Today I started my own 30 day challenge to learn all the notes (every melisma and every word!) of the role of Arsace from Rossini’s opera sería masterpiece, “Semiramide”. I spiral bounded my old Kalmus score which I have owned for many years. The Ricordi critical edition is available, but I’m putting off getting it until all notes and cadenzas are off the page.
Many years ago I borrowed a long play vinyl of an Italian mezzo active in the 1930’s named Ebe Stignani. I managed to record it on a tape cassette and started listening. Side A was all light bel canto arias sung with great freshness and youthful tone. On side B Ms. Stignani transformed herself into a spinto/dramatic mezzo with arias from Samson et Delilah arias (sung in Italian of course), the letter aria from Werther as well as the meaty arias from Il Trovatore. On side A the aria “Ah quel giorno” from Rossini’s Semiramide caught my attention. I ordered the whole score (only way for me to excerpt this aria back then) and learned it pretty much by ear. I surprised my teacher Richard Torigi a bit when I brought it in, and he even said it wasn’t half bad…and so this aria sung by the character of Arsace became my first stab ever at music by who was to become my favorite composer, Gioachino Rossini.
The next recording of this aria I started listening to was in one of Marilyn Horne’s Decca London recital albums. The aria became a sort of vocalise for me before auditions and concert; I never sang it in public until last year actually, at a couple of auditions. The duet with the character of Semiramide “Serbami ognor” I also started performing it publicly just this past year as part of concert called “Amor en Travesti”, with soprano Gloria Londoño at the Auditorio Nacional de España in Madrid.
One of my operatic idols (flawed, human but divine nonetheless) is Italian mezzo Lucia Valentini-Terrani. I love her live and emotionally connected rendition of the aria on YouTube. The beginning recitative section of Arsace’s first aria is also stunning.
More on Arsace tomorrow!