“Advanced” Opera Webinars
These lectures were originally given as part of a series
for Sue Walsh’s “CLASSI LECTURES”
Five Roles for a Verdi Tenor (new!)
Five Roles for a Verdi Baritone
Five Roles for a Verdi Tenor
Five Roles for a Verdi Baritone
1 – NABUCCO:
the Babylonian king
with two problem daughters
Verdi’s third opera and first success (1842) was written for the Milanese baritone Giorgio Ronconi, and exploited his unusual strength and power at the top of his range. The role requires an actor who can be convincing as an imperious military conqueror, a domestically conflicted father and a penitent religious convert.
2 – MACBETH:
the Scottish king
who murders his way to the top
Verdi’s tenth opera (1847) was commissioned by the Pergola theatre in Florence which was seeking a supernatural drama. Verdi accepted because the theatre had engaged a superstar French baritone, Felice Varesi, whose voice and acting ability were ideal for the title role. This was Verdi’s first operatic encounter with Shakespeare, although he had read him in print for many years. He would later go on to write an adaptation of “King Lear” (unfinished) and his final two great masterpieces “Otello” and “Falstaff”.
3 – RIGOLETTO: the cursed court jester and malicious pimp who unwittingly engineers the murder of his own precious daughter
The success of Felice Varesi in the title role at the Fenice Theatre in Venice, in 1851, propelled Verdi from Italian to pan-European fame. The music is in many passages revolutionary and formed the starting point for Verdi’s series of truly great masterpieces over the next decades. Verdi’s assessment of his source, Victor Hugo’s “Le roi s’amuse” was: “The subject is grand and immense, and there is a character that is one of the greatest creations that the theatre can boast of, in any country and in all history.” That character became the vocally and dramatically challenging title role of his 16th opera.
4 – GERMONT pere: the bourgeois upholder of conventional mid-19th century morality who comes to appreciate a courtesan’s inner nobility
“La traviata” immediately followed “Rigoletto” at La Fenice in 1852 and although not an initial success, has subsequently become the world’s most frequently performed opera. For many, the extended “father-daughter” duet between Violetta and Giorgio Germont, the father of her lover, Alfredo, is one of the greatest examples of psychologically insightful music in all opera. Germont pere must transition from a dismissive moralist – one primarily concerned with the morality of others – towards a more respectful, compassionate, empathetic, humanitarian level of understanding.
5 – RODRIGO, Marquis of POSA: perhaps Verdi’s most noble creation – a man of selfless friendship and fearless love of freedom
“Don Carlos”, the five-act French grand opera written for Paris in 1867, may be Verdi’s greatest operatic achievement. Within this, the complex role of Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa is one of his most outstanding creations. Based on Friedrich Schiller’s fictional character at the court of Philip II of Spain, the role embodies an incandescent belief in liberty, a fearless opposition to oppression and a profound loyalty to his friend, the heir to the throne. These qualities, tragically, make him a target for elimination by the Spanish Inquisition.