Zinging Lessons As
recounted by Her Royal Heinie The Princess Ebola © 1995 by Jared Weinberger
Now entering the hall is the legendary soprano, la Contessa Macedonia di Frutta, who will conduct today's Italian Zinging Lesson. Our teacher appears a bit thicker around the waist (she's completely re-tired, you know). Some of our radio listeners will be interested to know that La Contessa is wearing a flattering ivory-colored chiffon-and-crepe A-frame muumuu. Just a moment! Che meraviglia! Our teacher has generously consented to begin our master class with an aria! [applause and glee]
[Accompanied by the well-known Russian pianist, Sveltina Voltapagina*, La Contessa sings a schmaltzless Pasta Diva, taking all Da Capers. There is a tumultuous ovation, which eventually dies down.]
* * *
Grazie e buon giorno. Excuse please my English. I am, what is your word, a little rusted, yes? [she chuckles, muumuu quivers, audience plotzes]. Better we begin now lesson you have train, I have train. [more chuckling]
Rule #1 - Never analyze Italian language! Just keep on zinging!
Exercise 1. Vocabulary
I slept badly last night; I hope to sleep better tonight.
Exercise 2. Vocabulary
The host gives a party
and invites a guest.
All is clear? Bene! Let's zing on:
Exercise 3. Solfeggio
Today's solfeggio is from my friend Joan's Jumbo Lyric Fake Book Evviva le vocali! available in Italia from G. Ricotta & Filetti. You have in your country English edition, Moved your Vowels Today? published by Sharper & Howe. For solfeggio we use Italian word cuoiaio, which means "a dealer in leather goods". Now, this is rare triple diphthong (very good for practicing Rossini), so make sure vowels are round and plees, plees, performance practice for Sutherlandia dialect requires we do not make first "c" too strong we don't want to cover those pretty vowels, do we? Only Italian language has such nice clusters with six vowels. I make no exceptions no students no substitutions, yes?
Bene! You keep zinging I get now something to eat.
As she leaves, la Contessa waves
arrivederci with her trademark, the (slightly yellowed)
lace fazzoletto she used in the historic 1962
Kathmandu Otello arranged for the Tibetan
Tambourines led by Thomas Sherpas. The original WYAK
broadcast is now available on the Llama Llabel remastered
with Spitting-Image, Bite-Stream Technology (much
superior to the smelly old LLPs).The woolwinds play their
hairy part brilliantly.
La Contessa Macedonia di Frutta has returned to honor us with another Italian Zinging Lesson, which is being simulcast in 104 countries (105 with the simulcaste in India). Tonight's Opera-list Italian Zinging Lesson is brought to you by Tipsyco Brewers, the makers of Alberich Lite "The Bier that Made Sigfried's Funeral Famous" and by PyreXXXX flamproof condoms (as featured at Wotan Family Clanning Centers)
* * *
La Contessa is underemployed and has clearly overnoshed, but she's still an all-round beauty. This evening she's been groomed, tuned and spooned into a coffee-brown dirndl skirt topped with a frothy cinnamon-and-cream crepe de Chine blouse and a scrumptious cerise-and-teal gold-laced bodice from Armani's Grande Armadio Collection. Listers will remember this ensemble from the cover of her crossover album La Contessa Yodels "Begin the Ravine". Unfortunately, that photo does not do her justice: right before the photographer's flash she lapsed into her native Italian and mouthed formaggio. We have just been informed that Sveltina Voltapagina, la Contessa's loyal Russian pianist will not appear tonight because of a lengthy commitment to KGB Entertainment's Psychoramada East (formerly Ivan's Bar & Grill Room).
La Contessa is making her way to the piano, where the dwarf Pakistani pianist, Mr. Buttah Phinghers, will (shortly) accompany her in the Jewish Princess' "Doorbell Song" from Lenny Delibes' Latke. With her pancake makeup, teased hair and schlock jewelry, la Contessa is a gorgeous ersatz princess that would make any queen mother kvell. I see that Mr. Phinghers is still adjusting the piano bench, so I'll give you some of the fascinating background to tonight's piece. The "Doorbell Song" is a challenging aria di agilità for soprano. It was also used to test the hearing of the allied troops in WWII, who were later entertained by Judy Holliday and Bing Crosby's "Hollywood Bellringers" skit. English coal miners use recordings of this aria as a "canary scarer" to administer a humane coup de grâce to asphyxiating songbirds (strict British law requires that this can be done only "when the wobble distinctly predominates the warble in a mining venue"; the corresponding American statute reads "when the shafted critters are half-gassed"). But returning to the aria, here is the start of this patter-batter-splatter number, which the Princess dishes out in the palace kitchen:
[Mr. Phinghers stacks the last phone book in place and is graciously boosted up by la Contessa, who then snuggles her once-elegant curves into the still-elegant curve of the piano a perfect fit. The houselights dim and all eyes brighten in expectation. In impassioned defiance of her years, la Contessa fires off radiant yet ethereal notes of crystal that burst into shimmering silver-pearl droplets against a plush piano accompaniment of dark crushed velvet. By the aria's end la Contessa has made a deep, indelible impression on both the public and the piano. After long, deafening applause la Contessa approaches the microphone.]
* * *
Grazie, mille grazie, e buona sera! Tonight we talk about sex. In italiano we gotta boy words and girl words. But italiano, she not alika German, which has boy word, girl words and those strange Krossdresserworten but we donna talk about them now because maybe you gotta the children staying up to hear me sing tonight! Was good joke, yes? Donna worry if these exercises they are confusing we zing now, ztudy later.
Exercise 1. Gender in Italian. Text from the libretto to The Queen of Spays, ossia il vero genere del genero [the Son-in-Law's True Gender]
La regina, che non mente mai, preferisce il tè alla menta.
La regina ha una mente straordinaria, ma, sfortunatamente, ha anche uno sdoppiamento della personalità.
Dopo l'approvazione della regina, le
vendite del dentifricio mentadent
regina ha ordinato questo julep con doppia menta.
La regina, esasperata dall'emental domestico, dà all'ancella un pugno sul mento.
La regina porta il doppiomento perennemente.
Exercise 2. Preparatory Review for the Italian Zinger's License
La regina, mentalmente disturbata, dimentica la foglia di menta sul mento e mente al reggimento veementemente.
The queen, off her rocker, forgets the mint leaf on her chin and lies to her regiment vehemently.
* * *
Bene! Keepa zinging while I getta znack. You gotta maybe Znickers bars abackstage? They even more deliziosi if you keppa them in the ice-a-box! And donna forget your solfeggio! You gotta keepa moving those vowels! Arrivederci!
[La Contessa throws kisses, catches roses, fields questions, runs afoul of her critics, bats 1000 with fans, walks home, and pops out to buy a can of Alberich Lite she's all American now! Poor Mr. Phinghers never gets to first base with la Contessa; apparently he is all (Tom) thumbs.]
* * *
As the houselights come back up, let me remind la Contessa's many admirers that she will be recording ALL the voices in the "Coro a bocca chiusa" from Madama Butterfly on her next album, Humdinger!.
La Contessa Macedonia di Frutta leaves tomorrow on her All-Indian Tour with Maestro Zubin Metha. Concerts are scheduled for Poughkeepsie, Lake Hopatcong, Wannamassa and Manahawkin, where there will also be a New Deli autograph signing. The program features traditional Buddhist chants with authentic aerophone instruments and is entitled Ghandi with the Wind.
Tipsyco, Alberich Lite and PyreXXXX would like to wish all our music-inebriated listeners una buona notte.
* * * End of Italian Zinging Lesson #2 * * *
P.S. A combination postcard/do nyet disturb sign has just arrived from the Psychoramada East. The words: Having Exceptionately Lively Party!
are scrawled in borscht over the signature of Sveltina Voltapagina. La Contessa delves into a pass through her alpine cleavage and unpins her Aida Decrypter Scarab. As she begins to decode the message, a worried expression sets in.
Welcome once again to Tipsyco's Italian Zinging Lesson, which is broadcast this week from London's Alberlich Hall. Tonight's sponsors are Polygraph Records ("Truth in black marketing"), Fafner & Fassolt, Giant Burghers ("Builders to the stars"), and the Contessa Gran Gal-a Bra-va-Bra ("When your cup runneth over"). As I'm sure our listeners know, la Contessa has a very generous endowment of the arts -- and if you examine her top closely, it becomes apparent that she has a pushed up chest. And here she comes now. [warm applause]
Buona sera a tutti! I'm inna hurry tonight, so you ztudy these, and I'll getta znack and be right back! [She dashes to her backstage znicker trove while her dwarf Pakistani pianist, Mr. Buttah Phinghers, warms up the crowd a with a little Italian stride and vamp, "Stride la vampa".]
Exercise 1. Bizzarrie biforcute
Now, for your solfeggio, I know somma you are having trouble moving your vowels on those hard accaccaturas! So I wanna you shoulda buy my friend Cristina Deutekom's autobiography, From Gutter to Gala. Please reada Chapter 1, "How to make a guttural trill" anda Chapter 2, "How to make a guttural stop".
* * *
The Contessa flies back to her beloved adopted hamlet, New York City, and hungrily enters the nearest eatery. After a main course of knife-defying meatloaf interred under death-defying mushrooms, the waitress returns and asks "Did you want some dessert?" "I still do!" replies our perplexed heroine. The loop-thrown waitress recites the desserts in an Albran-Berger sprechstimme: "We got radio-opaque rice pudding, high-bouncing Indian-rubber Jello cubes, cellophane-topped apple pie, and yesterday's chef's today's special, Japanese tiramisù". "You meanna Italian tiramisù," replies our heroine, who, unable to smoothtalk in broken English, fails to convince Hi I'm Hilda that tiramisù is not a Nipponese napoleon. When the dessert arrives, the still-hungry Contessa looks askance at the skimpy portion and asks "Didda something fall offa the plate on you way over?"
* * *
Meanwhile, Gofreddo has picked up la Contessa's brooch-computer. While trying to call up a soccer video game, he inadvertently combines the Contessa's file of regulations for the next Italian Maria Callas Competition (she's on that jury, which surprises no one) with Mr. Buttah Phingher's file of regulations for the next Pakistani Figure-Skating Championships (he's on that jury, which surprises everyone). The following day the same mail-merged melange is sent out to skaters and singers alike:
*The Maria Callas International Marriage of Figaro-Skating Competition*
* * *
La Contessa Macedonia di Frutta will soon be returning to the recording studio. As her fans know, she has an elusive contract with Polygraph, who wants to promote her crisscross talents and bra. Scheduled releases are:
Sveltina Voltapagina is a prisoner in Room 1413 of KGB Entertainment's 4000-room Psychoramada East. She is tied to the bed with borsht belts, corn belts and sun belts. She cannot call for help, because a judge's gag order is pasted on her lips (among the staff and KGB in the Psychoramada East such sick American jokes are the latest rage). Out of no-fidelity JBL (Just Blay Loud) speakers blares an accordion-trio arrangement of "Lady of Spain" sung in Russian by Spittalova Novowelski. This is a tape loop and, unbeknownst to Amnesty International, has been playing night and day. Sveltina had not slept in two weeks: whenever she stops her toe castanets, the music gets louder.
Sveltina had been arrested at the Mussorgsky, Moscow's Art Cinema. Just before the feature they projected a newly discovered newsreel of Franco Corelli on a 1953 tour of the Soviet Union. Naked to the waist, he was changing for a performance. (This rare footage was shot by the French film company, Pathe Foie Gras, which inexplicably folded after the president was caught goose-stepping in the town of Place-en-Crouton.) At the first flex of Corelli's calaf muscle, Sveltina, normally the demure damsel, lost control, stood up and began stripping off her clothes, screaming "Vai Franco! ... Togli tutto! ... Vai così!" creating a scandal. The KGB was called and Sveltina was taken away by force. Pravda ran the headline as:
MUSSORGSKY - EXHIBITION AT THE PICTURES!
* * *
This week's Italian Zinging Lesson comes to you live from the Glorious Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center. Our sponsors this week are RATS, Russian Amplification for Theaters Service, "We mike everything that moves" and the La Donna è Mobile Escort Service. Speaking of the glorious Metropolitan, listeners will of course know that certain adjectives become permanently linked to specific opera houses: the legendary La Scala, the revolutionary Sydney, the secondary NYCO, the lapidary Parma, and the dromedary Cairo.
La Contessa Macedonia di Frutta has just returned from a recital-tour of the American West. After paying tribute to the hard-working cowpersons who brave dry, dusty weeks on the range, an elaborate western cookout was organized in her honor. How vividly she remembers the unkempt, corpulent cook in the chuckwagon who ladled out food to the guests in line. When it was her turn, la Contessa requested the menu. The cook rolled his eyes and answered gruffly "Whatdiyya mean What's on the menu? It's the same old grub: boiled cactus, then fried prairie dog with grits or rattlers with beans, and for dessert I got crêpes maison au chocolat et au Grand Marnier."
Here at the Metropolitan renovation continues. Gone are the old but elegant brass seatback plaques:
This has made room for the exciting new STV (seatback title viewers). In addition to the libretto of the opera translated into your choice of six languages, STV electronic wizardry features:
Under each seat opera-goers will find the new MET Comfort Kit containing:
* * *
La Contessa has just returned from Pesaro where she judged the annual Miss Rossini Bel Canto e Corpo Competition. Contestants were given a theme on which they had to improvise variations. Points were scored for (1) the greater the number of notes sung in the allotted time; (2) the greater the resemblance to Rossini without actually copying; (3) the fewer breaths taken; and (4) the greater the resemblance of vocal mannerisms to Maria Callas. All proceeds from this event went to the Alzucena Child Care Center, whose motto is "The welfare of our children is our burning, all-consuming desire".
[After this long delay, an announcement is made to the impatient crowd that la Contessa will not be appearing as she is without an accompanist (see below). The last-minute replacement, Suzy's Attack Pit Bulls, does not appease those who came for the Master Zinging Class. But when the angry crowd arrives at the box office for a ticket refund they are deterred by the promising talent in the senior class of Suzy's Pit Bull Ecole.]
La Contessa will be making a guest appearance next season at the Paris Opera, where they are organizing France's hauteur (pronounced and translated "hot-air") answer to the Three Tenors: Les trois barytons-martin.
Exciting recording news, listeners! La Contessa has agreed to record music for an unnamed Madison Ave. ad agency. While this will be for television commercials, it will nonetheless be serious music: an excerpt from the oratorio "Samsonite", a mineral-water commercial, "Lucevian le stelle", a furniture-store jingle, "Castro divan" and the Jewish community's answer to Andrew Lloyd Webber, "Katz".
Speaking of Andrew Lloyd Webber, la Contessa is to appear in his newly commissioned opera "Don Carlo e Diana". She has been asked to perform in the Gran Scena in which we learn that playboy Carlo is a cross-dresser and Diana suffers from bulimia, "Make room for Charlotte -- Russe!".
* * *
Tiny Buttah Phinghers approaches Room 1413 as he adjusts the cat-burglar's tools on his child's black Cat Woman costume -- well, that was all they had in XXTW (extra extra teeny-weeny) at Wotan's Wig & Wardrobe Wrental (wrecently wrenovated). He has just avoided a nasty run-in with a Roach Motel by a (cat's) whisker. Sveltina is lying catty-corner and catatonic in a catnip-induced catnap under her volume of The Cat-Lover's Catechism. She thinks Buttah is the cat's pajamas; he, however, has his cat's-eyes set on la Contessa, who was acting catty the last time Buttah gave her a bouquet of cat-o'-nine-tails and serenaded her as a catharsis with "Kitten on the Keys" (this tidbit courtesy Kitty Carlisle). La Contessa tries to call Buttah and warn him of Russian below-the-borscht-belt tactics, but she has forgotten her Bell-Canto telephone card. Risking severe accordion burn, he enters Sveltina's room ...
* * *
[Mr. Buttah Phinghers, on a short fuse,
wishes to express his indignationat the ridicule he has
been subjected to in these pages because of his (lack of)
height. Announcement paid for by the Anti-Belittlement
A KGB Most-Points Bulletin (KGB funds have been cut drastically) has been put out on pianists Sveltina Voltapagina and the dwarf Mr. Buttah Phinghers, who are making a desperate effort to flee the ex Soviet Union (now known as EXXSUN). But the bulletin on the radio station WIVAN that warns of two in flight has itself led the brilliant Sveltina to excogitate an ingenious stratagem: two must flee as one.
Thus the situation before us. In the crowded dining car of the Orient Local a heavily made-up Buttah Phinghers sits on Sveltina's knee stiffly but with his feet dangling, moving his bottom jaw up and down mechanically. Sveltina has one hand up the back of Buttah's silk no-smoking jacket. Her mouth is closed as she pretends to throw her voice. Billing themselves as Paula Winchelski and Jerzy Mahoney, they are a smash hit with the passengers (the KGB agents are leading the fervent applause) who would all swear on the reaccredited bible that the dummy really is singing (which, of course, he is).
The highlight of the act comes when Jerzy sings a virtuoso solo arrangement of the Sextet from LUCIA while Paula with consummate nonchalance (and one-handed!) brushes her teeth, rinses, flosses, gargles and chews a tablet that reveals Crimean Tartar. (Unfortunately Buttah has to remain folded in his suitcase during lengthy customs inspections -- one occasion where wooden acting pays off.) This risky Russian ruse succeeds, and Sveltina and Buttah are back at Carnegie Hall in time for
* * * Italian Zinging Lesson #5 * * *
This evening's performance is brought to you by Rig-O-Letto Opera Limousines ("Ask your driver for an unexpurgated red-light plot summary") and Fricka's Frocks for All Occasions ("From Rhinewear to Castlewear, Forestwear to Immolationwear").
La Contessa is quite trendy in her exclusive chartreuse-and-magenta camouflage-print tent dress with a daring side flap from Fricka's Trompe l'Oeil Collection. It does a heroic job of visually flattening la Contessa's derriere extraordinaire. Sveltina Voltapagina is in her rightful seat at the Bosenway piano. Buttah Phinghers is between the piano's (and Sveltina's) legs, where he can work the pedals and pick up any dropped notes. This arrangement lets Sveltina take care of the trills and Buttah the thrills. And here she is now.
Buona sera a tutti! Itsa good to bea back! Now I know dat some of you are having problems with you rhythm, because when we zinga together and I'ma finished, you are ztill zinging and turning da pages! So now we gonna practice our rhythm with some home-grown American rap. Dis is one I wrote called "High-Octane Octavian". Ready? Here's da beat: One, two, one, two:
OK! Dats good! I'm all zweaty, so I'm gonna cool off at da pool with a frozen znickers (they're deliziozi!). Ciao a tutti!
La Contessa will spend her vacation as a volunteer vocal coach at the Triple-Z-Triple-W (Zummer Zinging Zchool for Wayward-Pitched, Wobbly and Weighty Sopranos). At this educational camp girls are assigned to bunk beds (a soprano and compatible mezzo in each) and sing 64-part Ligeti campfire songs (sorry, but m*rshm*ll*ws and similar foodstuffs are confiscated). Staff members (recognizable by their pitch pipes on lanyards) teach campers to do meister crafts, pick Walter berries, recognize poison Ives and swim in Gary Lakes (topless, of course). At midsummer, girls have the option of having parents or agents visit. A nurse is always on duty, except when on the road with Die Frau ohne Schatten Summer Stock Company (they do Strauss's alternate "Hollywood" version where in Act I the dyer's wife sings "Batiko-Tiko" with maracas and at the end of the opera she and the kaiserin rejoice in a minor-key arrangement of "Me and my Shadow"). Camp trophies (EMI's) include the La Donna del Lago Award for best swimmer and the Zdenka Tomboy Award. The highlight of the summer is the three-day color war with Cheryl Studer's rival Camp Wanna-do-it-all for Underachieving Sopranos.
* * * End of Italian Zinging Lesson #5 * * *
La Contessa and friends are relaxing at poolside. Buttah orders a Creme de Minton from the bar, Sveltina asks for her usual Meister Stinger, and la Contessa, who never drinks, is brought a complimentary Shirley Verrett (made with Rindgold Fruit Juice). Next to her is a friend, retired police lieutenant Kiji from the Fiji Islands. The lieutenant used to hide in the wings at the Fiji Opera House and ticket speeding conductors (trapped by Fly-by-Night Radar's Fledermaus model). He is showing Sveltina a new Fiji one-penny commemorative stamp with Dame Gwyneth Jones -- the world's first soprano able to sing duets with herself. (The value of this stamp has fluctuated wildly on a very shaky market: many have invested heavily in it, only to find they have been flucted out of a fortune.) Lt. Kiji now grows kiwis and has developed a miniature variety that he has named the "Kiri" in honor of his favorite soprano. You can find Kiji's Fiji Mini Kiri Kiwis in you local kiwian market.
Mr. Buttah Phinghers, pianist and international figure-skating judge, is also an armchair musicologist specializing in the history of musical customs (although he never posts to the snotty Mu.Cus-list). He is explaining to the others his theory of a cause and effect relationship between the raising of women's hemlines and the raising of concert pitch over the centuries to the current A=440. According to Buttah, male wind players breathed faster and harder as more leg was exposed both on stage and in the audience. This created changes in temperature, bore size and tuning. His book will be out soon and is entitled A-hem! The Female Pitch for Attention and the Rise of Gentlemen's Instruments. This will put to rest the so-called "tight-undergarment" theory as put forth in the recent books Look Sharp, and You'll be Sharp, too and Tuning and Grooming in Brief: the Squeeze Play.
With a tear in her eye and a tear in her eye-opening Contessa Brand Bra-va-Bra Bikini, la Contessa says "Keepa Zinging!" as she wishes all her fans a future of health, happiness and harmony with no intermissions.
Recounted by Her Royal Heinie The Princess Ebola