Va, va, l’error mio palesa! — Breeches contest round III

For the third round I chose an aria from Mitridate, Rè di Ponto, by W.A. Mozart. Farnace is angry with Ismene, who wants to give him away to his father. It is an early work of Mozart, I think he wrote it when he was fourteen.

The aria got this wonderful cheek and primal rage of a just-so-adult, the slightest bit of cherubino, but turned sour and taken to the next level. You can totally imagine a 14year-old saying “So what next… You are going to tell my dad? Won’t let you get away with it.” I picked three exemplaric renditions, more or less at random.

I will adapt my categories a bit to the ones used by definitely the opera *wave

timbre — tempo — oddball factor — hotness — did they get the point?  — cadenza

Anne Gjevang

Concentus Musicus Wien,  Nikolaus Harnoncourt — movie by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (1986)

timbre — a very dark, homogenous voice, almost without a noticeable switching of registers. Perhaps it lacks the last sharp edge I think necessary for a Farnace, but the “va” at about 1:10 reconciles me with the rest.

tempo — very slow — I actually think this is one aria where it is really hard to even try to determine a “proper” tempo, as the aria can be sung in many ways, depending on how the singer/director likes to picture the character.

oddball factor — Hilarious, hilarious. Gjevang is having a great time I guess, she obviously enjoys singing a breeches role for once. Her hairdo adds another point for sheer outrageousness.

hotness — Optically — well, hmm, not really. Vocally and the way she acts — hot.

did they get the point?  — Yes. A very sexy,  very conscious Farnace, very sexually aggressive. All the coloraturas are turned to into something meaningful.

cadenza — The cadenza enhances the soft, half flirtatious, half threatening motive, it fits well.

sum-up: a unique way to sing the aria, Harnoncourt could be a bit more  brave, imho.

Jochen Kowalski

CD by Berlin Classics, conductor Hartmut Haenchen

This is a recording available on CD, which in this case implies, it is produced, sometimes overproduced. I cannot find the CD at the moment, but I guess it is conducted by the unspeakable Hartmut Haenchen. I normally don’t bitch, but he manages to turn everything in a smooth sauce, which makes low-budget operetta recordings a pleasure to listen to in comparison — I don’t like him.

timbre — Kowalski’s vocal range is almost perfect for the aria. He does surprisingly well, though the d’ is exactly his weak spot imho, he would have a better time if they had chosen not to record the piece in 440Hz temper. So he constantly tries to get it either from bottom or top, endless quarrel ensuing if his falsetto or chest voice gets the better of it. ( I just know that whatever term I chose, endless discussions will follow about registers, falsetto, chest voice, passagio … but just to give it a name). Also his attempt to add drama — in parts, maybe, to set something against Haenchen’s boring directing — makes the voice sometimes appear a bit hoarse.

tempo — hmpf… alright; but utterly boring.

oddball factor — This is a studio recording; Still, when he tries to be too dramatic — e.g., at the second “va, va, at 45 sec roundish or at the B part, “Quando sì lieve offesa…” his accents turn into something that can only described by the term “in-your-face-gay.”

hotness — no.

did they get the point?  — Yes. But then, at the cadenza I get my doubt about it. A  menacing Farnace, but lacks a bit of the sexiness the role usually has.

cadenza — Beautiful … Still, it remains a mystery to me what he wanted to tell us with it in that particular  aria. … And the trill at the finally “ti costerà” with the i.y.f.g (see above) accent is RIGHT OUT.

sum-up: Nice, could have done a lot better with small means, which is a pity. I like Kowalski a lot, I have seen him live, and the recording doesn’t do him justice.

La Kasarova

Sir Roger Norrington/ Camerata Salzburg
From the 1997 Salzburg Summer Festival

(CD released by Orfeo)

timbre — The aria is a bit low for her, but she does well — of course! Her voice is unique, and has the certain metal in it that is perfect for a Farnace, her changes of register are more audible than Gjevang’s, but this is one thing that makes her voice so special.

tempo — Very fast, also interesting.

hotness — Kasarova is hot by definition.

did they get the point? –– definitely. The butchest Farnace of the three.

cadenza — Enhances the whole attitude of the aria,  fitting perfectly.

sum-up — The recording I like best in total, especially the extremely sexy B-part that starts almost in a husky voice.


La Kasarova wins the round– of course, no big surprise there ^^

Mitridate, Re di Ponto, Act II

(libretto by Vittorio Amedeo Cigna-Santi)

Va, va, l’error mio palesa,
e la mia pena affretta,
ma forse la vendetta,
cara ti costerà.

Quando sì lieve offesa
Punita in me vedrai,
Te stessa accuserai
Di troppa crudeltà.

Go, go, and reveil my fault,
and make my punishment come quicker,
but maybe this revenge
will dearly cost you.

When you see me punished
for such a minor offence
you will accuse yourself
of excessive cruelty.


2 thoughts on “Va, va, l’error mio palesa! — Breeches contest round III

  1. Well, well, well… Too bad the video isn’t live, and the only live performance is the audio. But one must work with what one can find. (Your penchant for lesser known works is laudable! I never heard anything from Mitridate before)

    La Gjevang in the Ponnelle clip: first off, I love the costumes. They’ve been filmed in 1986 so that they are still dazzling speaks a lot (it was a treacherous decade, fashion- and hair-wise) However. I don’t see the chemistry at all between the two, but a lot of archness and exaggeration. If you didn’t provide the context, I’d guess it’s a mother, dressed in her riding gear I suppose, scolding a daughter over something. It didn’t help that Gjevang’s hairdo is exactly what a number of my aunts wore… hell, still wear. On the plus side, her contralto-ish colour is appealing; on the minus side, she sometimes sounds like she is running out of breath and it’s getting tight. Hmm…. Don’t know.

    Kasarova’s voice is good, and I prefer the quicker tempo. She is not much of an actress, though (I risk my life saying this… Purity? I hope you’re not reading this), so it’s perhaps better not to watch her sing this role. But who knows, maybe she was spectacular.

    So: I am registering my vote for Kas. (And I have to go out and vote in the municipal election today, which I’ve been postponing. It’s between the Bad and the Worse kind of mayoral election this year.)

  2. You don’t know Mitridate??? AAAAA!

    Yes. Gjevang could as well be a naughty governess of sorts. Scary thought….

    The other two arias of Farnace are (here a nice staging with Bejun Metha as Farnace): “Venga pur” (May he come,…)
    ***I tried my best with the translations, though don’t nail me down on it, I would have to check with an Italian first if I got it completely right.***

    Venga pur, minacci e frema
    l’implacabil genitore,
    al suo sdegno , al suo furore
    questo cor non cederà.

    Roma in me rispetti e tema
    men feroce e men severo,
    o più barbaro, o più fiero
    l’ira sua mi renderà.

    May he come, may he threaten me, and tease me,
    the inconsolable father
    To his contempt, and his fury,
    This heart will not bow.

    (now it is getting complicated, two theories how the lines are meant:)
    He should learn to respect, and fear Rome in me
    (either he will be) less savage and less strict,
    or all the more brutal, and more fierce
    His anger will render me.

    or b)
    He should learn to respect, and fear Rome in me
    Either less savage and less strict,
    or all the more brutal, and more fierce
    His anger will render me.

    …and “Già dagli occhi il velo è tolto” (Now from my eyes the veil is taken)
    Metha sings it almost perfectly, I think. I may be biased, as the “Già dagli occhi” is one of my favourite Mozart arias of all times. In it, the “villain” — I do have a soft spot for villains, I have to admit — realizes the impact of what his actions brought about, and decides he just won’t continue that way. A converted villain, nevertheless, not broken, but making a conscious decision for “la ragione in me ritorni” — that he may come to his senses again.

    Già dagli occhi il velo e tolto:
    vili affetti, io v’abbandono.
    Son pentito e non ascolto
    che i latrati del mio cor!

    Tempo è omai che al primo impero
    la raggione in me ritorni.
    Gia ricalco il bel sentiero
    della gloria e del onor!

    Already from my eyes the veil is taken;
    Evil affections, I abandon you.
    I repent, and won’t listen
    to the cries of my heart.

    Now is the time that reason
    returned to me and takes the lead again.
    I already take the beautiful path
    of glory and honor again.

    And, there is another role originally written for a castrato in Mitridate — Sifare, Farnace’s brother.

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