Regular readers of My Porch will know that I love, love, love the book and film, A Room With a View. But I also love the soundrack. I first heard the aria “O Mio Babbino Caro” from Puccini’s one-act opera Gianni Schicchi in the fantastic Merchant-Ivory adaptation of A Room With a View. New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa does the honors with a beautiful translucence and purity. This video captures the magic of the film, the aria, and the performance by Te Kanawa.
One of the many great things about YouTube is the ability to listen to the same aria sung by many different singers. And what a way to while away the hours when you could be doing something more productive. “O Mio Babbino Caro” is one of those little chestnuts that most every soprano sings at some point in her career and often as an encore in a solo recital. So there is a lot to chose from.
The sound quality on this 1981 recording of Leontyne Price with the Boston Pops isn’t so good, but her high notes are flawlessly pure.
The cherubic Lucia Popp has a wonderful silvery shimmer in her voice. No actual video here, but the recording is too beautiful not to share.
Not only is Angela Gheorghiu beautiful, but her voice is lovely with lots of kick and spin that must make it thrilling in person.
Some of Anna Netrebko’s vowels on the low notes seem a little under water, but her voice has lots of beautiful color. I would love to hear her live.
This is kind of an odd, uneven performance, but there are parts of it that show some of the nicer qualities of Sumi Jo’s voice.
And how about this violin version from Joshua Bell. With all his money and talent he never seems to come up with a decent haircut.
There are tons more where these came from including train wreck versions by Callas and Battle. Long in the tooth versions by Tebaldi and Caballe. And many, many amateur versions, which I did not screen for this post.
Now that I have listened to so many different versions, I am not sure I want to hear it again for a while.
My favorite song of all time -\and you featured my favorite singer of all time singing it first, Kiri Te Kanawa. I have every album she ever put out, despite having gone totally digital. These are the only cds I hold on to just in CASE. They're treasures!
I first heard this song in this movie and then later in an american airlines commercial as a kid and asked who it was. Then my grandma bought me my first Kiri cd and it's been love ever since.
Great book, great song, great singers; Thanks so much for this post.
AD: I first heard Kiri when she sang at Charles and Diana's wedding when she sang Let the Bright Seraphim by Handel. I have heard her on stage three times: in recital in Madison, WI in 1987, at the last night of the Proms in London in 1992, and then once here in DC singing the title role in Samuel Barber's opera Vanessa. I have some pictures from the Proms concert, I will have to dig them up and post them.
Oh, I love love A Room with a View too. Both the book and film! And yes, I love this aria too. Thanks for putting up all these different versions.
One of my favourites too – thanks for this lovely post which brightened up my morning!
Thomas, I would love to see the photos! I was still in grad school at the time but drove down to DC to see her in Vanessa as well. She also performed 2 summers ago out at wolftrap for the summer concert series and this was the song she ended the concert on. It was magical!
Glorious!! Love the book, the film, the soundtrack . . . and Kiri Te Kanawa (I, too, first heard of her when she sang at Charles' wedding). Such a great post!
Mrs B: It really is one of the most perfect movies ever made.
Hannah: Well, I had fun doing the research that is for sure.
AD: I will do a special Kiri post…
Inskslinger: You just made me notice I spelled her name wrong in my post. I will have to correct that. Her performance at the wedding was wonderful. I have a recording of her singing it, but the wedding video (yes I own the viedo) is even better because the acoustics at St. Paul's are so wonderful.
I hadn't noticed the misspelling . . . and I'm envious that you own the video. Watching that wedding on tv as a youngster (in the wee hours of the morning) was a defining experience. Not least because of Te Kanawa's gorgeous voice singing “Let the Bright Seraphim”!
I fondly remember watching the movie with you. It is one of my favorite book/movies,too.
I love this aria. I cried the first time I heard it live, and I was busy trying to hide the fact that I'm such a big girl from Babes, and then I noticed he was sniffling too. That was on our honeymoon and I knew right then we were perfect for each other!
Of course, he also made me watch a football match (on my honeymoon!), but I was willing to overlook it in the name of true love.
Inslinger: We had similar experiences in that regard.
Georgia: I have seen it so many times, I don't think I would have remembered that. Another film I would make you sit through if you haven't seen it already is Six Degrees of Separation. You should rent it.
Overdue: Sounds like your honeymoon struck a good balance. That's what marriage is about afterall.
I bought the soundtrack (as a cassette!) at the London Tower Records…
Juliebean: These days one could easily ask: What is a cassette and what is Tower Records…