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Massenet, Jules: Le roi de Lahore
Act 4: Recitative and Aria, “Aux troupes du Sultan…Promesse de mon avenir” (Scindia)
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.
The only Massenet baritone aria one generally hears in auditions with any frequency is “Vision fugitive” from Hérodiade. Yes, it’s a great piece, but if you’d like to give it a rest, you’ll find an even more affecting vocal line in Scindia’s big moment from Massenet’s first great success, Le roi de Lahore (1877). Very popular with baritones in the first half of the 20th century, “Promesse de mon avenir” has been unjustly neglected since then.
This exotic work focuses on a love triangle in 11th-century India. Sita is loved by both Alim, king of Lahore, and Alim’s minister, Scindia. After killing Alim, Scindia seizes the throne and captures Sita. In Act 4, he forces her into becoming his wife. In Scindia’s monologue, he first rejoices in his power, and realizes that his soul is now tranquil. His thoughts turn to Sita and he looks forward to making her his at last.
The aria requires enormous expressiveness, and — as in “Vision” — the more natural velvet in the sound, the better. Detail and a clear sense of direction are vital in the recitative, along with the ability to quickly soften from macho heroic to warmly reflective as the thought of Sita comes to Scindia’s mind. A constant sense of longing must color the aria throughout, above all at each repetition of “Ô Sita” and at the words “Tu seras reine” (the climax of the aria’s dramatic middle section). The aria’s final phrase, slowly rising to a sustained F-sharp, is the stuff of baritones’ dreams.
Score: Reprint of aria available from Classical Vocal Reprints, 800-298-7474
Recording: Theodor Uppman in aria/song recital, VAIA #1181; Charles Cambon in aria recital, Malibran #122; Richard Bonelli in aria/song recital, Delos #5502
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