NPR logo

Guest DJ Angela Meade: Hitting The Big Time With Help From Verdi

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/228542276/228510949" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Guest DJ Angela Meade: Hitting The Big Time With Help From Verdi

Music Articles

Guest DJ Angela Meade: Hitting The Big Time With Help From Verdi

Guest DJ Angela Meade: Hitting The Big Time With Help From Verdi

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/228542276/228510949" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Soprano Angela Meade's career rocketed after she made her professional debut as Elvira in Verdi's Ernani at New York's Metropolitan Opera. Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera hide caption

toggle caption Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

Soprano Angela Meade's career rocketed after she made her professional debut as Elvira in Verdi's Ernani at New York's Metropolitan Opera.

Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

Most opera singers work their way to the big league by singing bit parts in regional opera houses. Not soprano Angela Meade. She landed on top instantly with her professional debut in the lead soprano role of Giuseppe Verdi's Ernani at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 2008.

It was a dream come true. The star soprano took ill and the understudy, Meade, was suddenly shoved into the spotlight. The press said she sang "like an old pro from start to finish."

As Meade's career catapulted, she proceeded to add Verdi roles to her repertoire. Last season she sang in Il trovatore, I lombardi, I vespri siciliani and the Requiem. In December she'll be back at the Met in Falstaff.

If you think of it in terms of clothing, Verdi's music seems tailor-made for Meade's large, beautiful and extraordinarily agile voice. These days, she is considered one of the preeminent Verdi singers. So to help mark the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth, we invited Meade into our studio to spin a few of her favorite Verdi recordings and comment on them. She chose classic divas, like Maria Callas and Montserrat Caballé, plus some deep tracks from underappreciated early Verdi operas.

Guest DJ Angela Meade Spins Verdi

Verdi's Ernani.
Opera D'oro

Act 4: Final Scene

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/228542276/228510265" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Ernani: Act 4 - Final Scene

  • Song: Act 4: Final Scene
  • from Ernani
  • by Gianandrea Gavazzeni

"[Ernani] was my step onto the professional scene — my Met debut, but my professional debut all in one evening. This is the very end of the opera. It's in the fourth act. Elvira comes screaming back onto stage, screaming 'Ferma,' which means to stop. Ernani has said, 'Fine, I will go ahead and stab myself,' and he raises the knife to do it and she runs in and says says, 'No, stop. What are you doing? We're both going to die if you do this because I'll have to kill myself because I love you so much.' It is the tragic ending."

Buy Featured Music

Song
Ernani
Album
Ernani
Artist
Gianandrea Gavazzeni
Label
Opera d'oro
Released
2008

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Verdi's I due Foscari.
Philips

I due Foscari, opera [Act 2. Scena. Ah, sposo mio!]

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/228542276/228510408" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

I due Foscari: Act 2 - 'Ah, sposo mio!'

  • Song: I due Foscari, opera [Act 2. Scena. Ah, sposo mio!]
  • from Verdi: I Due Foscari
  • by Piero Cappuccilli

"It's actually one of my favorites. And it's really sad that it doesn't get done more often because it's great music. The part [Lucrezia] is very difficult. She's very histrionic the entire time and her music really shows that."

Buy Featured Music

Song
Verdi: I Due Foscari
Album
Verdi: I Due Foscari
Artist
Piero Cappuccilli
Label
Philips
Released
2007

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Cover for Verdi: I Vespri Siciliani

I Vespri siciliani, opera (Les vêpres siciliennes) [Act 5. M'ingannasti, o traditrice]

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/228542276/228510409" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

I vespri siciliani: Act 5 - 'M'ingannasti, o traditrice'

  • Song: I Vespri siciliani, opera (Les vêpres siciliennes) [Act 5. M'ingannasti, o traditrice]
  • from Verdi: I Vespri Siciliani
  • by James Levine

"He wrote it for Paris Opera, and from what I've read it wasn't a huge hit the first time around. And then he rewrote it in Italian some years later. I made my Vienna Staatsoper debut in this role, and I found that I really, really love the music. I think it's very reminiscent of a lot of the early Verdi, but it's late Verdi, actually. You can really feel the growth that Verdi has gone through."

Buy Featured Music

Song
Verdi: I Vespri Siciliani
Album
Verdi: I Vespri Siciliani
Artist
James Levine
Label
RCA Red Seal
Released
1974

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Cover for Verdi: Il Trovatore [1957]

Di te, di te scordarmi

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/228542276/228510267" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Il trovatore: Act 4 - 'Di te, di te scordarmi'

  • Song: Di te, di te scordarmi
  • from Verdi: Il Trovatore [1957]
  • by Maria Callas

"It might actually be my favorite, favorite Verdi. It's really emotional, too, especially something like the fourth act. It's just heart-wrenching, what's going on, and it's hard to not sometimes get swept away in that and let myself become overcome with what I'm talking about and singing about. [Maria Callas] exemplifies emotion through her singing. I feel like when she's singing she's really fully committed to what she's saying and what she's feeling. It's the way she takes breaths, and the way she ends notes and breathes in, and you can just feel her pain."

Buy Featured Music

Song
Verdi: Il Trovatore [1957]
Album
Verdi: Il Trovatore [1957]
Artist
Maria Callas
Label
EMI
Released
1993

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Verdi's Otello.
Decca

Otello, opera [Act 4.: "Ave Maria, piena di grazia"]

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/228542276/228510407" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Otello: Act 4 - 'Ave Maria'

  • Song: Otello, opera [Act 4.: "Ave Maria, piena di grazia"]
  • from Verdi: Otello [1991 Recording]
  • by Luciano Pavarotti

"It's one of the most beautiful melodies, I think, that Verdi wrote. It's brought back to the church tradition of chant. [Desdemona] invokes the prayer on no tone really at all, and then she launches into this really beautiful melody. And your heart is just there with her."

Buy Featured Music

Song
Verdi: Otello [1991 Recording]
Album
Verdi: Otello [1991 Recording]
Artist
Luciano Pavarotti
Label
London
Released
1991

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Cover for Verdi: Requiem Mass; Cherubini: Requiem in C minor

Requiem Mass, for soloists, chorus & orchestra (Manzoni Requiem) [No. 7. Libera me]

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/228542276/228510266" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Requiem: 'Libera me'

  • Song: Requiem Mass, for soloists, chorus & orchestra (Manzoni Requiem) [No. 7. Libera me]
  • from Verdi: Requiem Mass; Cherubini: Requiem in C minor
  • by Riccardo Muti

"[For the soprano] it's kind of a whole opera unto herself in the last movement. It goes on for 15 minutes. It's the only movement that's specifically for just one voice and the chorus. So she's praying that when her final moment comes that she will be granted peace. She wants to be liberated from what's going on. I chose this recording of Renata Scotto, who's another person like Callas, she really digs into the words. You can really hear her begging for mercy and for forgiveness and for peace."

Buy Featured Music

Song
Verdi: Requiem Mass; Cherubini: Requiem in C minor
Album
Verdi: Requiem Mass; Cherubini: Requiem in C minor
Artist
Riccardo Muti
Label
EMI
Released
1995

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Purchase Featured Music

Verdi: Requiem Mass; Cherubini: Requiem in C minor

Purchase Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
Verdi: Requiem Mass; Cherubini: Requiem in C minor
Artist
Riccardo Muti
Label
EMI
Released
1995

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Verdi: Otello [1991 Recording]

Purchase Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
Verdi: Otello [1991 Recording]
Artist
Luciano Pavarotti
Label
London
Released
1991

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Verdi: Il Trovatore [1957]

Purchase Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
Verdi: Il Trovatore [1957]
Artist
Maria Callas
Label
EMI
Released
1993

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Verdi: I Vespri Siciliani

Purchase Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
Verdi: I Vespri Siciliani
Artist
James Levine
Label
RCA Red Seal
Released
1974

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Verdi: I Due Foscari

Purchase Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
Verdi: I Due Foscari
Artist
Piero Cappuccilli
Label
Philips
Released
2007

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Ernani

Purchase Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
Ernani
Artist
Gianandrea Gavazzeni
Label
Opera d'oro

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.