Verdi, Giuseppe: La battaglia di Legnano (1849)
Act 1: Recitative, Cavatina and Cabaletta, "Voi lo diceste, amiche… Quante volte come un dono… A frenarti, o cor, nel petto" (Lida)
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.
Sopranos auditioning with Verdi arias so often feel compelled to go one size too big — say, Trovatore or even Forza. More often than not they'd be much wiser to consider some lighter-voiced heroines from early Verdi: vulnerable, warmly appealing young women such as Luisa Miller, Medora in Il corsaro and Lida in La battaglia di Legnano. Lida's entrance scene could hardly be more rewarding, with its eloquent recitative, sublimely graceful cavatina and utterly irresistible cabaletta.
In 12th-century Milan, the Lombardy league is being formed in Milan to fight Germany's emperor, Frederick Barbarossa. The captain Rolando, Duke of Milan, is overjoyed to find his friend, the Veronese warrior Arrigo, not dead in battle but alive and in the city. Arrigo doesn't know that, having heard of his death, his beloved Lida has married Rolando and had a son by him. In the next scene, in Rolando's palace, Lida admits to the women attending her that she still loves her country, despite the deaths of her brothers and parents in the war. Her cavatina tells us that she's longed for her own death, but her duty to her son keeps her alive. In a "bridge" passage (omitted in your audition), Lida hears from her maid that Rolando is returning home, bringing Arrigo with him. Astounded, she sings her cabaletta. Her feelings at this moment: she can barely keep her heart from throbbing with love, and if that makes her guilty, a life of sorrow should be her punishment.
The recitative instantly expresses devastating melancholy, even with the change from minor to major at "A me soltanto è retaggio il dolor" ("My only heritage is grief"), where the voice is quite exposed in a rise to a soft alteration between repeated high Bs and A-sharps. The tripartite cavatina is exquisitely gentle in the bel canto tracery of its line (reminding us that Donizetti had died just nine months prior to this opera's premiere). Toward the end floated top notes again come into play, with the ascent first to a soft A-flat and then — when the phrase repeats — to a briefly touched soft high C. In marked contrast is the fabulously exhilarating cabaletta, abounding in delicious staccato passages, trills, rapid ascending scales and multiple leaps of a sixth in the upper octave, with the whole crowned at the close by a high C, this time sustained and full-voiced.
To hear the aria and cabaletta only: Renata Scotto ("Verdi Arias," Sony); Krassimira Stoyanova ("I Palpiti d'Amor," Orfeo)
To hear the complete opera: Katia Ricciarelli (Philips); Antonietta Stella (Myto)
Timing: 4:50 (recitative and cavatina); 1:40 (cabaletta, one verse)
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