There are a few instances where singers can really use this vibrato-as-litmus-test phenomenon. The examples are likely endless, but we've narrowed down a few sections from beloved arias, where attention to vibrato can keep the singing easy, and the singer honest.
Ah, Don Ottavio. Is he the lame duck of Don Giovanni, or is he the quiet hero that doesn't get a lot of high notes? Whatever your opinions on the useless/heartfelt role of Ottavio, you can't deny that his arias are difficult, and often thankless. "Dalla sua pace" is an introductory piece to Ottavio's character; we get that he's sympathetic to Donna Anna's emotional highs and lows, and we know we'll never meet a more dedicated man when it comes to love.
We're continuing our Song Guides series with another guest post by mezzo-soprano and founding member of the art song initiative Lynx Project, Megan Moore. Schumann's "Widmung" is one of many songs Robert Schumann wrote for his wife, Clara. That's the fun part, and to get there, singers need to master things like singing legato in German, and pulling off a successful two-against-three.
For good reason, Don Giovanni is one of the most coveted baritone roles in opera. His aria, "Deh vieni alla finestra," is an incredible scene, a picture of Don Juan in action, unencumbered by angry exes or jealous fiancés. He's serenading a nameless woman (Elvira's maid, technically), in that truly Spanish style, with a guitar outside her window.
We've gotten great feedback from our ongoing series of Aria Guides, and so we've decided to branch out, into the world of art song. Soprano Caitleen Kahn, co-founder of the art-song-friendly Lynx Project, kicks off our Song Guides with a staple from the repertoire. "Die Nacht" is a song taken from Richard Strauss's 1885 set, 8 Gedichte aus "Letzte Blätter", in which you'll find other favourites like "Zueignung" and "Allerseelen".
Figaro's final aria in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro is one that separates the men from the boys. It's endlessly interesting for dramaturgs, since Figaro breaks the so-called "fourth wall" and addresses the audience directly for the first time the show. He's fed up with women and their shenanigans, and it's one of rare times we really see him lose his cool. Musically, it's all about stamina.
For our next instalment of Aria Guides, we're sticking with the tried and true pick of divas around the world, "Quando me'n vo" from Puccini's La bohème. It's got everything you really want in an aria: girl tries to make her ex-boyfriend jealous, and she does it by singing sexy lines and shimmering high notes.
Tenors, we haven't forgotten about you. Continuing our series of Aria Guides, we're focusing on Nemorino's very lovely, very popular aria from L'elisir d'amore, "Una furtiva lagrima". It's one of those arias that can show a lot, and if you sing it well, it's great for auditions and crowd-pleasing concerts alike. It's not a easy feat to pull off this bel canto staple, but here are a few tips meant to help.
On top of the fun of singer-pianist telepathy, I've gotten pretty good at the game of guessing which are the auditioners will ask for. In most auditions, opera singers present a list of about 4-6 arias; they choose which they want to start with, and after that the panel selects a second choice. The goal is for the singer to start with something they do very, very well, and for the auditioners to learn as much about that singer as possible in a two-aria span.
For the next in our series of Aria Guides, we're nodding to all the mezzos (and a few sopranos) with "Una voce poco fa" from Il barbiere di Siviglia. This is a cornerstone aria for many young mezzos, and one of the few chances they have to show off coloratura and play a girl. It's also an aria full of options. Ornamentation, cadenzas, high or low keys; there's no "right way" to sing rep like this.