Sunday, August 8, 2010

La Traviata on The Odd Couple 1971

"Dick...," said Felix Unger, "...Mr. Dick."

He had just been introduced [1:53] to Baritone Richard Fredricks in a classic episode of The Odd Couple from its second season that aired on November 5, 1971. But surely that was the last of the bizarre double references to sexuality...

"He's got a million dollar throat," says Unger to Oscar. "I don't suppose you'd favor us with one teeny selection, would ya?" Unger asks Fredricks. "No relax Oscar," replies Fredricks [2:07], "I wouldn't be in this business if I didn't have a little ham in me."

Ahh, the 70s.

And there, in sweats, the great Richard Fredricks sang the second verse of "Di Provenza il mar, il suol" from La Traviata, on television screens all across America:



Fredricks sings without translation and without transposition [2:35]. He sings for more than two minutes and knocks every high G out of the park as Oscar listens with his baseball cap turned around backwards. He walks over to the two girls who are models at the Unger photography studio, and sings the second stanza to them directly: "With you so far away [my] house is filled with misery." It becomes a snapshot of the juxtaposition of opera high culture stereotypes and American popular culture. It remains weirdly funny and poignant forty years later.

Ah! il tuo vecchio genitor (Ah, your old father --)
tu non sai quanto soffrì! (You don't know how much he has suffered!)
tu non sai quanto soffrì! (You don't know how much he suffered --)
il tuo vecchio genitor (your old father!)

Te lontano, di squallor (With you far away, with misery)
il suo tetto si coprì. (has his house become full.)
il suo tetto si coprì. (has his house become full)
Te lontano, di squallor (With you far away, with misery!)

Ma se alfin ti trovo ancor, (But if in the end I find you again,)
se in me speme non fallì, (if hope did not fail within me,)
Se la voce dell'onor (if the voice of honor)
in te appien non ammutì, (didn't become silenced in you,)
Ma se alfin ti trovo ancor, (But if in the end I find you again,)
se in me speme non fallì, (if hope did not fail within me,)
Dio m'esaudi'! (God has heard me!)Dio m'esaudi'! (God has heard me!)
Dio m'esaudi'! (God has heard me!)
Dio m'esaudi'! (God has heard me!)
Ma se alfin ti trovo ancor, (But if in the end I find you again,)
se in me speme non fallì, (if hope did not fail within me,)
Dio m'esaudi'! (God has heard me!)
Dio m'esaudi'! (God has heard me!)

But there is more complication. At [5:25] we discover that Fredricks was injured in the baseball game he played with Oscar. There is a wonderful WHA,WHA,WHA,WHA.... on the soundtrack. Opera and sitcoms...who knew?

1 comment:

  1. Loved Felix' opera club.
    I remember an episode with Marilyn Horne where she sings in his production of Carmen another with Martina Arroyo singing Leonora for Horward Cosell.

    Sidenote: I have a friend whose father was a member of the Met Opera Club. As a child she would attend operas with him and met Tony Randall while waiting for her father outside the restroom. She said he was a kind and wonderful man.

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