Sunday, April 06, 2008

O Mio Babbino Caro

Maria Callas, singing this song so beautifully.

This performance draws tears. But why?

There is a certain nobility of spirit in the girl, a purity of intention to make something good, an admirable self-direction, and a fortitude of will. Tragically, these very virtues will ruin her because she lacks an additional one: wisdom. We are particularly stricken when we see such nobility bring undeserved ruin to itself.

I fret and suffer torments
Oh God, I would rather die
Daddy, have pity, have pity

In addition, we can vaguely detect that the girl has been someone's victim here. We don't have sympathy for a simply unbalanced character that cooks up some infatuation and then destroys itself. We feel, rather, for the one who has this vulnerability of naivety, a weak spot which is exploited, either by the one she loves or someone else. The girl is a noble victim, too innocent to know how to protect herself from developing an intention to ruin herself.

The music expresses this state of affairs very well, as Callas brings the whole package together. This is why it is especially beautiful and melancholy.

Sissel and Carmen Monarcha also stand out.

Also: Hayley Westenra here and here.