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Subject: Re: Sexiest aria or classical song...
From: Niel Rishoi <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Niel Rishoi <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 14 Feb 2010 21:29:16 -0500

text/plain (54 lines)

I would nominate Zerbinetta's big scena as the sexiest, nay, most erotic
aria.  As far as I can tell, Zerbinetta is the first modern Material Girl in
opera, making no bone(r)s about enjoying the company of (multiple) men.
Strauss added all kinds of deft little touches to impart a sensual
eroticism - such as that trill on the word 'stirn' - and by how the
intervals leap all over the place, especially in the last quarter of the
piece.  The high E is her big "climax" - and the long trill in the final
bars of the aria proper is that long afterglow of contentment.  One of the
reasons, I think, for Edita Gruberova's fame in the role - besides the
untypical fullness of her tone and technical brilliance - is her
understanding of this factor; her Zerbinetta is a fully rounded, complex and
delightful persona.  To get the full measure of her, I would not recommend
either of her commercial recordings (Solti and Masur): both are recorded
much too prominently (her tone is hard), and in the Masur, there are pitch
problems.  The one to get is the Sanjust/Böhm film, now out on DVD.  Here
you get the complete package, the essential persona of both artist and

The other one I recommend is Reri Grist's charming account of the role in
the mid-sixties video from Salzburg; and the performance is highly
recommended for her, and as well, not least for Jurinac's peerless Composer.
There is also a little known recording of the scena by Ingeborg Hallstein,
in my opinion one of the most delightful exponents of the role: her voice,
though not large, has a flutey sweetness that's quite captivating, and she's
clearly got the cheeky smile in the voice.  Probably the two most
"note-perfect" recordings are by Roberta Peters and Arleen Auger.
Xylophone-efficient dispatch of the notes, Swiss-clock readings of the
music: probably the approach preferred by fastidious academics.  Auger in
particular takes no "playful" liberties with the music at all, and it makes
a very interesting account to use as a "study" version of the score. It was
not a role for her, though: she was too strict a musician to fiddle around
with unorthodox "character" touches.   Peters has more personality, and she
whizzes through the runs with machine-gun accuracy: very little portamenti,
lots of typical, rat-a-tat-tat coloratura h's (aitches) - this to me imparts
more of a determined, pert cutesiness rather than sly eroticism.  Among
current Zerbinettas, Dessay (in her two clips in her Miracle Une Voix DVD)
most recalls Peters, but more aggressively sexual.  Damrau is probably the
most hyperkinetic Zerbinetta ever.

Niel Rishoi

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