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Handel, George Frideric: Orlando
Act 1: Aria, “Lascia Amore e siegui Marte!” (Zoroastro)
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.
When it comes to Handel in Italian, both baritones and basses in auditions these days generally take on Argante’s fearsomely difficult “Sibillar” from Rinaldo. That piece is basically baritone territory, whereas the tessitura of Zoroastro’s first aria from Orlandodefinitely belongs to the bass. If you have enough flexibility to manage it, expect to have a whale of a time with it.
When we first see the magician Zoroastro, he’s observing the constellations, which reveal a message: the knight Orlando will someday be capable once again of glorious deeds. Orlando himself is torn between the pursuit of glory and the joys of love. This so irks Zoroastro that he transforms a faraway mountain into the palace of Cupid, at whose feet heroes of antiquity lie fast asleep. After making clear that this is how dangerous love can be to a true hero, Zoroastro exhorts Orlando, “Leave Love and follow Mars! Go to combat for glory. Love will bring you only oblivion, but Mars will bring you a beautiful memory.”
Musically this is upbeat, even jaunty, and loaded with florid passages — resist the temptation to put out your full vocal weight. At the same time, though, real self-importance needs to come through in your vocalism. You’ll need a fine bite for the repetitions of “Combatti, combatti, va!” plus the ability to crescendo within coloratura lines. You can exhibit the full compass of your low range should you interpolate a plunge to low D (D-flat if you’re performing at Baroque pitch!) at the end of the B section. Of course, you can also challenge your creativity in whatever ornaments you choose to add to the da capo.
Recording: Harry van der Kamp in complete recording, Erato #14636
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