Gilbert & Sullivan:
Princess Ida, Act 2: “Minerva!…Oh, goddess wise” (Ida) and
The Yeomen of the Guard, Act 1: Monologue, “’Tis done, I am a bride” (Elsie)
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.
Most G&S heroines demand considerable vocal resources. Those hearing you will more often than not welcome G&S, so why not offer Ida or Elsie for your English aria? Elsie calls for a vocal weight suited to, say, Adina, where Ida needs closer to a Donna Anna. These arias are certainly the most stirring and moving for soprano in all of G&S. Ida has refused to marry Prince Hilarion, to whom she was betrothed in infancy. Having founded a women’s college at Castle Adamant, she has shut herself up there with her fellow virgins as her students. Before the young women, she makes her first entrance with a prayer to Minerva, asking for guidance in leading her charges to knowledge. In Yeomen, Elsie Maynard is half of an itinerant duo of entertainers. Her partner, Jack Point, longs to marry her someday. With the understanding that a sum of money will be their reward, Elsie agrees to a one-hour marriage to a condemned man in the Tower of London.
Elise’s soliloquy is sung in the Tower, immediately after the wedding ceremony. She is horrified and deeply saddened at her thought that the brave prisoner she has just married is about to die. Ida’s very first phrase needs perfect control for a soft, sustained high G. Her short recitative moves into a long-lined legato solo needing enormous breadth of sound, genuine thrust in the middle and a mingling of vocal warmth and steel as she proceeds toward the final, magnificent ascent to high B-flat. The expression is contained yet passionate, as if Ida were lit with an inner flame. Elsie expresses her agitation in an anguished recitative, followed by an aria that, while urgent and vigorous in character, also communicates an immensely touching despair. As with Ida, this number is centered very much in the middle until the climax — a B-flat needing all the bloom and shine the singer can muster.
Publisher: Kalmus (Ida), Schirmer (Yeomen)
Recording: Julie Wright in complete recording (Ida, Newport Classics #85675);
Alwyn Mellor in complete recording (Yeomen, Telarc #80404)
Length: 2:30 (Ida); 3:25 (Yeomen)
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