Most audition judges will eagerly hear any singer whose repertoire shows some musical curiosity and a sense of adventure. Why choose only the “standard” five arias in your Fach for one audition after another? There’s so much repertoire out there waiting for your voice! OK, your “list of five” shouldn’t all be arias found off the beaten track, but one or two would certainly be welcomed by those auditioning you. “Aria Savvy” presents two arias per column, introducing you to pieces that will invigorate you musically while providing a refreshing change for your listeners.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Mitridate, re di Ponto, Act One,
“Al destin, che la minaccia” (Aspasia)
If you have excellent agility but you’re more of a high lyric than a genuine coloratura soprano, Mozart’s Aspasia will be just right. The florid passages in her opening aria are frequent and spectacular, but the aria also gives you plenty of opportunities to show beauty of voice. Through posture and discerning use of gesture, you can also communicate a special elegance and womanly regality in the role.
The forces of Mitridate, King of the Hellenic kingdom of Pontus, are defeated in battle by the Roman general Pompey. In Mitridate’s absence, his fiancée, Aspasia, has been cared for by Sifare and Farnace, the king’s two sons. They’re both in love with her, but she loves only Sifare. Having heard a rumor that his father has been killed, Sifare addresses Aspasia, who implores him to keep Farnace away from her. Sifare asks her, “Do you still fear that I may become your tyrant? “In her aria, she explains to Sifare that she feels threatened and in danger. Responding to the question he just posed, she asks, “How do you expect me — in the face of danger — to answer you?”
Your most important concern in the aria, purely musically, is to sustain the necessary buoyancy and forward motion throughout. The coloratura should emerge with extreme grace and femininity, rather than heroic aggressiveness. You need tonal evenness and solidity extending from low C to high C, with accuracy in leaps as large as a 12th, as well as staccati, cadential trills, and above all, rapid scales that can cover two octaves in barely ten seconds. There are also exciting possibilities for you to write your own cadenzas. All in all, the aria can prove as richly rewarding for your musicality as for your virtuosity.
Score published by: Bärenreiter
Listen to: Luba Orgonosova (with modern instruments)
Natalie Dessay (with original instruments)
Carl Maria von Weber, Euryanthe, “Wo berg’ich mich” (Lysiart)
Outside of bel canto and Verdi, baritones don’t get many opportunities for a genuine scena. If you crave that degree of expressive variety and sheer scale in an audition aria but are more attracted to German repertoire than Italian, try Weber’s villainous Lysiart. He’s given a magnificent solo scene that can exhibit absolutely everything you have to give in terms of voice, technique, style, and dramatic flair.
In this medieval tale, Lysiart, Count of Forest and Beaujolais, loves the noblewoman Euryanthe, but she’s betrothed to Count Adolar of Nevers. Lysiart’s jealousy leads him to offer his lands against Adolar’s if he can prove to Adolar that Euryanthe has been unfaithful. Meanwhile, there’s the nasty Eglantine, who loves Adolar and is jealous of Euryanthe. Eager to denounce Euryanthe to Adolar, she enlists Lysiart’s help. Alone in his castle, Lysiart, in his opening recitative, despairs that Euryanthe can never be his. Then, in the cavatina, he hopes his longing can be quenched and laments that the impossibility of winning innocent, virtuous Euryanthe. He refuses to yield to Adolar, however, and declares that his rival must die. In the cabaletta, Lysiart proclaims his allegiance to the “Rachegewalten” – the gods of vengeance.
After an exceedingly vehement recitative (the intensity can’t get in the way of it being truly sung, not shouted), the singer moves into the immensely expressive legato cavatina. It needs security down to low A, as well as a velvet in the timbre that Lysiart’s counterpart in Wagner — Lohengrin’s Telramund – does not. The following recitative can create enormous tension that continues in the cabaletta, which exudes a sinister, menacing quality before Lysiart explodes with the repeated declaration, “Zertrutrümm’re, schönes Bild!” (“Shatter, fair image!”). You’ll need good flexibility to master the bursts of coloratura punctuating the final section of the cabaletta. If you’ve got a confident hjgh G, by all means interpolate it into the final phrase. If you master all the requirements, this stupendous test of voice and artistry will leave your listeners awestruck.
Score published by: Robert Lienau Musik-Verlag
Timing: 8:10 (that’s without all but the last 15 seconds of the
lengthy instrumental intro)
Listen to: Thomas Quasthoff