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Subject: Re: Henri in Les Vêpres Siciliennes
From: Geoffrey Riggs <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Geoffrey Riggs <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Thu, 1 Jun 2017 13:38:59 -0400

text/plain (69 lines)

On Tue, 30 May 2017 13:03:34 -0400, Michael Lee-Kapsalis
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>Hi everyone, I just wanted to ask if anyone has any idea what part of Henri
in Verdi's Les 
>VÍpres Siciliennes they think might be tricky to sing for a tenor? Maybe
the Act 5 trio? The act 
>3 Finale? The act 1 duet? The act 5 "La brise souffle"? Besides the act 4
aria, does anyone 
>have any input as to what part of the role might be out of a tenors comfort
zone?  Many 
>thanks for any and all input! Kisses from Greece! --Michael


[G.R.] The short answer might be -- all of it's tricky! :-)

Seriously, though, the more one drills down into the Verdi canon, the more
evident it becomes that a strong argument could be made that the three
toughest tenor roles in Verdi are (chronologically) Henri in Vepres, Alvaro
in the original (Tamberlick) Forza and the Verdi Otello.  Of those three,
while Otello obviously requires unremitting intensity and strength, the more
varied requirements in Vepres, from bel canto suppleness and an easy
extension on top to heroic declamation, likely make that the trickier
"sing". -- And yes, an even trickier "sing" than the original Forza.

The three sequences that, together, arguably make Henri the most demanding
tenor role in Verdi are the opening aria in the fourth act ("Giorno di
pianto" in the Italian version), with its heavy declamation and high
tessitura, the "La brise soufle", with its highly contrasted lyricism at the
other end of the spectrum but still with the very high tessitura and even a
trill thrown in for good measure(!), and the last-act trio, with the
heaviest declamation of all.

One might argue that the other individual sequences in this role are not, in
a vacuum, individually as unremittingly arduous as, say, much of Otello or
the original Alvaro.  What makes them still extremely tricky, though, is the
degree to which they are placed, cheek by jowl, alongside other sequences
that seem, on their face, to require two or three entirely different sortS
of tenors rather than a single type.  The three sequences I spotlight above
merely amp up those extreme contrasts to an extent unparalleled throughout
Verdi's extensive writing for the tenor voice.

Finally, lest there be any doubt that some of the trickiest vocal writing
here, even regardless of context and contrasts, remains intrinsically
demanding on its own terms, let's not forget that "Giorno di pianto" has
sometimes been cut or replaced with something else during the course of
Vepres's spotty performing history.  It has felled more than one tenor voice
in its staggering combo of heroic declamation and high tessitura.  The words
"Don't try this at home" suggest themselves!


Geoffrey Riggs

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