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About Alfredo Catalani
Alfredo Catalani (19 June 1854 – 7 August 1893) was an Italian operatic composer. He is best remembered for his operas Loreley (1890) and La Wally (1892). La Wally was composed for a libretto by Luigi Illica, and features Catalani's most famous aria "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana." His other operas were less successful, partly hampered by inferior libretti. Catalani was born in Lucca and trained at the Conservatory of Milan under Antonio Bazzini. Despite the growing influence of the verismo style of opera during the 1880s Catalani chose to compose in a more traditional manner. As a result his operas have largely lost their place in the modern repertoire, even compared to those of Massenet and Puccini, whose style his works most closely resemble. The influence of Amilcare Ponchielli can also be recognized in Catalani's work. Like Ponchielli, Catalani's reputation now rests almost entirely on one work. La Wally continues to enjoy occasional revivals in much the same way as Ponchielli's La Gioconda. In 1893, upon his premature death from tuberculosis in Milan, Catalani was interred in the Cimitero Monumentale, where Ponchielli and conductor Arturo Toscanini also lie. Toscanini was a strong advocate of Catalani's music and named his daughter Wally in recognition of the composer's most successful opera. Toscanini recorded the prelude to Act IV of La Wally and the "Dance of the Water Nymphs" from Loreley in Carnegie Hall in August 1952 with the NBC Symphony Orchestra for RCA Victor.
La Wally is a four-act opera by Alfredo Catalani, composed on a libretto by Luigi Illica, and first performed at La Scala, Milan on 20 January 1892. The libretto is based on a hugely successful Heimatroman by Wilhelmine von Hillern (1836-1916), Die Geyer-Wally, Eine Geschichte aus den Tyroler Alpen (literally: "The Vulture-Wally: A Story from the Tyrolean Alps"). The Geyer-Wally is a girl with some heroic attributes. Wally is short for the name Wallburga. (There may have been an actual young woman Wallburga Stromminger on whom the legend is based.) She gets her 'geyer' or 'vulture' epithet from once stealing a vulture's hatchling from her nest. Von Hillern's piece was originally serialized in Deutsche Rundschau, and was reproduced in English in "A German Peasant Romance", in The Cornhill Magazine, July 1875. The opera is best known for its aria Ebben? Ne andrò lontana ("Well, then? I'll go far away," Act I, sung when Wally decides to leave her home forever). Catalani had composed that aria independently as "Chanson Groënlandaise" in 1878 and later incorporated it into his opera. It is featured prominently in Jean-Jacques Beineix's 1981 film Diva and Zalman King's film adaptation of Anaïs Nin's short story collection Delta of Venus. It also figures prominently in the soundtrack of the 2009 Tom Ford film A Single Man. The opera also features one of the most memorable of operatic deaths, in which the heroine throws herself into an avalanche. It is seldom performed because of the difficulty of staging this scene, but its arias are sung frequently.