Barber, Samuel: Vanessa
Act 3: Aria, “I never should have been a doctor, Nicholas” (Doctor)
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.
If you look and sound like a young Papageno, your auditioners won’t take you seriously if you sing the Doctor’s aria. On the other hand, if your timbre has matured and, in posture and gesture, you can take on the physical characterization of this fairly aged character, the aria will suit you beautifully.
The Doctor brings a contrasting, lighter tone to the opera, which centers on glamorous, worldly Vanessa and her niece, impressionable young Erika. Vanessa has waited 20 years for the return of her lover, Anatol, who arrives in the person of the now-dead lover’s son. He seduces Erika but chooses to marry Vanessa. In Act 3 the latter is giving a party, during which the Doctor, slightly tipsy, tells the major-domo about having just danced with a certain delightful Mlle. Doriat. He imitates that apprehensive lady (“Not quite so fast, dear Doctor!”), but loses his balance and declares that he must stop drinking since he has yet to announce the engagement.
The Doctor begins by confessing that he sees naked bodies every day, but “under a chandelier, with the right music, a naked arm, a shoulder — oh, God, I love my mind!” (That word “mind” requires a lengthy high F-sharp.) The lightest touch, vocally speaking, is required throughout the rest of the aria, especially for the Doctor’s “tra la la”’s and his staccato imitation of his dancing partner. At all times the text must emerge with total naturalness and conversational ease.
Score: G. Schirmer
Recording: Giorgio Tozzi in complete opera, RCA #7899
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