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Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich: Charodeika (The Enchantress or The Sorceress)
Act 4: Aria, “Gde zhe ty, moj zjelannyj?” (Kuma)

Roger Pines, Dramaturg, Lyric Opera of Chicago
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Aria Talk2/1/2006

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 you know you only have, say, five or six minutes for your audition and you want to do two arias, the first one in particular really needs to turn up the voltage within your necessarily brief running time. Kuma’s aria from The Enchantress is just the ticket: it’s one of Tchaikovsky’s genuine showstoppers, a great opportunity for any spinto with presentable Russian and a luscious warmth through the whole range.

Nastas’ya (a.k.a. Kuma — it means “everybody’s girl-friend,” says the New Grove) is a charming widow who is also the proprietress of an inn. The goings-on there are frowned upon by the deacon Mamirov, who suspects Kuma of being a witch. Eager to see her inn shut down, he tells Prince Kurlyatev about her. When the Prince meets Kuma, however, he falls in love with her. Kuma, on the other hand, is interested romantically in his son Yuri, and he in her. When Yuri learns of his father’s feelings for Kuma and his mother’s violent jealousy, he decides to kill Kuma. She succeeds in rejecting the Prince’s attentions, while also assuaging the feelings of her beloved Yuri. Her aria finds her awaiting his arrival and beside herself with impatience to see him. Calling the absent Yuri “my bright falcon,” she urges him to hurry to her so they can then run away together to some far-off realm.

Don’t take this on unless you’re prepared to go all-out in conveying the woman’s overwhelming longing; the emotional throb that is uniquely Tchaikovsky’s own is obvious everywhere. Many phrases have a glorious arch to them, but while a secure top is essential, a fair portion of the aria sits in the lower-middle so a fine fullness of tone is needed there, too. Kuma latches onto her climactic high B from a fifth below, so you’d better be a singer who likes jumps! And your work isn’t over after sustaining that thrilling B — you also need to do justice to the aria’s surprisingly quiet, exquisitely soulful final phrases.

Score: Moscow Music
Recording: Olga Guryakova in aria recital, Delos #3273; Galina Gorchakova in aria recital, Philips #446 405-2; Natalia Sokolova in complete opera, Preiser #90503
Timing: 2:38
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