Bedrich Smetana, Och, jaky´ zal!… Ten lásky sen”
Act Three; &ldquo Prodaná nevesta/The Bartered Bride &rdquo (Marenka)
Editor's Note: Have you ever wished you could find at least one audition aria that people haven’t heard from every other [fill in your Fach]? If that’s your predicament, this regular column may prove helpful. In each issue of Voices, “Aria Talk” will offer information on arias that are all viable alternatives, and will include at least one taken from a contemporary work.
Bedrich Smetana, Prodaná nevesta/The Bartered Bride (1870), Act Three: Marenka’s recitative and aria, “Och, jaky´ zal!… Ten lásky sen”
If you already sing Rusalka’s “Song to the Moon” but crave more Czech repertoire, give Marenka a try. Even if The Bartered Bride isn’t produced quite as frequently as it once was, this soulful lament should be a staple for any lyric soprano able to deal comfortably with a Czech text.
A marriage broker has urged Marenka’s parents to have her wed meek Vasek, son of a wealthy neighbor. Marenka, however, is in love with Jeník, whose origins are unknown (he turns out to be Vasek’s brother, but at this point only he knows that). When Marenka—still unaware of her sweetheart’s true identity—hears that he has been bought off by the broker, her misery is overwhelming. The aria is her recollection of her dream of love, which she believes is now lost forever.
The music demands the ability to project a character’s heartbreak with unfailing sincerity and youthful fervor, from the first notes of the intensely expressive recitative. Smetana shaped one achingly beautiful line after another, each phrase perfectly directed toward a very clearly defined point of arrival. The aria’s climax on its penultimate phrase is only an A-flat, but it’s a stunner: approached from the E-flat below and sustained at length, supported by a ravishing accompaniment.
Score: Contact Classical Vocal Reprints, 1-800-298-7474, for reprint of the aria in Czech.
Recording: Gabriela Benacková in complete recording (Supraphon label) or Lucia Popp in “Slavonic Opera Arias” recital (Redline label)
Douglas Moore, Carry Nation (1966), Act One: Carry’s aria, “It was the Lord’s Day morning”
Perhaps you want to give “Must the winter come so soon” a rest, but you don’t feel suited to, say, Augusta Tabor’s monologue. In that case, you’ll find Carry Nation an excellent choice. The title role calls for a strength of voice and character that create just as magnificent an effect as Douglas Moore achieves with his Augusta.
Although the opera’s prologue involves the mature Carry, she is in her late teens in Act One, living with her parents in Missouri. While she readies the house for the arrival of a boarder, her extremely devout father reads from the Bible. When Carry seems to pay little attention, he wonders if she’s forgotten her conversion. She hasn’t, and pauses to remember in detail that uplifting event from her childhood. Even then, she knew she was meant to save God’s sinning children, and now she wishes He would sing to her again.
Carry belongs to a mezzo truly ablaze with conviction and possessing a good deal of dramatic weight in the voice (FYI, the role’s creator, Beverly Wolff, ranged from Handel’s Sesto to Verdi’s Amneris). The legato here—initially almost hymn-like—is nobly stirring, and the line incorporates a few floated pianissimi as well. NOTE: Carry has an equally moving second-act aria, slightly longer than this one.
Score: originally Galaxy Music Corp., now distributed by E. C. Schirmer
Recording: Beverly Wolff in complete opera (Bay Cities label—look for the recording in second-hand CD shops).
Gaetano Donizetti, Roberto Devereux (1837), Act Three: Roberto’s recitative, aria, and cabaletta: “Ed ancor la tremenda porta... Come spirto angelico... Bagnato il sen di lagrime”
Tenors don’t generally offer much variety when auditioning with bel canto arias: the three best known Rossini operas, Donizetti’s Lucia and Elisir, and that’s about it. What a shame, when there’s so much out there to choose from! One rewarding choice is Roberto’s scena, suited to an Edgardo rather than a leggiero tenor. Roberto, Earl of Essex, is loved by Queen Elizabeth II but is in love with the married Sara, Duchess of Nottingham. The liaison is discovered, and Roberto is sentenced to death for treason. In prison waiting to hear if he has been pardoned, he thinks of Sara and her husband, his former friend: He wants his last words to reassure Nottingham, “Your wife is chaste.” When guards appear to lead him to execution, he pauses to declare that in heaven he will ask God’s help for Sara, hoping that the angels will echo his sorrow. The manly but heartfelt recitative segues to an aria characterized throughout by those same qualities, expressed through a gloriously buoyant vocal line. As with Edgardo’s tomb scene, you may wind up omitting the cabaletta in auditions, but if time permits, include one verse: It’s splendidly heroic in tone and, like the aria, quite manageable in range.
Recording: Don Bernardini in complete recording, conductor Friedrich Haider
(Nightingale Classics label)
Timing: 6:00 (including only one verse of cabaletta); 4:10 (recitative and aria only)
Albert Lortzing, Der Wildschu¨tz (1843), Act Three, Count’s recitative and aria: “Wie freundlich strahlt die helle Morgensonne... Heiterkeit und Fröhlichkeit”
In the nearly 130 years of German repertoire between Die Zauberflöte and Die tote Stadt, Lortzing is one of the few composers offering possibilities for lyric-baritone arias. A Figaro Count would do well as a Wildschu¨tz Count, whose aria you’d be expected to offer when auditioning in most German opera houses.
Count Eberbach has invited all the country folk to his estate for his own birthday celebration. As the third act begins, the day has arrived and the Count is eagerly anticipating the festivities. He hopes to live his whole life in serenity and joy. The sunrise, the flowers, lovely girls, friends’ companionship, sparkling champagne—it’s all part of his delight in being alive.
It’s hard to imagine a more captivating baritone aria than this one. Although not extensive in range, its many jumps up to E must be tossed off with exhilarating ease. Other demands include genuine elegance for the brief legato sections, as well as enormous grace, flexibility, and rhythmic vitality everywhere else. There is a marvelous springiness in the refrain, where each phrase should be launched with real zest. The character must exude irresistibly sunny charm, but that of an aristocrat, not a “just-plain-folks” Papageno type.
Score: Peters Edition
Recording: Gottfried Hornik in complete recording (Berlin Classics label) or Heinrich Rehkemper in “Great German Baritones of the Past” anthology (Preiser label)
Timing: 6:05 (possible cuts can reduce it by about 1:30)
Léo Delibes, Lakmé (1883), Act Two, Nilakantha’s aria: “Lakmé, ton doux regard” With Lakmé no longer an unknown quantity in this country, it’s disappointing to see Nilakantha’s aria showing up so rarely in auditions. Nilakantha’s aria (referred to as stances, simply “stanzas,” in the score) is a treasurable opportunity for a bass to prove himself capable of sculpting legato passages with the utmost sensitivity.
The character is a Brahmin priest in India during Britain’s occupation. He longs to avenge the sacrilege committed by an unknown man, who invaded the garden of the temple of Brahma. Nilakantha doesn’t yet know that the invader is the British officer Gerald, who loves his own daughter, the priestess Lakmé. Nilakantha
About the Author: Editorial Dramaturg, Lyric Opera Chicago