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Meco all'altar di venere

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Vincenzo Bellini




Norma Synopsis


Norma Libretto


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Francesco Merli - Meco all' altar di Venere

Singer: Francesco Merli

Francesco Merli (1887-1976) was born into a family of humble means on a farm just outside Milan. The young man began his working life as a school janitor but always displayed a talent for singing. Merli had a few scattered voice lessons over the years, but never completely took his singing seriously. However, in June of 1913, the Milan City Council sponsored a concert at the Teatro dal Verme, intended to encourage musical education in the city’s schools. As a school janitor who was popular with students, Merli was asked to participate in the program. With two other vocalists, he sang the trio from Verdi’s I Lombardi, impressing all in attendance with his powerful voice. So impressed was the city council, that they promoted Merli from school janitor to janitor of the municipal offices!

Perhaps the honor of sweeping floors at Milan’s government buildings was not quite the result Merli was expecting, for he began to turn his attentions more and more to singing. When famed conductor and impresario Cleofante Campanini organized an international competition for young singers in Parma the following year, Merli entered. He took first prize in the division for dramatic tenors and second prize overall. Coincidentally, the top prize was awarded to a fledgling tenor from Recanati…Beniamino Gigli. Merli’s rise to fame was not a smooth one, however. At the time of the aforementioned competition, he was essentially a natural singer with no real technique. A sponsor (Tullio Serafin’s brother) arranged for a stipend to be provided that would allow Merli to take a one year leave of absence from his city janitorial duties. Arrangements were also made to pay for the young tenor’s vocal studies. However, this good fortune came to a grinding halt when Merli was conscripted into the Italian Army. He continued vocalizing in the trenches and, according to an entry in his diary, entertained both his comrades and the enemy Austrian soldiers while singing “Cielo e mar” at the front lines!

Merli came through the war unscathed and made his debut toward the end of 1916 in the small role of Alvaro in La Scala’s production of Spontini’s Fernand Cortez. In the fall of 1918, he made a second debut at La Scala, this time in the more substantial role of Elisero in Rossini’s Mosč in Egitto. This was the beginning of a long association with this prestigious theater. It also marked the start of a major international career for the tenor. Over the course of the next thirty years, Merli appeared in the major theaters of Verona, Florence, Palermo, Naples, Padua, Trieste, Rome (singing Calaf in the Roman premiere of Turandot), London (he was also Covent Garden’s first Calaf), Sydney (yes, he was the first Calaf there, too), Melbourne, Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen, Sao Paolo, Buenos Aires and New York. His Met debut came on March 2, 1932 as Radames in Aďda. However, after singing only eight performances of four operas, including Lucia di Lammermoor, Simon Boccanegra and Madama Butterfly (as well as a pair of concerts), Merli was taken ill and had to return to Italy. Sadly, he never again returned to the U.S.

Merli’s repertoire was vast, encompassing over 40 roles in such works as Pagliacci, Cavalleria Rusticana, Siberia, Andrea Chénier, La Fanciulla del West, Manon Lescaut, Turandot, La Gioconda, Carmen, Samson et Dalila, Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger, Fidelio, La Forza del Destino, Ernani, I Lombardi, Il Trovatore and, what was considered his greatest triumph, Otello. He sang nearly 300 performances as the Moor, culminating in a final Otello in Trieste in 1946. The veteran tenor retired two years later and devoted himself to teaching during the final three decades of his life. Merli passed away in Milan in December of 1976, just six weeks shy of his 90th birthday.

Francesco Merli’s recorded legacy, preserved on scores of discs made for Columbia between 1926 and 1937, includes a complete recording of Il Trovatore and the very first complete recording of Turandot. These recordings reveal a sturdy, well balanced dramatic tenor, capable of explosive top notes as well as some truly delicate singing. In this recording, Merli sings "Meco all' altar di Venere" from Bellini's Norma, complete with a brilliant high C (which contradicts reports that this dramatic tenor didn't possess the note!). This was recorded for Columbia in Milan on June 25, 1936.

Watch videos with other singers performing Meco all'altar di venere:

Franco Corelli Meco all altar di Venere Breathtaking 24592
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SALVATORE FISICHELLA Meco all altar di Venere  24635
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Mario Filippeschi Sings Meco all altar di Venere From Bellini s Norma 24594
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Placido Domingo in Norma Meco all altar di Veneremp4 24611
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Russell Thomas sings Pollione in Norma by Bellini 24615
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Gregory Kunde Bellini Norma Warszawa 2010 94415
5 - Gregory Kunde

Svanir le vociMeco all altar di Venere NormaBellini Teodor Ilincai 24622
5 - Teodor Ilinc?i

Meco all altar di Venere Fabio Armiliato NormaBellini 24597
5 - Fabio Armiliato
Tenore GIANNI RAIMONDI Norma Meco all altar di Venere Scena aria e cabaletta Live 1972 24612
5 - Gianni Raimondi

Charles Craig Tenor at 61 sings Meco all altar di Venere Norma Live Covent Garden 1980 94419
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Carlo Cossutta Svanir le vociMeco all altar di VenereMe protegge me difende Norma 94422
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Jose Cura sings Bellini 94425
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Riccardo Massi Meco all altar di Venere VBellini Norma 24601
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Roberto Aronica Bellini Norma Zurich 2011 94426
5 - Robert Wilson
Bellini Norma Zoran Todorovich sings Polione 94427
5 - Zoran Todorovich

V Bellini Meco all altar di Venere tenore Stefan Pop 94428
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Brandon Jovanovich Bellini Norma Trieste 2009 99 94430
5 - Brandon Jovanovich

5 - Carlo Bergonzi
Giuseppe Giacomini Meco all altar di Venere Norma 1992 24613
5 - Giuseppe Giacomini

JOHN ALEXANDER Meco all altar di Venere Me protegge 1972 LIVE Hartford CT 94448
5 - John Alexander

Giovanni Martinelli Meco all altar di Venere Live 94449
5 - Giovanni Martinelli

Lando Bartolini Svanir le vociMeco all altarMe protegge me difende Norma V Bellini 94455
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John Osborn sings Meco all altar di Venere from Norma Live at Schloss Braunfels 94460
5 - John Osborn

Francesco Merli Meco all altar di Venere 94461
5 - Francesco Merli
Robleto Merolla Meco all altar di VenereMe protegge me difende 1971 Madrid 94465
6 - James Morris

Gino Penno Meco all altar di Venere 24628
5 - Gino Penno
Arnold Rutkowski Pollione Norma V Bellini 94472
5 - Arnold Rutkowski

Carlo Albani Meco all altar di Venere 94481
6 - Enrico Delle Sedie
Bruno Prevedi Meco all altar di Venere Norma Vincenzo Bellini 94483
5 - Bruno Prevedi

Meco all altar di Venere Norma Maria Callas 24614
1 - Maria Callas
Bellini Norma Act 1 Meco all altar di Venere  24599
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Norma Norma Act I Meco all altar di Venere 94495
5 - Giacomo Lauri-Volpi
Norma ACT 1 Scene 1 Meco all altar di Venere Pollione 94497
5 - Mirto Picchi

Norma Act I Meco all altar di Venere Pollione 24605
5 - Jon Vickers

Norma Norma Act I Meco all altar di venere Me protegge me difende 94505
5 - Pier Miranda Ferraro

Norma Act I Scene 1 Svanir le voci Meco all altar di Venere Me protegge me difende 94508
5 - Vincenzo La Scola
Norma Act I Scene 1 Meco all altar di Venere Pollione Flavio Chorus 94541
5 - Kurt Baum

1 - Daniela Dessě
5 - Fabio Armiliato
John Alexander Meco all altar di VenereMe protegge me difende Boston 1971 94486
5 - John Alexander
6 - Donald Gramm

Norma Act I Meco all altar di Venere 94494
5 - Franco Corelli
5 - Piero de Palma
Norma Act I Svanir le voci Meco all altar di Venere Me protegge me difende  94504
5 - Charles Anthony
5 - Plácido Domingo


In rammentarlo io tremo.

Meco all'altar di Venere
Era Adalgisa in Roma,
Cinta di bende candide,
Sparsa di fior la chioma;
Udia d'Imene i cantici,
Vedea fumar gl'incensi,
Eran rapiti i sensi
Di voluttade e amore.
Quando fra noi terribile
Viene a locarsi un'ombra
L'ampio mantel druidico
Come un vapor l'ingombra;
Cade sull'ara il folgore,
D'un vel si copre il giorno,
Muto si spande intorno
Un sepolcrale orror.
Piů l'adorata vergine
Io non mi trovo accanto;
N'odo da lunge un gemito
Misto de' figli al pianto …
Ed una voce orribile
Echeggia in fondo al tempio
Norma cosě fa scempio
D'amante traditor!

English Libretto or Translation:

Even recalling it, I tremble!

Adalgisa was with me, in Rome,
At the altar of Venus,
Dressed in pure white
With flowers in her hair.
As she heard the hymns of Hymen
And breathed the holy incense,
Her senses were enraptured
With the joy of love...
Suddenly between us there descended
A horrible shadow,
And the great Druidic mantle
Enfolded her like smoke.
Lightning flashed on the altar,
And the day was veiled in darkness.
Silently, all around,
Rose a tomb?like horror.
The beloved maiden
as no longer at my side.
From afar I heard a sob,
Mingled with the weeping of my children.
Then a monstrous voice
Echoed through the temple, saying:
This is the vengeance of Norma
Upon her faithless lover!