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Plus blanche que la blanche hermine

Opera details:

Opera title:

Les Hugenots


Giacomo Meyerbeer




Les Hugenots Synopsis


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Aria details:




Raoul de Nangis





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Tino Pattiera - Plus blanche que la blanche hermine

Singer: Tino Pattiera

Tino Pattiera (1890-1966) was a popular tenor whose career encompassed opera, operetta, the concert platform, radio and film. The son of a grain merchant, Pattiera was born in Cavtat, Dalmatia (now Croatia). He sang with his hometown choir as a youth but was pushed toward a career in medicine by his family. He enrolled in medical school in Prague at 17 but was too distracted by singing to be a good student (he also fainted during his first anatomy exam!). He dropped out of school, travelled to Zagreb where baritone (and fellow Croatian) Marko Vušković found a stipend for Pattiera to study and learn his craft. At 20, he debuted in the baritone role of Pippo in La Mascotte with Osijek Operetta. Still hoping to please his parents, the young man enrolled in law school in Vienna, where his singing caught the attention of the Schaffgotsch family. This aristocratic family (whose daughter, the Countess Hedwig, Pattiera wed in 1919) encouraged the young man to develop his voice while supporting him financially. Pattiera abandoned law school and auditioned for the Dresden Court Opera. Conductor Fritz Busch offered him a contract but when war broke out in Europe, Pattiera was conscripted into the military. After completing his service, the tenor returned to Dresden, making his official debut as Manrico in Il Trovatore on February 10, 1916. Both public and critics alike predicted a great career for the tenor.

A tall, strikingly handsome man with a magnetic presence both onstage and off, Pattiera was tremendously popular in Dresden. He was so popular that following an impassioned performance of La Bohème, audience members stormed the stage door and carried him from the theater upon their shoulders! Pattiera was soon in demand throughout Europe, with appearances in the major theaters of Berlin, Leipzig, Düsseldorf, Duisberg, Hamburg, Graz, Vienna, Belgrade and Budapest. His American debut occurred in the fall of 1921 as Cavaradossi opposite Rosa Raisa’s Tosca with the Chicago Opera Association. The press referred to him as “the handsomest tenor in the world” and hailed him as Caruso’s successor. Early the next year, Pattiera made his New York debut (with a Chicago Opera Association tour) as Rodolfo at the Manhattan Opera House. Pattiera also appeared in recital in a variety of venues. Despite the tenor’s intention of settling permanently in the U.S. with his wife Hedwig (whom he later divorced), he left America in 1922, never to return.

Back in Dresden, Pattiera began concentrating on heavier roles, including Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos, Erik in Der Fliegende Holländer and even Verdi’s Otello. Some worried that this repertoire might tax Pattiera’s essentially lyric instrument, but the tenor would not be persuaded otherwise. When a Graz critic panned a 1932 performance of Tannhäuser, the irate tenor stormed the office of the offending newspaper and threatened to beat up the critic! After a few heated words, Pattiera was forcibly removed from the building.

Following Fritz Busch’s resignation from Dresden Court Opera in 1933, the new musical director, Karl Böhm, rarely engaged Pattiera. His stage appearances became sporadic and he found his popularity waning. The tenor was beset by a plethora of personal problems during WWII… poverty, illness, vocal decline, the death of his former wife…and left Germany for Prague to avoid Allied bombings. He sang with the Prague National Theater and taught voice but was devastated to learn that his home in Dresden had been destroyed in a bombing raid. In 1950 the aging tenor accepted a professorship at Vienna’s Academy of Music but had to give up this post two years later due to deteriorating health. He returned to his beloved Dresden where he gave a poignant farewell recital on January 29, 1952. He managed to eke out a living as a voice teacher, his friends offering financial assistance when they could. In 1960, he briefly returned to his homeland, hoping to take a position at the Dubrovnik School of Music. Sadly, the position had already been filled and the tenor returned to Dresden. That same year, the West German government awarded Pattiera a small pension, which allowed him to spend his twilight years in relative comfort. During a visit to his hometown of Cavtat, Tino Pattiera died peacefully on April 24, 1966. He was 75.

Tino Pattiera’s repertoire of nearly 30 roles included Canio, Faust, Don José, des Grieux, Lensky, Pinkerton, Lohengrin and even roles in operetta. Although his ventures into cinema (Fra Diavolo, Der Bettelstudent and Eine Nacht in Venedig) were not particularly successful, the tenor was enormously popular with the German speaking public during his heyday. His recordings, made for Brunswick, Odéon, HMV, Vox and Parlophone, reveal a sturdy lyric tenor that was used with great musicality. Here, Pattiera sings "Plus blanche" ("Bianca al par" in Italian) from Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots. This was recorded in Berlin for the Odéon label on January 1, 1916.

Watch videos with other singers performing Plus blanche que la blanche hermine:


Non loin des vieilles tours
et des remparts d'Amboise
seul j'égarais mes pas,
quand j'aperà§ois soudain
une riche litière au détour du chemin;
d'étudiants nombreux la troupe
l'entourait, et leurs cris,
leur air audacieux
me laissaient deviner leur projet:
je m'élance...
Tout fuit à  mon aspect.
Timide, je m'avance...
Ah! quel spectacle enchanteur
vint s'offrir à  mes yeux!

Plus blanche que la blanche hermine,
plus pure qu'un jour de printemps,
un ange, une vierge divine,
de sa vue éblouit mes sens.
Vierge immortelle!
Qu'elle était belle!
Et malgré moi devant elle m'inclinant,
je disais, je lui disais:
Belle ange, reine des amours,
beauté du ciel,
Je t'aimerais toujours!

En m'écoutant, un doux sourire
trahit le trouble de son coeur,
et dans ses yeux j'ai su lire
le présage de mon bonheur.
Amant fidèle, flamme nouvelle
brûle mon coeur, flamme éternelle
me brûle encor, et je me dis:
Belle ange, reine des amours,
beauté du ciel,
Je t'aimerais toujours!

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