Search the Archive
Top 10 Related Articles by Date Published
Massenet, Jules: Don Quichotte
Act 1: Recitative and Aria, “Les femmes, Chevalier….Comment peut-on penser du bien” (Sancho)
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.
The famous characters created by Cervantes come to wonderful life in Massenet’s opera. Sancho’s aria is a treat for any baritone adept in comedy and in projecting crisp, vigorous French. A baritone specializing in buffo material can find much to choose from in the French operetta repertoire, but he has to work a bit harder to find French comic arias suitable for operatic auditions. Sancho is the right choice: there’s irresistible vitality here and the range is perfectly manageable.
Don Quichotte is infatuated with sultry Dulcinée. She asks the hapless old knight to recover a necklace stolen from her boudoir by a bandit. His obsessive, fruitless search begins to exasperate his long-suffering servant, Sancho Panza, who believes Dulcinée is actually mocking them both. In his rollicking aria, he insists that even the best of women are hussies, liars and gossips. They’ve been put on earth, he declares, as demons, meant to wreak havoc on the male sex. Whether a woman comes from Asia or America, whether she’s brunette or blonde, she’s a cat to the man’s mouse. Sancho concludes, “Man is a victim and every husband is a saint!”
The aria begins in an exceptionally jaunty manner and you can’t tread lightly enough as you bounce through the staccato phrases. You’ll have a great time with the repeated, boisterous “Ah! Ah! Ah!”s of laughter. As Sancho talks about perplexed and impatient husbands, you can present a quiet contrast with the rest of the aria. Sancho then returns to the bouncy theme of the opening, with an aggressive finish that demands your full vocal power.
Recording: complete performance with Alain Fondary (EMI Classics #7547672)
About the Author: