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Bellini, Vincenzo: Beatrice di Tenda
Act 2: Cavatina and Cabaletta, “Ah! se un urna… Ah! la morte a cui m’appresso” (Beatrice)
Aria Talk •
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.
Are you a regal lady rather than a perky ingenue? Is yours a substantial sound of a weight suited to, say, Donna Anna at the very least? Can you boast a warm timbre, ease up to at least high C and good flexibility — and are you eager to explore bel canto? If all of the above applies to you, try testing the waters with Beatrice di Tenda. Within an entirely manageable vocal range, the music’s dignity and expressiveness are very touching indeed in the scena that concludes the opera.
The widowed Beatrice has married Filippo, tyrannical Duke of Milan, who, having tired of her, becomes infatuated with Agnese. She, however, loves Orombello, who loves Beatrice! When Filippo catches the innocent Beatrice with Orombello, he thinks the worst and imprisons them both. Torture leads Orombello to confess guilt, which Beatrice refuses to do.
When Filippo is informed that the forces of Beatrice’s late husband, the general Facino, are rising against him, he signs his wife’s death warrant. In prison, Beatrice sings a cavatina in which she nobly begs her friends to forgive Filippo and to feel mercy for Agnese (who regrets having incriminated Beatrice). In her cabaletta — sung as she is about to be led to execution — Beatrice asserts that death is victory rather than pain and that she’ll carry her friends’ love with her to the God she already sees before her.
“Ah! se un urna” offers classic Bellini cantilena, needing the utmost in elegant note-to-note movement, whether in scale work, arching leaps or delicate filigree. Ultimately this is all about finely controlled rubato, for which you need to develop a fine instinct if you want to sing Bellini well. The cabaletta depends for its effect on attention to the constant dotted rhythms. You should present the repeat with suitable ornamentation and if you’ve got a confident, ringing high E-flat, by all means pop it in for an exciting final cadence.
Recording: Dame Joan Sutherland in complete opera (Decca label)
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