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Haydn, Franz Joseph: L'anima del filosofo ossia Orfeo ed Euridice
Act 1: "Cara speme!" (Orfeo)
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.
Haydn's stage works offer you much exceedingly grateful and enjoyable music, most of it unjustly neglected these days in singers' education regarding repertoire in general. In terms of material from the Classical period, your listeners at the audition could very possibly welcome a change from the Mozart/da Ponte arias they hear so frequently. Certainly light lyric tenors will find any amount of vocally appropriate material in Haydn — for example, the hero of the opera of which the full translated title is The Philosopher's Soul, or Orpheus and Eurydice. Anyone vocally comfortable as Don Ottavio, Ferrando or Belmonte should look at Orfeo's first-act aria, a feast of both legato and coloratura (although it has to be said that the coloratura section does make that of "Il mio tesoro" feel like a cakewalk). As audition arias go this one is fairly lengthy, but no more so than such tenor pieces as the monologues of, say, Donizetti's Edgardo and Verdi's Duke of Mantua, both of which are, of course, regularly heard in auditions.
In this version of the famous myth, the musician Orfeo's beloved, the Theban princess Euridice, is betrothed to Aristaeus, a minor Greek god. Before the opera begins, she'd escaped the marriage by running off to the forest. We find her there, terrified, especially when she's surrounded by followers of Aristaeus. The libretto describes them as "barbari pastori" — wild shepherds! When Orfeo appears in the forest he sees, to his horror, that the shepherds are about to kill Euridice. He wonders what appalling purpose they could have in doing such a wicked thing. In the aria, he tells poor Euridice that his misery at this moment is like dying a thousand deaths. He feels pitied by the roaring winds, the moaning waters, and the forest itself.
The upper range should be no problem here, but the bottom end reaches deeper than one usually finds in Mozart tenors (you need an audible low C). Both your steadiness of tone and your control of the passaggio are challenged immediately in the exquisitely plaintive initial legato section: the first syllable of that opening word "Cara" must be sustained at great length right at the top of the staff. The aria's second half, beginning with "Per pietà del mio tormento," is characterized by exhilarating vigor in the coloratura as well as in the more declamatory phrases.
Recording: Uwe Heilmann (Decca/L'Oiseau-Lyre – CD)
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