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Thread: Is this an alternate aria for Orfeo?

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    Senior Member Seattleoperafan's Avatar
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    Default Is this an alternate aria for Orfeo?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_6r...&start_radio=1 This is a spectacular coloratura aria that Orfeo sings, but I have only heard Ewa Podles and Janet Baker sing it. Is it an aria you can omit if you can't sing it comfortably. Is this only done in Baroque operas???? Podles here does an absolutely amazing version. I know Kathleen Ferrier never sang it and I don't think Stephanie Blythe did, but I think she should be able to sing it. Do you know of any other arias that are often cut from an opera?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_6r...&start_radio=1 This is a spectacular coloratura aria that Orfeo sings, but I have only heard Ewa Podles and Janet Baker sing it. Is it an aria you can omit if you can't sing it comfortably. Is this only done in Baroque operas???? Podles here does an absolutely amazing version. I know Kathleen Ferrier never sang it and I don't think Stephanie Blythe did, but I think she should be able to sing it. Do you know of any other arias that are often cut from an opera?
    There are two versions of Orfeo ed Euridice (or Orphee et Euridice), the first was in Italian and then Gluck recomposed parts for a Paris production. This aria was written for the French version and interestingly for a tenor! (Here is Richard Croft singing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCRTIPipg4M)

    So why are there so many mezzos singing it? Because there is a further third version of the opera that was an edition prepared by Berlioz in the 19th century for mezzo Pauline Viardot and he arranged the French version so that the tenor Orfeo went to a mezzo (as had been the case in the original Italian version). I find all three are fascinating and don't have a particular favourite between them.

    N.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    There are two versions of Orfeo ed Euridice (or Orphee et Euridice), the first was in Italian and then Gluck recomposed parts for a Paris production. This aria was written for the French version and interestingly for a tenor! (Here is Richard Croft singing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCRTIPipg4M)

    So why are there so many mezzos singing it? Because there is a further third version of the opera that was an edition prepared by Berlioz in the 19th century for mezzo Pauline Viardot and he arranged the French version so that the tenor Orfeo went to a mezzo (as had been the case in the original Italian version). I find all three are fascinating and don't have a particular favourite between them.
    ?


    N.
    I wish I could have a holiday meal with you and some of the other opera savants on this forum. It would be epic. It would be a conversation for the ages!!!! Thank god for this forum where I can pick the brains of people like you!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Back to my query: can this aria be omitted if you can't sing it or does it just depend on the version you are singing? Am I correct that this aria is not commonly performed?
    Last edited by Seattleoperafan; Nov-24-2020 at 22:58.

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    I think people have 3 main reasons for cutting the aria:

    1. Some people choose to perform the original Italian version of the opera. The aria wasn't in that version.

    2. Other people choose to perform Gluck's revised French version or Berlioz's version, but their star can't manage the intricate fioriture of this particular aria comfortably, so they simply cut it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Seattleoperafan View Post
    Do you know of any other arias that are often cut from an opera?
    There's a close parallel with Rossini's Barber of Seville. It has a big elaborate tenor aria near the end ("Cessa di più resistere"). But very few tenors can manage the coloratura, so in practice it's usually cut. (In the Gluck opera also, tenors are more likely to dodge the aria than mezzos, because they're less likely to be able to cope with it.)

    I suspect, if we had a full list of cuts in standard operas, we'd discover that just about every aria has been cut by someone or other. Reportedly when Jean de Reszke sang Aida, he used to omit "Celeste Aida." One of the worst cases in recent decades was Benjamin Britten's production of Idomeneo, which omitted the title character's big aria altogether because the role was sung by Peter Pears, who was vocally unsuited to it in every possible respect. This is kind of like omitting "Nessun dorma" from Turandot, or the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah.

    3. But there's also a third reason: some conductors & directors omit this Gluck aria because they consider that it's dramatically inappropriate and that the opera works better without it.

    In practice, many conductors don't strictly follow one version anyway. They take some items from version A and some from version B, and construct their own patchwork. (The Solti/Marilyn Horne recording of Gluck's Orfeo is a particularly striking example of this.)

    This leads me to ask another question: Has the Berlioz version of Orphée EVER been recorded complete and unaltered in its original French? It certainly hadn't been 20 years ago.
    Last edited by gvn; Nov-25-2020 at 10:38.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gvn View Post

    This leads me to ask another question: Has the Berlioz version of Orphée EVER been recorded complete and unaltered in its original French? It certainly hadn't been 20 years ago.
    I don't know, but I doubt it as I think we would have heard about such a release.

    N.

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    Typical conversation in our house:

    LONG-SUFFERING WIFE: But dearest, do we really need yet another recording of Gluck's Orphée?

    SELF: As you know, my love, I almost never buy any recordings nowadays, but this one has at least five bars that have never been recorded before, at least not in this particular place. They make the whole work into a completely different opera, nothing at all like anything else that we have on our shelves. And, besides, the heliotrope spine will look so good just to the right of the 15th Janet Baker recording...

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    Quote Originally Posted by gvn View Post
    I think people have 3 main reasons for cutting the aria:

    1. Some people choose to perform the original Italian version of the opera. The aria wasn't in that version.

    2. Other people choose to perform Gluck's revised French version or Berlioz's version, but their star can't manage the intricate fioriture of this particular aria comfortably, so they simply cut it.



    There's a close parallel with Rossini's Barber of Seville. It has a big elaborate tenor aria near the end ("Cessa di più resistere"). But very few tenors can manage the coloratura, so in practice it's usually cut. (In the Gluck opera also, tenors are more likely to dodge the aria than mezzos, because they're less likely to be able to cope with it.)

    I suspect, if we had a full list of cuts in standard operas, we'd discover that just about every aria has been cut by someone or other. Reportedly when Jean de Reszke sang Aida, he used to omit "Celeste Aida." One of the worst cases in recent decades was Benjamin Britten's production of Idomeneo, which omitted the title character's big aria altogether because the role was sung by Peter Pears, who was vocally unsuited to it in every possible respect. This is kind of like omitting "Nessun dorma" from Turandot, or the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah.

    3. But there's also a third reason: some conductors & directors omit this Gluck aria because they consider that it's dramatically inappropriate and that the opera works better without it.

    In practice, many conductors don't strictly follow one version anyway. They take some items from version A and some from version B, and construct their own patchwork. (The Solti/Marilyn Horne recording of Gluck's Orfeo is a particularly striking example of this.)

    This leads me to ask another question: Has the Berlioz version of Orphée EVER been recorded complete and unaltered in its original French? It certainly hadn't been 20 years ago.
    I don't remember seeing a post by you before but you beautifully answered my question. THANK YOU!

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    There are a number of arias and duets that are usually cut in performance. There's a duet for Zerlina and Leporello from Don Giovanni that I've never seen performed as part of the opera. I think this is because Mozart wrote some new music for the Vienna version of the opera and the performing version regularly performed today is a hybrid between the Prague and Vienna versions (with the best of the alternate arias from each). There's also a duet from act one of Cosi for Ferrando and Guglielmo that I've never seen performed either.

    This often happens when there are different versions of a piece due to a composer reworking sections (hence the whole of the first act being cut in the four act version of Don Carlo).

    N.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gvn View Post

    This leads me to ask another question: Has the Berlioz version of Orphée EVER been recorded complete and unaltered in its original French? It certainly hadn't been 20 years ago.

    Yes, there is a complete recording of the Berlioz version of Orphée, and it's a live stage performance. I think it took place in Paris. Magdalena Kozena (Orphée), Madeline Bender (Eurydice), and Patricia Petibon (Amour). It took place in the late 1990's or early 2000s, and has been released on DVD.

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    Quote Originally Posted by a77 View Post
    Yes, there is a complete recording of the Berlioz version of Orphée, and it's a live stage performance. I think it took place in Paris. Magdalena Kozena (Orphée), Madeline Bender (Eurydice), and Patricia Petibon (Amour). It took place in the late 1990's or early 2000s, and has been released on DVD.
    Oh, well done! Even this doesn't seem to be quite the complete animal--according to Richard Lawrence in Gramophone, "the purchaser... is getting neither pure Gluck nor pure Gluck/Berlioz." But it's manifestly a lot closer than anything else I've encountered.

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