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Baritone
Bellini, Vincenzo: Beatrice di Tenda
Act 2: Cavatina and Cabaletta, “Qui m’accolse oppresso…Non son io che la condanno” (Filippo)

Roger Pines, Dramaturg, Lyric Opera of Chicago
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Aria Talk12/1/2005

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.
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Judging by auditions lately, we might conclude that Bellini wrote only one baritone aria, Riccardo’s in I puritani. For a change, investigate Filippo in Bellini’s Renaissance tragedy Beatrice di Tenda. That opera isn’t just a soprano vehicle — there are juicy mezzo, tenor and baritone roles. Any baritone should jump at the chance to take on a new bel canto aria (especially Bellini, invariably a gift for the voice) and Filippo has a barn-storming cabaletta as well.

The aristocrat Beatrice is loved by Orombello, who is loved by Agnese. Beatrice’s husband is power-hungry Filippo, Duke of Milan. He has married the widowed Beatrice for her money but now loves Agnese and longs to somehow rid himself of his wife. When jealous Agnese gives Filippo documents that supposedly incriminate guiltless Beatrice, this leads to her husband charging her with treason and infidelity. When tortured, Orombello admits that he loves Beatrice. Filippo orders the two taken away, but when Beatrice is herself tortured, Filippo expresses remorse in his aria (“She welcomed me, she ended my misfortunes and now I’m preparing the block for her”). However, when informed that troops who remain loyal to Beatrice’s dead husband are rising against him, Filippo signs Beatrice’s death warrant. In his cabaletta, he declares that it is not he who has condemned her but her own audacity and that of her supporters. While he and Beatrice both live, he says, they could never share a throne.

The cavatina, written in an exceedingly manageable range, should be expressively contained yet still communicative. It is simply a matter of imposing the words — eloquently shaped, of course — on a classic Bellinian cantilena (easier said than done). Like the Duke in Rigoletto, the character is given this one moment when he seems almost sympathetic. In the cabaletta Filippo becomes machismo personified, although each phrase should project the necessary rhythmic energy without degenerating into braying. If you want a sure-fire conclusion, interpolate a ringing high A-flat!

Score: Ricordi
Recording: Paolo Gavanelli in complete opera, Berlin Classics #BC 1042-2; Cornelis Opthof in complete opera, Decca #2LM3 433706
Timing: 5:15

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