Handel, George Friederic: Partenope
Act 1: Aria, “Io seguo quell fiero” (Rosmira)
Aria Talk •
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.
If you’re a mezzo with a really substantial lower-middle, or, rarity of rarities, a true contralto, you may not feel comfortable in the upper reaches of, say, “Parto” or “Non più mesta.” In that case, get to know Handelian coloratura, with which Partenope’s Rosmira is a fabulous way to begin.
You may be familiar with Bradamante in the same composer’s Alcina — Rosmira is quite similar. She’s a noble, resourceful woman who has searched for and finally found her betrothed dallying with the glamorous Queen Partenope (ruler of what is now Naples). She disguises herself as a young man and proceeds to ingratiate herself with her rival to teach her man a lesson. On paper the plot of Partenope makes for fairly complicated reading (it’s crystal-clear when you see it onstage), so I’ll say only that in her aria Rosmira, in her quest to have revenge on her betrothed Arsace, likens herself to a follower of Diana the Huntress, going after her prey in the forest. You need to be able to execute accurate arpeggios and fairly wide leaps at quite a clip. Above all, however, the aria’s fierceness emerges through aggressive, driving, almost martial coloratura; with the rhythmic drive that you bring to it, you can create an utterly exhilarating effect on your audience.
Score: King’s Music
Recording: Helga Müller-Molinari in complete performance, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi GD77109
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