Amilcare Ponchielli, Dance of the Hours from La Gioconda

Gosh, once more I have to write about Fantasia. That is not where I first heard this piece of music, however. Before seeing how Disney illustrated it with dancing hippopotami, I became aware of the piece, though not its origin, when I was a boy.

Back in the early 1960s, when I was about 6 or 7, a comedian named Alan Sherman issued an album in which he performed a number of satirical songs. One of these went by the title of “Camp Grenada.” Sherman set it to an incredibly sweet sounding piece of music, which I’d probably heard even before that, maybe in some other cartoon. Sherman’s lyrics went something like:

“Hello Mudda,
Hello Fadda,
Here I am at,
Camp Grenada.
Camp is very
Entertaining,
They said we’d have some fun if it stops raining.”

It scans perfectly.

The Dance of the Hours comes from Ponchielli’s opera, La Gioconda.  It is based on a play by Victor Hugo, and is set in the time of the Venetian Inquisition.  It is not a happy piece and mirrors at times, Romeo and Juliet.  The heroine starts out good, becomes jealous and bad, and redeems herself before having to kill herself to escape the clutches of an evil schemer named Barnaba, who drowned Gioconda’s mother.  Whew.

Poor Ponchielli. This is the only one of his works that anyone knows. The opera is his only one still in the reperatoire.

Ponchielli’s career was eclipsed by that of Verdi, on of the most prolific and best loved composers of the 19th century. Amilcare Ponchielli does have one other claim to fame–he was Puccini’s teacher, and we of course know what became of him.

For a racier verison, check this out (CAUTION CONTAINS NUDITY)

Ponchielli Biography

Download MP3s or buy CD of Ponchielli: La Gioconda

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