Weber, Carl Maria von: Oberon
Act 1: Aria, “Von Jugend auf in dem Kampfgefild” (Huon)
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.
This aria shows terrific heft, range and flexibility. Don’t touch it, however, unless you’ve proven that not only can you manage the grace of, say, Tamino’s arias; but also that your vocal weight has developed in the direction of Freischütz’s Max and Fidelio’s Florestan.
Oberon and Tytania have quarreled over whether it’s men or women who prove more faithful in love. Puck finds the French knight Huon, whom Oberon chooses to put to the test. Having slain Charlemagne’s son, Huon will be spared by the Emperor only if he fulfills a difficult mission that includes capturing Rezia (daughter of Baghdad’s Caliph) and marrying her. Oberon sends Huon a vision of Rezia, whom he loves at first sight. Setting out in search of her, he recalls how, after a youth spent looking forward to battle and fame, love has brought him new joy. At the same time, however, he makes a knight’s declaration: “Life without love were a desert for me, but life without honor I live not to see!”
The exhilarating allegro energico start of the aria makes an effect only if the opening phrases boast an immensely confident upper register. Weber asks early on for a command of dotted rhythms and coloratura, with the aria’s first section including a run from high G-sharp down to low D-sharp, then ascending to a sustained high B and finally arpeggiating down to low E (and all on an “ee” vowel)! An andante con moto section follows, the line colored by graceful upward leaps of a fourth and fifth. The return to Tempo I for the finale is a test of stamina, with the voice needing superb vigor and, again, a heroic ring right up to high B.
Score: C. F. Peters
Recording: Plácido Domingo in complete opera, Deutsche Grammophon #4190382; Ben Heppner in complete opera, EMI Classics #7 54739 2 6
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