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Thomas, Ambroise: Mignon (1866)
Act 2: Recitative and Aria, “Elle est là, près de lui…Elle est aimée!” (Mignon)

Roger Pines, Dramaturg, Lyric Opera of Chicago
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Aria Talk1/1/2009

Editor's Note: Aria Talk focuses not on the tried-and-true pieces you undoubtedly already know, but on somewhat off-the-beaten-track arias. The hope is that this music will prove a refreshing musical and interpretive change not only for you, the performer, but also for those hearing you in auditions.
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Whenever a mezzo excerpts the title role of Mignon in auditions, she invariably chooses the familiar “Connais-tu le pays.” Mignon’s short second-act monologue is a significant contrast with its large range, expressive variety and breadth of phrasing. Mignon is persecuted by a gypsy, from whom she is rescued by the student Wilhelm. She serves him as a page simply to remain near him and despairs as he becomes infatuated with Philine, a flighty actress. In the conservatory of a park on the grounds of a baron’s castle, Philine is performing with Wilhelm in attendance. Mignon appears outside the conservatory and sings of her misery at the realization that her adored Wilhelm loves Philine.

The heroine’s lines at the start are fraught with tension, then calm down only briefly before bursting forth with a grandeur seldom equaled in French lyric-mezzo repertoire. The passage includes two consecutive phrases that each begin with an unprepared attack on a full-voiced high B-flat, with the second phrase even rising to high C. To top it off, the aria’s penultimate phrase plunges from high B-flat down two octaves. Although popular with numerous lyric sopranos a century ago, this role (sung onstage in our own time by Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade and Susan Graham) was created by Galli-Marié, who was also the first Carmen.

Score: Alphonse Leduc/Heugel & Cie
Recording: Marilyn Horne in complete recording, Sony #34990
Timing: 3:00
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