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Cherubini, Luigi: Medea
Act 2: Aria, “Solo un pianto” (Neris)

Roger Pines, Dramaturg, Lyric Opera of Chicago
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Original Content1/1/2009

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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If your tone is naturally weighty, and if you don’t need anything showy but instead want something rooted in classically beautiful sustained line, consider Neris’s glorious aria. It’s great that you have two choices of language: The Italian version may be slightly better known but by all means try the original French if you can find it (the aria’s title is “Ah! nos peines”).

Neris, Medea’s companion and confidante, has witnessed the sorceress’s outbursts of rage at her husband Jason’s betrayal. Banished from Corinth, Medea has just one more day with her children before she must bid them farewell forever. Neris knows that Medea will have no choice but to wander sadly from land to land, searching for peace but never finding it. The aria makes clear that Neris’s only wish is to share the grief and tears of Medea’s fate. This scene belongs to a mature, “centered” singer with a variety of artistic assets, most crucially steadiness of tone and eloquence in textual delivery. The lines are grandly scaled and meant to be delivered with immeasurable dignity, matched by an expression of the deepest concern. The slightest tremor in the flow of breath will sabotage the evenness of line that is your main vocal goal here. When heard with orchestra, the aria’s obbligato instrument is the melancholy bassoon (its prominence unexpected but wonderfully appropriate). Whether with orchestra or piano, the comparatively spare instrumental texture for most of this piece can leave the voice extraordinarily exposed. In that respect, the aria challenges all but the most rock-solid vocal technique.

Score: Italian available through Classical Vocal Reprints; check libraries for French version
Recording: (in Italian) Fedora Barbieri in complete opera, EMI Classics #67909; (in French) Magali Damonte in complete opera, Nuova Era #7253, or D’Anna Fortunato in complete opera, Newport Classics NPD/2
Timing: 6:00 (Note: This timing reflects cut of aria’s lengthy introduction)
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