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Chabrier, Emmanuel: L’étoile
Act 1: Rondeau, “Je suis Lazuli” (Lazuli)

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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If you’re a trouser-role type and crave a Big Personality piece, here it is. This is really the mezzo equivalent of “Largo al factotum” (although in French, of course) and allows you to introduce yourself to the audience in the most lovable, effervescent manner imaginable. It’s also quite a challenge to sing! Lazuli gets himself into some complicated jams in the course of the opera but all of that is still in the future when this solo occurs. The character is a peddler and he’s just encountered two charming girls. He falls in love at first sight with one of them, Princess Laoula. She and her friend Aloès — who are masquerading as shop-assistants — ask Lazuli who he is. He responds merrily that he’s a good-looking, clever peddler who supplies ladies with everything they need to adorn eyes, lips and cheeks.

Chabrier’s style here is as rhythmically as lively as anything by the more famous Offenbach, and the aria boasts an even more extended mezzo range: two full octaves, low A to high A, with the latter needing a really confident ring in the voice.

There is an abundance of rapid, virtually tongue-twisting articulation (if you can sing this piece well, nothing in French will ever faze you again!), along with a series of leaps in the line that pose a real test to one’s intonation. While attending to musical needs, a truly sunny nature must be evident, along with a tremendous vitality and sheer élan to sweep a princess off her feet.

Score: Lyric Theater International
Recording: Colette Alliot-Lugaz in complete recording (EMI #747889) or Ninon Vallin in complete recording (Cascavelle #2013)
Timing: 2:45
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