Requiem for Napoleon

The title of this post in all honesty has little to do with the content, other than that the contents are vaguely connected. It is, in all reality, a music post which left me feeling a little ignorant, and yet a bit more educated. After all, life is all about learning, living, loving, friends, charity, and listening to great music.

Two friends from seminary recently visited and we spent a night out on the town, and one of my friends, we’ll call him “Fr. Mark”, wanted to hang out in a courtyard sipping a Sazerac. (Being the designated driver back up to Abita Springs, I had an evening of club sodas and tea.)

But what better place than the Napoleon House? It was legendary in music school, as they had a collection of classical music (back then it was actually vinyl records,) and often will (or at least would back in the day, I’m really never there these days,) play requests. It’s said to have been built as a house for Napoleon himself to live in, should he have escaped from Elba – an event which, for better or for worse, never came to pass.

So anyway, before I drag on too long here, while we’re there sipping and chatting out in the courtyard, a tune came on that I recognized but for the life of me could not name. (Nor could my two friends… we’ll call the other one “Fr. Ed.”) And it was familiar enough that it drove me nuts all the way back home. I knew it was from an opera, and it was the one about the poor girl up in the attic dying of tuberculosis, or some other horror.

It was an orchestral version of a famous aria, the kind of aria you hear a zillion times; the kind which every opera enthusiast and singer knows by heart, knows their favorite singer thereof, probably has the libretto for, and of which has multiple favorite recordings.

I’ll apologize right now to any opera enthusiasts, one of which I am clearly not.

But about 20 minutes away from Abita Springs it finally came to me… Quando m’en vo’ …From the Opera La Boheme. Or at least I think it is, please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

So! That led to finding this recording, which is beautiful of course, and is currently the first one to pop up on a YouTube search for Quando m’en vo’. And isn’t Anna absolutely beautiful?

Alongside it is also a recording of same, via the famed, long deceased Maria Callas, also well worth a listen:

And, since every website tracks our every move these days, alongside of that – YouTube, obviously knowing my current penchant for listening to Gregorian Chant and evidently knowing that I’ve searched high and low for the best and least expensive steam mops around, featured one of my favorite chants — the Dies Irae, from the Requiem Mass. (YouTube is oddly ignorant of the many Titanic Documentaries and sinking videos which I’ve watched in the last month or so. But that’s another story for another time.)

The Dies Irae is allowed once again, in the use of the Tridentine Mass, it was forbidden for years. Evidently the idea of God’s wrath and judgment is to much for the modern world to handle.

That being explained, here is a version of the Dies Irae. There are no doubt better versions of it out there, but for anyone learning chant or wanting to know more about it, this is good as it allows you to follow along with the chant notations. It’s a sort of modern, yet ancient, “follow the bouncing ball” type thing:

And there it is folks. That’s a wrap.

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