Donizetti, Gaetano: Lucia di Lammermoor
Act 2: Cavatina and Cabaletta, “Ah! cedi, cedi, o più sciagure…Al ben de’ tuoi, qual vittima” (Raimondo)
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.
You may be longing to tackle a big aria/cabaletta scene from the bel canto repertoire, but are you worried that it may be too long for an audition? In that case, Donizetti’s Raimondo may be made to order. Neither the recitative, the bridge between cavatina and cabaletta, nor the material between the cabaletta and its repetition is usable for an audition, simply because there are a bunch of interjections from Lucia that aren’t cuttable. That means your audition would include only the cavatina and one verse of the cabaletta — but you wind up with an audition piece that is ideal in length, while still enough music to show how well you handle bel canto style.
Raimondo is the classic operatic “grey eminence.” He’s Lucia’s tutor, but at the same time functions as a support to her brother, Enrico. Just before this aria is sung, nasty, ambitious Enrico has persuaded Lucia that her beloved Edgardo (his own mortal enemy) has been unfaithful, and that she must now marry the rich Arturo instead. Raimondo takes it upon himself to let Lucia know that he’d sent a letter of hers “by a safe hand” to Edgardo in France, but there was no reply. In his aria, Raimondo advises Lucia to do the right thing by marrying Arturo — not just for her brother’s sake, but because “otherwise your mother in her grave will shudder for you in horror.” In the cabaletta, he advises her to offer herself for her family as a victim and that heaven will reward her sacrifice.
What matters the most here is the deployment of a rich, warm, easily flowing basso cantante sound, used with unaffected expressiveness. Assuming your breath control is solid, the cavatina’s legato is entirely manageable. Rhythmic energy is vital to the cabaletta, but again, nothing at all outrageous, just a lightness and even a slight bounce in the phrasing. The range in both cavatina and cabaletta should be no problem. Altogether this is an enjoyable and, at the same time, an entirely sensible choice as a young bass’s first venture into Donizetti.
Recording: Justino Diaz in complete recording, DG #2GWM2471250; Alastair Miles in complete recording, Sony Classics #S2K63174
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