and jumps from the room that’s very high on the tower into a moat. He suffers no injury and lives to get mortally wounded in the next and final act.
Catalani’s La Wally is full of jumps. In Act 3 Hagenbach (sounds like an ice cream more than a tenor) was thrown into a deep ravine by the baritone at the instigation of Wally. She was angry but repented and rescued the tenor from the ravine. How she did so is not specified. In Act 4 she’s wandering somewhere in the Austrian Alps when she hears a voice. It is Hagenbach, who has recovered from his injuries and come to confess his love. The lovers are reconciled and Hagenbach goes to find a safe path back down the mountain. He shouts up to Wally, but the noise of his call sets off an avalanche which carries him away. Wally stands for a moment on the edge of the precipice before hurling herself down to her death. Saioa Hernandez and Zoran Todorovic are the snow tossed lovers
Here just as a bonus is the 90 second long arioso sung by Hagenbach just before he catches up with Wally. Quando a solden is ejected into orbit by the Ajax voiced tenor Amadeo Zambon. I’ve already posted this – about 5 years ago. It’s so amazing that it deserves an encore.
Of course, the all time champion vaulter is Tosca. As just about everyone knows, she takes her leave from atop the Castel Sant’Angelo. What a way to go. Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna are the unfortunate couple.