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Subject: Re: ungrateful roles
From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 10 Dec 2016 07:20:00 +0000
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I agree about Preziosila. It's a lousy role and a very stupid one, in my opinion. She glorifies war, has absolutely no depth, and has to sing two difficult but very cheesy sounding arias ---------- especially that "Ratiplan". She's just "there" and her presence adds virtually nothing to the opera. I have a hard time trying to understand why such great mezzos as Stignani, Siminato, Barbieri, Cossotto, Verrett, ever bothered singing it. 
Don Ottavio is a different matter, I think. The role is one dimensional, and rather short. He's got two gorgeous arias to sing, and woe betide the tenor who doesn't sing them well because they are so incredibly difficult, even they never go above an A on top of the stave. I wouldn't call it an "ungrateful role" because a tenore di grazia can make a tremendous impression in it. Don Giovanni is an opera that is essentially an ensemble piece, save, of course, for the leading baritone in the title role. But each and every other singer gets a tremendous chance to show off their wares. I've read critics say that both Donnas Anna and Elvira are very difficult roles, which they are, but are they worth taking the trouble to undertake? The final part of "Non mi dir" is a torture chamber for a soprano, what with all those cadenzas and florid passages (the only aria I ever heard Nilsson undertake where she fell short due to her lack of ability in florid music ------ though her "Or sai" in Act I was excellent. Elvira's opening aria is fierce and difficult, but her "di tradi" (also tough) was omitted for many years. Zerlina is a cipher and it's a pity that poor Roberta Peters got stuck with it for so many performances in the 1950s and 1960s. Leporello has his great aria, but little beyond that, and poor Massetto gets really shortchanged. Don Ottavio's two arias are showpieces (especially "Il mio tesoro" and her makes a great contribution to the Masked Trio. 
In "Falstaff", it's the title role that garners the attention. The ladies throw in a line here and there in their scenes together, but it seems that only Alice gets the opportunity to sing a full and large B flat ------- and it's over in a flash. The Nanetta and Fenton pieces are really "ariettas" surrounded by the canons and ensemble work. 
No real large scale singing anywhere at all. Nevertheless, a masterpiece of an opera. 
Sparafucile's sister Madelena is only present during the final act, and HER role is no great shakes either. Verdi could certainly given her something more substantial. 
Forget Puccini and mezzo sopranos. The pickings are scant indeed, save for the role of the bitter Princess in "Suor Angelica". It's a commanding role, an imperious one, but hardly "grateful". Fedora Barbieri did this role well, as did Marilyn Horne (though I have no idea why). 
It seems on the surface that in the Italian repertoire, only Verdi took advantage of the importance of the mezzo soprano. He provided a home for heavy and big voiced mezzos ------ Amneris, Azucena ,Ulrica ,Eboli, it's too bad that the role of Ulrica is frequently undertaken by a house soprano. It's a short role, but a pivotal one, and it should always be cast with a front line mezzo. 
In Rossini, it's indeed a very different kind of mezzo that is needed, and those roles are far from "ungrateful". These are only my private thoughts and opinions. A great mezzo can o wonders with some of these roles. 

----- Original Message -----

From: "R PRADA" <[log in to unmask]> 
To: "OPERA-L" <[log in to unmask]> 
Sent: Friday, December 9, 2016 8:04:19 PM 
Subject: ungrateful roles 

I think Preziosila is considered ungrateful in the sense that she has a difficult entrance and the music does nothing to make her look good. 

Sparafucile’s sister is similarly under appreciated (whatshername) 

Flora in Traviata 

There are some secondary roles in the Mozart operas that seem like nothing - Barbarina, for instance. 

I think that Don Jose is very difficult and somehow never gets the goodies. 

Even the toreador is a lot of work and unless you have the vocal charisma is a Bob Merrill you simply cannot make it shine. 

It is also possible to bomb as Don Ottavio - and one reason is that the two arias were composed for different singers and we’re never supposed to be sung by the same person. 

Even Hoffman is not a grateful role and it is very hard to carry it off. Many fall before it. I hear Konya oversing his way into the shallows in BA. And I have seen Kraus on video emerge like prince, in his 70’s - table leaps an all and singing as only he could, with phrasing, intensity, expressivity… 

The courtesan, Antonia and even the doll can be blips - and really hard to sing. The doll -well you know what that is - but Antonia has that trio that is a killer. 

Come to think of it - both the comic tenor roles and the bass roles do not show how hard they are 

RP 

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