Songs from the Operas for Alto

This is one of a series of posts about books used as source material for Art Song Central.

Book Title: Songs from the Operas for Alto
Editor: H. E. Krehbiel
Publisher: Oliver Ditson Company
Copyright: 1909

Google Books has a complete edition of Songs from the Operas for Alto available for download.


Much concerning the scope and plan of this collection of operatic airs (including the volumes with which it is associated) can be gathered from a glance over the table of contents and an intelligent perusal of the titles. Nevertheless the editor thinks it advisable to give some specific information about his purposes as realized here and the means adopted for their attainment.

I. The arrangement is chronological and the period covered is that from the invention of the Italian opera down to the closing decades of the nineteenth century. So far as was practicable all schools really significant from an historical or artistic point of view have been considered; also, so far as possible, examples of all the various kinds of airs are given, from the earliest exfoliations of Florentine monody, through the artificial forms which mark the golden age of bel canto down to the freer and more dramatic utterances of the present day.

II. In order that the airs shall present themselves to the student and the singer as they did to the hearer and singer at the period of their creation, they are all given, (a) in the voice for which they were conceived; (b) in the original keys; (c) in the original texts, with as faithful a translation into the vernacular as the exigencies of the music would allow; (d) in the manner in which they were sung when they were written.

The last point calls for an explanation. All students of singing ought to know that the intentions of composers up to, let us say for convenience, the middle of the nineteenth century, were not explicitly and comprehensively expressed in the manner in which they wrote down their songs; that in order to reproduce their music as they wished to hear it and as the singers for whom they wrote sang it, it is necessary to translate certain arbitrary signs (appoggiaturas, mordents, and the like), the meanings of which are in danger of being forgotten, into the modern notes which represent the original manner. Tradition was long relied upon to do this, but tradition is always a weak and uncertain reed, and teachers as well as singers have grown careless of it and too often have ignorantly and arrogantly ignored it. It was therefore thought to be a wise course, instead of baldly presenting the original text as it has come down to us in the printed page, or leaving the suggested reading to an ossia or a marginal note, to present the text as it was sung in the olden time, and put the original notation above the staff for the sake of the happily curious student. In doing this the editor has followed the example, and benefited greatly, from the work done by F.-A. Gevaert, the learned head of the Brussels Conservatory, a work to which he gives honor due with glad and grateful obedience. It is also a commonplace of historical knowledge that not only in the airs of the classical period, but also in those of the early part of the nineteenth century, it was first the duty, then the privilege, of singers to introduce variants of the musical text for the sake of embellishment or simplification, as the case might be, and also to interpolate cadenzas in the manner still customary with instrumental performers. Such variants and cadenzas have been introduced here, an interest at once historical and personal being added by presenting variants and cadenzas as they were sung, or are sung, by some of the great exemplars of the art of song in the past or present. The value which such a personal note gives to an air is scarcely to be overestimated.

III. Each air is accompanied by a note designed to present it in its historical environment, and also, by a reference to the story of the opera (whenever it was thought necessary), to elucidate the text and thus furnish a significant hint touching the proper reading.


  • Bois épais, redouble ton ombre J.-B. Lully
  • Ah! Rendimi F. Rossi
  • When I am laid in earth H. Purcell
  • All’acquisto di gloria A. Scarlatti
  • Pena tiranna G.F. Handel
  • Verdi prati, selve amene G.F. Handel
  • Se mai senti L. Leo
  • Padre, perdona J.A. Hasse
  • Che farò senza Euridice C.W. Gluck
  • O del mio dolce ardor C.W. Gluck
  • Caro mio ben G. Giordani
  • O des amants le plus fidèle E.-N. Méhul
  • Non, non, non, vous n’avez jamais G. Meyerbeer
  • Ah! Mon fils G. Meyerbeer
  • Di tanti palpiti G. Rossini
  • Non più mesta accanto al fuoco G. Rossini
  • Ah! Quel Giorno! G. Rossini
  • Ah! S’estinto ancor mi vuoi G.S. Mercadante
  • Deh! Non voler costringere G. Donizetti
  • Il segreto per esser felici G. Donizetti
  • Die Gluth des heissen Tages M.I. Glinka
  • Me voici dans son boudoir A. Thomas
  • Esser mesto F. von Flotow
  • Re dell’ abisso G. Verdi
  • Si le bonheur C.-F. Gounod
  • Nuit resplendissante C.-F. Gounod
  • Voce di donna A. Ponchielli
  • Tant que le jour dure L. Delibes
  • Schwer Liegt auf dem Herzen A.G. Thomas

Arias from this volume will be uploaded as song posts are created for them. If you would like me to give priority to a song that is not yet posted, please let me know via the contact page.