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La Wally, by Alfredo Catalani


Theater an der Wien / Vienna / Music

Death by flying leap! Had the bitterly resentful Alfredo Catalani lived to see Tosca jump from the parapet of Castel Sant’Angelo, he might well have accused Puccini of plagiarism; the eponymous heroine of Catalani’s own La Wally had flung herself from an Austrian Alp into an avalanche eight year before. Posterity remembers her, if at all, for “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana,” the elegy in which she envisions retreat to the eternal snowfields (here it is Act One and already she’s in mourning for her life). At a rough estimate, 99 of 100 opera queens of all persuasions can hum along with that one, while more like zero have ever seen her wintry suicide on a stage. To think that Arturo Toscanini, maestro of maestros, named a daughter after this hapless lady! And that the soprano Renata Tebaldi, endowed with what Toscanini himself called the voice of an angel, found in La Wally perhaps the most thrilling vehicle of her early career. This rare revival, not far from the scene of the action, stars Izabela Matula, of Poland, in her house debut. Andrés Orozco-Estrada, of Colombia, conducts. —M.G.

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