Tippett, Sir Michael, The Midsummer Marriage
Act 1: Aria, “I don’t know who they really are” (Mark)
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.
I hope this buoyant, wide-ranging aria strikes you as a great find. The right voice for Mark is bright-timbred, a strong lyric but with hints of heroic quality — someone perhaps too imposing for, say, “Lonely House” or “Here I stand” (the first Mark, Richard Lewis, was an Idomeneo, Don José, Ghermann and Captain Vere).
Mark is awaiting his bride-to-be, Jenifer, in a woodsy clearing. The “Ancients” are an old couple who guard a ruined temple in the clearing. Mark begins his exuberant aria by confessing to his friends that he’s known the Ancients since he was a boy (he’s “an orphan of mysterious birth”), and that he has often come to this place. His thoughts turn to his beloved Jenifer — he wants to give the ring to her there in the woods. The morning is dancing in his heart and he’s the happiest of men because he’s in love.
He begins legato but over a lively, almost scampering accompaniment. On “For what can match the splendour of my pride when she appears before you,” he is suddenly strongly declarative (down to low B) before turning gloriously lyrical; the numerous ascending lines require that the tone remain manly but still sweet. Good flexibility is needed near the close. In context, the aria doesn’t really end but you can create an ending — at “I love” on the sustained middle C.
Recording: Richard Lewis in complete opera (1955 world premiere), Gala #GL 100.524, or Alberto Remedios in complete opera, Lyrita #SRCD2217
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