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Subject: Il Grande Inquisitor (was Re: Giulio Neri)
From: "Max D. Winter" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Max D. Winter
Date:Thu, 27 Oct 2016 14:47:27 -0400

text/plain (45 lines)

Bob Rideout wrote:

"The "why not" is pure speculation, but Filippo is a highish role with a
couple of real "busters" like "dunque il trono dovra sempre all'altare!"
and Neri had a very low placed, short topped voice, ideally placed, in
fact, for the Inquisitor."

Well, the Inquisitor is in fact a killer role in terms of high tessitura for a bass, all the more 
so because the singer has very little time to warm up.  In fact, several of the Inquisitor's 
phrases are at least as difficult, IMO much more so, for a bass than Filippo's "Dunque il 
trono:"  the passage beginning, "Ed io, l'Inquisitor," which demands powerful, sustained 
singing in the top register climaxing on a high F on "tranquilLI lascio andar;" and the equally 
difficult passage beginning at, "O Re, se non foss'io con te," which again leads to a high F 
after many measures of very high tessitura sung at top volume.  The part contains 
numerous high Ds and E-flats.  It also requires a "black" quality in terms of bass sound (I 
refer to vocal color, not race), that the role of Filippo does not.  Talvela and Gottlob Frick 
were supreme in that regard. 

I certainly would agree that the role of Filippo makes huge demands upon a bass and is 
more difficult to sing over an entire evening.  But minute for minute, the Inquisitor is as 
brutal a role, vocally, as any in the bass repertoire, not least because of its tessitura.  In 
fact, more than tessitura and high notes, I think what sets Filippo apart from the Inquisitor, 
in terms of vocal demands, is the sustained legato singing the former requires.  The bass 
singing the Inquisitor can make quite an effect just punching out the notes con forza 
(although real legato makes the "ritorna al tuo dover" passage really creepy).  Punching out 
the notes just won't do for Filippo, who needs a more cantante quality. 

Incidentally, I agree with those who find the Filippo-Inquisitor scene one of the greatest 
Verdi ever wrote, and one of the greatest single scenes in all opera.  There really is nothing 
else like it anywhere in any opera by any composer.    


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