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Bass
Verdi, Giuseppe: Luisa Miller
Act 2: Recitative and Romanza, “Ah! Tutto m’arride…Il mio sangue, la vita darei” (Count Walter)

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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Basses auditioning with Verdi almost invariably go for Macbeth’s Banco, with Ernani’s Silva a distant second choice. Don’t neglect Count Walter’s big moment from Luisa Miller! It’s a marvelous piece, with an intense recitative preceding a romanza possessing more variety than those other two pieces, along with quite an extensive range. Your innate dignity as this powerful but frustrated aristocrat can make a strong impression, provided your voice can also fill out these large-scale phrases.

The Count’s son, Rodolfo, has disguised himself as a huntsman, “Carlo,” in order to woo a lovely young villager, Luisa Miller. The girl’s father is pursued by one of the Count’s retainers, Wurm, who seeks permission to marry Luisa. When Miller refuses, Wurm reveals “Carlo”’s true identity and indicates that the young nobleman’s marriage to Luisa will prove impossible — indeed, the very idea may lead to disaster. Wurm lets the Count know of Rodolfo’s intention to marry Luisa. The Count has another bride in mind, the wealthy Duchess Federica. In his recitative, the Count laments the fact that everything seems to be smiling on him except for his difficulties regarding his son. He declares, “You don’t know what your happiness costs me!” In the aria, he expresses his distress at Rodolfo’s ingratitude in opposing his wishes; he finds no sweetness in his feelings of paternal affection — instead, it’s become a source of suffering.

The Count’s brief recitative establishes him as a troubled man, but an aura of significant position and importance must be communicated as well. In the romanza (which begins in dark, ominous E-flat minor before broadening into the major of the same key for the last two-thirds of the piece) maintains a quintessentially Verdian spaciousness, while also requiring impressive rhythmic vigor. The stepwise ascents to the top — initially to Eflat, then to F — and the final arpeggiated rise to G-flat offer a breadth and grandeur equaling anything for bass in all of Verdi.

Score: Ricordi
Recording: Tancredi Pasero in aria recital, Preiser #89074; Bonaldo Giaiotti in complete
opera, Decca #17420; Paul Plishka in highlights from the opera, Sony #53508
Timing: 4:20
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