I have been unexpectedly cast at the last minute (one week before staging rehearsals) in a role in the seldom-done opera “La Wally” by Alfredo Catalani. This is one of those operas that everybody seems to know of, but no one has seen (of course it’s done here and there but not like “La Traviata” or “Don Giovanni”), and the reason that everybody knows of it is because of this one aria:
After soprano Wilhelmenia Fernandez sang the aria at the beginning of the 1981 movie “Diva”, it made subsequent appearances in gala concerts, television commercials, even people’s answering machines. It was strangely memorable, and I say strangely because you can’t exactly hum the first few bars to someone in the hope they’re recognize it, without their eyes glazing over before you get to an actual melody. It’s the harmonies, over that one line of B naturals, that sticks in your brain.
What I had never realized about the opera (because, like everyone else, I knew that aria and nothing more) is that it takes place right here in Tirol, specifically in the Ötz Valley. In fact, the story is well known to German speakers as Die Geierwally (The Vulture Maiden) and very (very) loosely based on the exploits of an actual person.
As the rehearsal period progresses I may post more about that.
Image found at the link directly above it.