Music: Sun Apr 23

Mezzo-soprano Anna Tonna treats us to a program of songs connected to the natural world in honor of Earth Day. Ms. Tonna also reprises several of the colorful, moving settings of texts connected to Cuba by the Spanish-American composer Joaquin Nin-Culmell performed at our Friends of CUUC concert last January. Read on for Ms. Tonna’s biography, Sunday morning’s complete musical programming, and translations of foreign-language texts.


Mezzo Soprano Anna Tonna has been described as mezzo heroine who "knows how to sing Rossini" by the Rossini Gessellschaft and as "showing off her warm, secure mezzo-soprano to maximum advantage" by the New York Magazine; accolades such as these explain her constant demand as a recitalist and opera singer in both Europe and the Americas. The combination of a highly developed coloratura with a full, balanced, flexible lower register have guaranteed her acclaim as a lyric mezzo, both in familiar roles Rosina, Carmen, Dorabella, as well as in more rare repertoire by Paisiello, Vivaldi, Mascagni, Zandonai and Giordano.

She has been heard in such roles as Adalgisa in Norma at the Teatro Metropolitano in Medellin (Colombia), Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Opera Illinois, New Jersey State Opera and the Rountop Music Festival, Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana with New York Grand Opera, New Rochelle Opera and New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera, as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro and Musetta in Leoncavallo's La Boheme with New York Grand Opera, Romeo in Capuletti ed i Montecchi with the Roundtop Music Festival, Maddalena in Rigoletto with the New Rochelle Opera, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly with the Teatro Nacional de Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, as well as Dorabella in Cosí fan tutte and Angelina in La Cenerentola in Madrid.  She has sung North American premiere's of numerous works, including Paissiello's La Molinara in New York's Town Hall, Vivaldi's La Griselda, Rossini's l'Equivoco Stravagante at the Danny Kaye Theatre with the Bronx Opera in NYC, as well as Zandonai's La farsa amorosa  and Mascagni's Guglielmo Ratcliff both with Teatro Grattacielo in Avery Fischer Hall in Lincoln Center under the baton of Maestro Alfredo Silipigni and Maestro David Roe respectively.

Ms. Tonna’s artistry has been recognized by the Liederkranz Foundation, The Gerda Lissner Foundation, National Opera Association, BRIO (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) from the Bronx Council of the Arts, and a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research in and perform Spanish Art Song in Spain, where she has established a thriving career. Recordings that have preserved some of these efforts include Las canciones de Julio Gómez with label VERSO and her new disc release España alla Rossini with iTinerant Classics.

Additionally, Ms. Tonna’s passion for and excellence in the recital genre have garnered her increasing acclaim in both the U.S. and Europe, particularly her path breaking explorations of the repertoire of composers from Spain and Latin America. Ms. Tonna’s recitals are a source of constant expectation and excitement in New York City, where she has performed at both the Alice Tully Hall and Rose Center of Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, Bargemusic, Merkin Hall, New York's Town Hall, Weil Recital Hall as well as at the Hispanic Society of America, Museo del Barrio of NY, Museum of the History of New York, Italian Cultural Institute and Goethe Haus. The same excitement greets her appearances in Spain, with performances at the Auditorio Nacional de España, Museo del Romanticismo, and Festival de Segovia. She has collaborated with Casals Festival of Puerto Rico, Festival Iberoamericano de las Artes in Puerto Rico, Música de Cámara, North South Consonance, Joy in Singing, Elysium Between Two Continents among others.

Her recital of “Songs of post civil war Spain” at the Fundación Juan March of Madrid was broadcast on Radio Television Española and hailed as “a tour de force” by the Spanish newspaper ABC. It is to be noted her appearance in June of 2012 at the St. Anton palace in Valletta, the presidential palace of the country of Malta, for a command performance for his Excellency George Abela.

A native and resident of New York City, Ms. Tonna holds a B.A in Music from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida and a Masters in Performing Arts from the Mannes College of Music in New York City.

Prelude: Anna Tonna, mezzo-soprano; Adam Kent, piano
Two Afto-Cuban Songs
            Canción de Cuna Afro-Cubana

            La Niña de Guatemala

Si ves un monte de espumas

                                                Joaquín Nin-Culmell

Opening Music:
The Rose
                                                            Theodore Chanler

Ombra mai fu
                                                            George Frederick Handel

Del cabello más sutil

                                    Fernando Obradors
The Epitaph of a Butterfly
                                    Marion Bauer

Joaquín Nin-Culmell (1908-2004)

Canción de cuna (text by José Martí)
Afro-Cuban Cradle Song
Ogguere, Oggué [1]
The six o'clock bell
can be heard in the batey[2]
and the blacks of the dotasión[3]
will go to pray the prayer

Ogguere, sleep, that I have
to work, and after that sweep up
the hut.

La niña de Guatemala (Text by José Martí)
The Girl from Guatemala
I want to, on the shadow of a wing
tell this flowering tale:
of the girl from Guatemala
the one that died of love

There were flowering lilies,
and waves of silk
and of jazmin; we burried her
in a silken box

...She gave the one that had no memory
a small scented pillow:
he returned married;
she died of love

The pall bearers that carried her
were bishops and ambassadors;
the whole town followed,
all carrying flowers

She, in order to see him
went to the lookout point
he returned with his wife,
she died of love

Like the flaming bronze
the goodbye kiss was coined upon
her forehead - that forehead
which I have most loved in my life!

...she took herself that afternoon into the river.
a doctor took her out, dead
they say she died of cold,
I know that she died of love

There, in the cold vaulted ceilings,
they put her upon two  pillars
I kissed her small hand
I  kissed her white shoes

Silently and at while it became dark
the grave digger called me,
I have never seen again
the one that died of love!

Si ves un monte de espumas (text by José Martí)
If You Discern a Mount of Sea Foam
If you discern a mount of sea foam,
t is my verse that you see:
y verse is a mount and,
a fan of feathers.

My verse is like a dagger
at the hilt of
which a flower grows:
y verse is a fount from which flows
sparkling coral water.

My verse is light green
nd also a flaming red:
y verse is a wounded deer
eeking protection in the forest.

y verse is brief and sincere,
it will
appeal to the brave:
it is the
 strength of the steel
that forges the sword

George Frederick Handel (1685-1759)
Ombra mai fu
Never was a shade….

Tender and beautiful fronds
of my beloved plane tree,
let Fate smile upon you.
May thunder, lightning, and storms
never disturb your dear peace,
nor may you by blowing winds be profaned.

Never was a shade
of any plant
dearer and more lovely,
or more sweet.

Fernando Obradors (1897-1945)
Del cabello mas sutil
From That Finest Hair

From that finest hair
Which thou dost braid
I would craft a chain
To draw thee by my side.

A cup within thy house,
Dear maid, I'd pray become,
Wherein I'd kiss thy mouth
As oft as thou drink from ...

[1]   Afro Cuban deity
[2]   Communal living quarters of slaves
[3]   Group of slaves belonging to one owner

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