Wolfram's aria is a pretty magical moment in Wagner's Tannhäuser. It's almost a stand-alone song within the opera, the minstrel having a musical soliloquy, and it feels much gentler, much more intimate than everything that has come before. Wolfram is singing to the evening star, thinking of Elizabeth and her sad love for Tannhäuser.
Verismo music is decidedly gorgeous, with long, sweeping lines and a thick orchestra. The musical style is a foundation for the film scores of today, and though the impression is powerful, the harmonic structure of many verismo scores is fairly simple; it adds to the audience accessibility, and makes for some beautiful tunes to hum as you leave the theatre.
One word of advice: if you spend the opera wondering how long it's going to be, that opera will certainly feel pretty long. Bring a bottle of water, accept that most operas are a bit longer than the average movie, and let yourself get sucked in.
It can be extremely humbling for a trained pianist to discover just how hard it is to stay with a conductor. It may seem unfair - shouldn't a conductor be a living, breathing version of a metronome, after all? In some cases, that's true; Philip Glass' music works well when a tempo is set and maintained, but we guarantee you wouldn't want to hear your Puccini at an unwavering 108 clicks a minute.
In a case like this, sometimes a slower tremolo yields better results on the piano. If you try for speed, it'll likely sound a bit drier, a bit more percussive; a slow tremolo lets you just sit in the sound that already exists, and your muscles will be relaxed enough to sustain it.
For our latest Aria Guide, we've picked an aria that has it all: it's beautiful, it's in English, and mezzos get to play Dido, an actual woman. In Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, "Dido's Lament" happens at the end of a simple and sad story: Aeneas, whom Dido loves and has agreed to marry, believes he has to leave her and go to Italy. As he goes, Dido dies from her grief.
Amid captured loved ones and Turkish harems, there's a tenor in love. Belmonte is off to resuce his abducted fiancée, Konstanze, but not without telling us how she makes his heart beat faster. For any tenor, this aria is a mountain of work; there's tricky coloratura, lines which hover through the passaggio, and making it to the end takes planning and stamina.
It's a deceptively simple aria, and the empty accompaniment, a singer can easily feel as though they're walking on eggshells. Along with help from your teachers and coaches, we can offer a few tips for keeping things simple, and creating the illusion of superhuman breath control.
Der Freischütz is an action-packed story about girls, guns, and selling one's soul to the devil. Caspar is a man who owes his soul to the devil, and when he sings "Schweig! damit dich Niemand warnt," he plans to substitute Max's soul instead of his own. Caspar's aria is a schizophrenic rambling of a desperate man, and Weber's score is packed with traps that cost you breath and beauty of sound, and it's an aria that takes patience and time with your teachers and coaches.
It's hard to describe why (acoustic physicists, please feel free to chime in here), but sometimes a singular note, played on the piano, can be hard to understand. It's not that the singer can't hear it, but the note lacks context.