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Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich, Pikovaya Dama (The Queen of Spades) (1890)
Act 1: Arioso, "Ya imeni yeyo ne znayu" (Ghermann)
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.
Any tenor, regardless of weight of voice, needs to be able to sing with beautiful line. Yes, much of Ghermann in The Queen of Spades may be heavily declamatory — the big legato numbers go to the soprano and the lyric baritone — but there is a superb arioso in the first scene. It's a perfect length for auditions, especially if you have a time crunch. Give this a try if you have the right weight of voice for it and you're ready and able to sing acceptable Russian.
Ghermann's opening scene contains his most dramatic and most lyrical music. The latter is the arioso, which he sings shortly after first appearing onstage. A soldier, Ghermann is a friend of the officers Chekalinsky and Surin, who previously were commenting that he was at the gaming tables all the preceding night, watching the others play, never playing himself, yet clearly obsessed. He's initially reluctant to say anything about this. Another friend, Count Tomsky, comments that he's changed. Ghermann then reveals that he's in love. He doesn't even know the girl's name, yet he's tortured and already jealous that she might be loved by someone else.
Any of you who sing Lensky will recognize the composer of that character's first-act aria here. But the sound for Ghermann needs significantly more heft than for Lensky, with a fine sweep and broadness in the second half of this arioso, especially for the climax (a high A — this music should pose no problems in terms of range or tessitura). Tchaikovsky makes it easier than many composers to combine legato with clearly articulated words. As is so often the case with Tchaikovsky, any trace of vocal ornament would seem out of place; what matters is to sculpt straightforwardly structured phrases with directness and true expressiveness.
Recording: Listen to Gegam Grigorian, Philips 438 141-2 (CD) or Vladimir Galouzine, TDK OPPIQUE (DVD)
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