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Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich: Mazeppa
Act 2: Arioso, “O Maria!” (Mazeppa)

Roger Pines, Dramaturg, Lyric Opera of Chicago
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Aria Talk6/1/2003

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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All of Tchaikovsky’s baritone solos inevitably project a real thrill through the vocalism, but Mazeppa’s arioso — as vocally exciting as one could possibly want — also reaches into the listener’s soul. Try it if your sound is weighty enough, if your top can manage the climaxes and if you have the maturity to do the character justice. Maria loves a man much older than she, the cossack Mazeppa, and chooses to leave her home with him over her father Kochubey’s objections. Kochubey implicates Mazeppa in a conspiracy against the Tsar. Not believing Kochubey, the Tsar has him imprisoned and condemned to death. Mazeppa himself must order the execution and inform Maria. He is profoundly saddened at the prospect of bringing such sorrow to his beloved. In his arioso, he reflects on her beauty and the joy she has brought him. Thanks to her, he feels that his lost youth has returned.

From the initial, deeply felt declaration “O Maria!” (later repeated several times), the aria gains quickly in passion in the second section, with the surging quality we remember from many of Tchaikovsky’s more dramatically scaled roles. In the third section — when Mazeppa proclaims that, through Maria, he has found paradise — the line leaps up to a hair-raising high A-flat. But this man has tenderness in him, too: the aria ends with the simple, quietly murmured declaration, “Ya lyublyu tebya” (“I love you”).

Score: Warner
Recording: Pavel Lisitsian, aria recital, Preiser #89061; Sergei Leiferkus, complete opera, Deutsche Grammophon #39906; Nikolai Putilin, complete opera, Philips #462206
Timing: 4:30
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