Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, Macbetto, is an operatic (and Italian) version of Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. First performed in 1847, it depicts the rise and downfall of King Macbeth of Scotland — arguably a far worse tyrant (though more interesting dramatic subject) than Louis Philippe, the “King of the French,” as he styled himself. The following clip is the opera’s version of the Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene.
When Napoleon invaded Spain, the Barcelona-born Fernando Sor wrote patriotic music to galvanize the Spanish resistance to the French. But when Joseph Bonaparte occupied Madrid, Sor took a job under the the new government. For this he earned the epithet, anfrancesado, implying, basically, that he was a traitor and collaborator. But we do not remember Sor these days for these deeds, or misdeeds, but for his music. Proficient in a number a genres, Sors was the one of the first composers to treat the guitar as a serious instrument. This piece is his Fantasie for Two Guitars, Op. 54, performed by John Williams and Julian Bream.
Thomas Tallis is known as one of England’s greatest composers. He composed liturgical music for King Henry VIII; Henry’ son, Edward VI; Henry’s daughter (by Catherine of Aragon), Queen Mary; and Elizabeth I, Henry’s daughter by Anne Boleyn. Tallis died in 1585, two years before the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. This is a recording of a portion of Tallis’ beautiful, Lamentations of Jeremiah. Despite Henry’s schism, and the Protestant establishment under Edward VI and Elizabeth, Tallis remained Catholic until his death.
February 2-5: The Duke’s Treachery
Francesco IV, the duke of Modena, was unhappy. The realm he ruled was too small for his ambitions, which were very great. Duke Francesco wanted to extend his lands; but, as he saw, there was little opportunity to do so, at least honestly. For one thing, Modena was surrounded on nearly all sides by the domains of Francesco’s Habsburg relatives (he was a grandson of Empress Maria Theresia). To the northwest lay the duchy of Parma, ruled by Francesco’s second cousin, Maria Louisa (Napoleon I’s second wife), and to the south was the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, ruled by another second cousin, Leopold II. The Kingdom of Lombardy-Venezia bordered Modena on the north — and this was ruled by Francesco’s first cousin, the Austrian Emperor Franz I. Directly to the east of Modena lay the Romagna, which belonged to the Papal States. Francesco IV had little hope that either his Habsburg relatives or the pope would give him more territory, so the only avenues open to him were either direct conquest or treachery and deceit. (more…)