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Thomas, Ambroise: Hamlet
Act 2: Recitative and Arioso, “Toi, partir!…Dans son regard plus sombre” (Gertrude)

Roger Pines, Dramaturg, Lyric Opera of Chicago
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Aria Talk1/1/2009

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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You may have an imposing instrument and a penchant for French repertoire, but you’re tired of bringing “Mon coeur” or “Amour viens aider” to every audition. If Dalila’s sensuality doesn’t come easily to you and you’re more comfortable communicating queenly dignity onstage, try Gertrude in Hamlet — a rewarding role in a work that opera companies have begun to rediscover. Prince Hamlet believes that his uncle Claudius has murdered his father, the King of Denmark. The widowed Queen Gertrude, who has married Claudius, sees such anxiety in her son, Prince Hamlet, that she worries he may be going mad. Ophélie loves Hamlet but his coldness towards her leads her to ask Gertrude for permission to leave court. Gertrude insists that Hamlet still loves her. In the ensuing arioso, the Queen unburdens herself to Ophélie: Hamlet’s strange behavior terrifies her and now, as a mother, she is begging Ophélie to stay. Gertrude’s only hope is that Ophélie’s devotion can cure Hamlet’s madness.

The dramatic recitative requires vigorous declamation. The arioso’s line is built on nearly constant leaps — sixths, sevenths, octaves — but a regal legato style must be mantained nevertheless. The aria can touch the listener’s heart in the Queen’s repeated plea, “Ne pars pas, Ophélie” (the soulfulness of this section will remind you of many similar phrases in Thomas’s Mignon). Although other portions of the role demand a more extended range, the arioso has an entirely manageable compass, middle C to high A-flat. A lovely piece, then, and of a good length for auditions.

Score: Classical Vocal Reprints, 800-298-7474
Recording: Denyce Graves in complete recording, EMI 754820; Laure Tessandra in highlights from the opera, Malibran #158
Timing: 3:00
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