Saturday, June 24, 2017
Juan Diego Flórez in La fille du régiment © Bill Cooper Whether cast as heroic warriors, ardent lovers, romantic poets or revolutionary outsiders, tenors are the undisputed kings of opera. We look at a few of the greatest – and most challenging – tenor roles: Idomeneo – Mozart ’s Idomeneo Idomeneo is a rare example of a tenor role with no love interest. However, Mozart more than makes up for it by giving the eponymous King of Crete one of the greatest virtuoso arias in the tenor repertory, 'Fuor del mar', and through his moving musical representation of Idomeneo's struggle to reconcile paternal love and religious duty. Arnold – Rossini ’s Guillaume Tell Arnold famously led to the birth of the ‘modern tenor’ , when his first interpreter, Gilbert Duprez , sang the high C in the Act IV cabaletta ‘Amis, amis’ in full voice rather than the customary falsetto. From the flamboyance of this stirring cabaletta to the lyricism of Arnold’s Act II duet with his beloved Mathilde and his mournful Act IV aria ‘Asile héréditaire’, there are plenty of vocal delights for any tenor bold enough to take on the challenge. Arturo – Bellini ’s I puritani Luciano Pavarotti described the role of the heroic monarchist Arturo, caught between love and political duty during England’s Civil War, as ‘pure tightrope walking’. Particularly demanding episodes include the Act I aria ‘A te, o cara’ and the Act III ensemble ‘Credeasi misera’, in which the courageous Arturo has to sing some of the highest notes ever written for tenor. Aeneas (Enée) – Berlioz ’s Les Troyens Stamina and versatility are the key skills for interpreters of Berlioz’s Trojan hero. Aeneas bursts onto the stage in Act I with high, declamatory music – but the role also calls for a singer capable of delicate lyricism, particularly in the sublime Act IV duet with Dido, ‘Nuit d’ivresse’. Keeping back enough energy for Act V’s heroic and despairing aria ‘Inutile regrets’, with its huge vocal range, is also crucial. Siegfried – Wagner ’s Der Ring des Nibelungen Wagner’s Siegfried is arguably the hardest role in the dramatic tenor repertory. Episodes such as the Forging Song require immense vocal power, easy top notes and boundless energy. But it’s not all about decibels: the singer also has to convince as the tender, sympathetic lover of Act III of Siegfried and of Götterdämmerung ’s death scene. Most importantly, he needs the stamina to keep going throughout two five-hour operas and still sound fresh at the end! Otello – Verdi ’s Otello Otello is perhaps Verdi’s most challenging tenor role. It requires a wide vocal range, and the singer needs to project over a powerful orchestra. Otello also presents a host of dramatic challenges: his interpreter must convince as Act I’s heroic commander, and as the troubled, ultimately broken man of the later acts – and remain sympathetic despite his appalling actions. Gherman – Tchaikovsky ’s The Queen of Spades The role of Gherman not only requires a singer of great stamina – he’s rarely offstage – but also one with the acting skills to convey the character’s mental instability and obsessiveness, while making us sympathize with him in his love for Liza and his loneliness. The rewards for the tenor are great, though: Plácido Domingo described Gherman as ‘dramatically one of the most interesting characters I have ever played’. Rodolfo – Puccini ’s La bohème Rodolfo is a character that many singers find it easy to empathize with: his enthusiasm for life, youthful romantic passion and fun-loving, humorous streak. The role also contains much glorious music, including ‘Che gelida manina’, one of opera’s most beautiful lyric tenor arias. No wonder that great tenors including Enrico Caruso , José Carreras and Pavarotti have listed Rodolfo among their favourite roles. The Emperor – Strauss ’s Die Frau ohne Schatten Strauss never gave tenors an easy time of it, and the Emperor outdoes even the role of Bacchus from Ariadne auf Naxos in its vocal difficulty. He makes his first appearance with a heroic aria set fiendishly high in the voice, and further challenges await in Act II when he sings a 12-minute monologue of almost unbearable intensity. Fortunately, the music is as consistently glorious as it is difficult! Peter Grimes – Britten ’s Peter Grimes Peter Grimes’s ambivalent nature makes him one of opera’s most dramatically interesting roles. Is he a hero or a villain? A murderer or a visionary? And how much should we sympathize with him? Jon Vickers saw him as a Christ-like figure, Anthony Rolfe-Johnson as ‘a dangerous, violent, quixotic and very valuable person for whom things go wrong’. But whoever Grimes is, there’s no doubting his wonderful music, including the Act I aria ‘Now the Great Bear and Pleiades’. Otello runs 21 June–15 July 2017. Tickets are still available. The production will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world on 28 June 2017. Find your nearest cinema. The production is generously supported by Rolex and is given with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet, Mrs Susan A. Olde OBE, Alfiya and Timur Kuanyshev, Lord and Lady Laidlaw, Mr and Mrs Baha Bassatne, John G. Turner and Jerry G. Fischer, Ian and Helen Andrews, Mercedes T. Bass, Maggie Copus, Martin and Jane Houston, Mrs Trevor Swete, Beth Madison, John McGinn and Cary Davis, the Otello Production Syndicate, The American Friends of Covent Garden, The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund and an anonymous donor.
OVERVIEW This 2-week intensive workshop features epic repertoire (music by Beethoven, Debussy, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, Johann Strauss, Brahms, Mussorgsky, and Dvorak) and outstanding faculty (Maestros Neil Varon, Kirk Trevor, and Tomáš Netopil), and takes place in the charming UNESCO-preserved city of Kromeríž. With great repertoire, amazing teachers, 2 weeks in beautiful hotels, 100+ minutes […]
"Gossett was widely respected as an authority on the operas of Gioachino Rossini and Giuseppe Verdi, having served as general editor of the collected Rossini works and coordinating editor of the collected Verdi works." The Rossini edition in particular was crucial to the modern revival of interest in the composer's operas beyond the two or three in the standard repertory.
Italian media have just reported the death of Philip Gossett, editor of the critical Verdi edition, as well as many Rossini scores. Philip, who died today in Chicago after a long illness, was 76. Many maestros have expressed their gratitude for his deft work in clarifying uncertain passages in Verdi, chief among them Riccardo Muti, who worked with him on Attila and Rigoletto. He wrote two books on Donizetti and a third on performing practice in Italian opera.
Alessandro Corbelli as Sulpice in La fille du régiment © ROH/Bill Cooper Italian opera is all doom and gloom, ill-starred lovers and gruesome deaths: La traviata , La bohème , Tosca … Or is it? From 18th-century opera buffa to a late Puccini masterpiece, Italian opera also contains some of the repertory’s most light-hearted and joyous works. Few Italian composers can resist a ridiculous disguise, or the humorous music that goes with them. In Verdi ’s Falstaff , Ford, as ‘Signor Fontana’ (Mr Fountain), attempts to discover if Falstaff has seduced his wife with hilariously exaggerated, through-his-teeth courtesy. Puccini ’s Gianni Schicchi wittily impersonates the deceased Buoso Donati in piping nasal tones, while Norina in Donizetti ’s Don Pasquale adopts the persona of the shrill spendthrift Sofronia with flamboyant coloratura. Disguise provides comic relief even in Mozart ’s predominantly serious Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte , through Leporello’s impersonation of his master, and Guglielmo and Ferrando’s preposterous appearance as a pair of heavily moustached ‘Albanians’. And Rossini extracts every drop of comic potential from concealed identity, be it in Almaviva’s impersonations of an uncouth soldier and unctuous music master in Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), or the chaos of Il turco in Italia ’s fancy-dress ball. Then there’s the wealth of absurd misunderstandings. Nemorino and Dulcamara’s duet in L’elisir d’amore is as amusing as it is poignant, with Nemorino ecstatically hailing the quack doctor’s ‘elixir of love’ as Dulcamara chuckles at his foolishness (the elixir in fact being nothing more than a cheap bottle of Bordeaux). The comic confusion of Act III of Le nozze di Figaro – when Figaro nearly marries his mother – results in one of opera’s most remarkable musical ensembles . Romantic misunderstandings abound in Il turco in Italia, when Fiorilla’s rendezvous with Selim ends in a cat-fight after his former beloved Zaida turns up. Most absurd of all is Falstaff’s farcical Act II finale, where Ford’s frantic attempts to prove his innocent wife Alice’s infidelity end in Sir John Falstaff’s ignominious dunking in the Thames. Larger-than-life male characters make a major contribution to Italian opera’s humour: indeed, the buffo bass voice type, noted for fast patter-singing, was invented for the genre. These men can amuse through their foolishness – like Il barbiere’s Doctor Bartolo with his pompous aria ‘A un dottor della mia sorte’ (For a doctor of my standing) or Donizetti’s overbearing Don Pasquale. But they can also entertain us for more positive reasons. In Don Giovanni, Leporello’s humorous pragmatism is a welcome contrast to the lofty passions of Anna, Elvira and Ottavio, while the aforementioned Dulcamara's wit and cunning never fail to delight. And while Verdi’s greedy Falstaff may have an endless proclivity for getting into silly scrapes, his zest for life and ability to laugh at himself make him perhaps opera’s most loveable rogue. And don’t forget the comic value of sheer silliness. Nemorino’s drunken conviction of the power of his elixir leads first to his feigned indifference to his sweetheart Adina and later to his farcical flirtation with an entire bevy of village girls. There’s also Falstaff’s Act III adventure in the guise of Herne the Hunter, and the chaotic music lesson in Il barbiere di Siviglia. Finally, Italian comic opera excels at tackling serious subjects with a light touch. Ford’s melodramatic monologue in Act II of Falstaff reminds us that jealousy can be as ridiculous as it is destructive – particularly when its grand climax is interrupted by Falstaff’s swaggering return in his glad-rags. And anyone who’s ever had to deal with cantankerous relatives (or, heaven forbid, an inheritance dispute) will surely relish Gianni Schicchi’s clever outwitting of the bickering Donati family. Italian opera composers may excel at tragedy – but there’s no doubt that their comic genius is equally strong. L’elisir d’amore runs 27 May–22 June 2017. Tickets are still available. The production is a co-production with Opéra National de Paris .
On the assumption that Beethoven’s Fifth might be too heavy for the US President, the Filarmonica della Scala has changed next Friday’s programme to scoops of gelato . Andrew Powell has sent us this rundown: Puccini – Madama Butterfly: Act III Sunrise Rossini – Overture to L’italiana in Algeri Rossini – Overture to Guillaume Tell Verdi – La traviata: Act I Prelude Verdi – Overture to La forza del destino Mascagni – Cavalleria rusticana: Intermezzo
Great composers of classical music