Can Belto

On the art of singing and those who practice it…

Addio Rafita, addio…

Several days ago I received news that the father of a distant cousin of mine died peacefully. What does that have to do with opera? Well, the fact that he and his wife Mezzo soprano Flavia Acosta were the first people in my family to make a living in the art form.

I never met Rafita, as he was known,  but every time it was mentioned in my family circles that I wanted to become an opera singer, his name was mentioned. Here I was, thinking I was trailblazing in my family by choosing a career that was out of the ordinary and well, I was not. His wife sang in several companies in the Midwest and Europe alongside luminaries like Grace Bumbry, Nicolai Ghiarov, Evelyn Lehar, Teresa Berganza, Oralia Dominguez, Carlo Cosutta, Walter Cassel and several others until she retired to live a quiet life until her death.

Rafita loved opera; he breathed it and lived for it; to the point of naming one of his daughters after one of the most beautiful and famous women in the ancient world, who was immortalized in an opera. Not only did he loved opera but he was a public servant as well. He worked for  Puerto Rico’s first elected governor, Luis Muñoz Marin.  Had we met, I have a feeling we would have had many a conversation (and arguments) over our favorites singers, composers, operas and conductors. Those might have beens will weight heavy in my heart; those conversations and arguments that are never to be will forever be my loss…

So, without any intention of sounding melodramatic I want to pay tribute to this man who I never met, but who certainly influenced my life.  Rafita, thank you for your influence, for giving me the gene of loving opera. Without knowing it, you gave me one of the most precious gifts I have ever received and for that I will be eternally grateful. Now it is my turn to pass the gene to the next generation and continue your legacy.

Rest in peace, and tell my gramps that I miss him a lot.

Lastly, I want to rise my voice in his memory. From a performance from long ago,  one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written and one that I hope he will find fitting as a final tribute:

Adagiati, Poppea, acquietati, anima mia:                    Lie down now, Poppea, hush, my darling
Sarai ben custodita                                                      You will be well guarded
Oblivion soave,                                                           To the sweet oblivion of sleep
I dolci sentimenti                                                        let fly your tender thoughts
in te, figlia, adddormenti.
Posatevi, occhi ladri;                                                   Rest, thieving eyes;
aperti, deh, che fate,                                                   why open at all
se chiusi ancor rubate?                                                when closed you are still beguilding
Poppea, rimanti in pace;                                              Poppea rest peacefully;
luci care e gradite, dear,                                               lovely eyes,
dormite, omai dormite.                                               sleep now, sleep…

And another one with tenor Ramon Vargas:

Sotto la gronda de la torre antica                              Under the leaves of the old tower,
Una rondine amica,                                                         as the almond tree blossoms,
Allo sbocciar del mandorlo è tornata.                      a friendly swallow has returned.
Ritorna tutti gli anni,                                                       Every year she returns,
Sempre alla stessa data,                                                               always in the same day.
Monti e mare essa varca per tornar.                       Crossing mountains and sea to get back here.
Solo amore                                                                         Only love flees
Quando fugge e va lontano                                         and does not return
Speri invano                                                                       It makes you hope in vain,
ma non torna più,                                                            but it does not return.
Speri invano                                                                       It makes you hope in vain,
Ma non torna più.                                                            but it does not return.
Ne la penombra dolce della sera                                               In the soft twilight of evening
Passa la primavera.                                                         Sprintime passes by
Cinguettano le rondini nel volo,                                 The swallows chatter in their flight
Ebbre di luce e d’aria.                                                     they are drunk with light and air
Ed io son triste e solo;                                                    But I am sad and lonely
Monti e mare tu non varchi                                         You do not cross mountains and sea
per tornar.                                                                         to come back to me
Mia piccina,                                                                        My little one,
Fosti tutta la mia vita;                                                     You were my whole life
Sei fuggita                                                                           You are gone
E non torni più.                                                                 To never return
Sei fuggita                                                                           You are gone
E non torni più.                                                                 Never to return

April 30, 2010 Posted by | In memoriam | 2 Comments