These past few weeks though, my usual associations with the aria have been replaced by new ones. I was in a restaurant recently and faintly, in the background, "Nessun dorma" came on the radio. And it was completely unexpected to me because it was a straightforward, usual rendition of it, and quiet enough I couldn't even tell you if the tenor was any good. No, "Nessun dorma", along with a host of other opera classics, have been reimprinted on me thanks to my sister's gift of The East Village Opera Company's self-titled album.
They do opera/rock crossover pieces, and it's spectacular stuff by and large. Not all pieces are equally strong, but they're all at least good. They're all versions of well-known pieces, fairly traditional in their heart, and wildly creative in their finished form. "O mio babbino caro" is done flirtily half in English, half in Italian, the languages playing off of each other as the song moves between attraction and despair. The "Flower Duet" seems fairly straightforward - but that may also be tribute to the natural fit of its arrangement. The "Habañera" needs its steely support of rock to bring out its best. "Nessun dorma"'s cruelty was made for rock'n'roll. And my absolute favorite on the album, a rare non-Puccini piece, "When I am laid in earth" from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas blows me away every time. Reworking it with anguish, with its intrinsic fierce personal memorial, does full justice to its sentiments.