Six musical highlights of Festival 2022
Great musical moments from the operas that are coming to the Festival in 2022
The Overture has a surging power, introducing us to all the motifs that will take on fuller meaning and associations later on in The Wreckers.
More moments to listen out for: The orchestral writing throughout is strong, and the prelude to Act II ‘On the Cliffs of Cornwall’ paints a portrait of the sea in a different mood, as does the cave music of Act III. All strikingly atmospheric and recognisably part of the same English tradition as Peter Grimes.
Le nozze di Figaro
Anchoring the knock-about comedy and quick-fire farce of Le nozze di Figaro is some of Mozart’s most emotive and heartfelt music, and no moment is more heartbreakingly raw than the Countess’s Act III aria ‘Dove Sono’, performed in the video above by Sally Matthews.
Looking back on the tenderness and affection of her early married life, the Countess wonders where all the love went, and despairs of ever regaining that happiness. A stormy, minor key might have been the obvious choice to express the sorrow of this scorned wife, but Mozart instead chooses sunny C major – a key whose simplicity and innocent optimism cuts cruelly against the speaker’s doubts, giving a sense of smiling through tears. A solo oboe offers a plangent echo and support to the Countess’s long vocal lines, whose serene surface and melodic dignity conceals a tempest of unspoken emotion.
Rodolfo’s Act I aria ‘Che gelida manina’ is one of the most famous love-declarations of all opera – a classic, but unconventional in its three-part structure. While he and Mimi ‘search’ for her lost key, the music has wandered harmonically, but now as their hands touch for the first time it finds its home. The aria’s first section, almost recitative in its simplicity, sets the scene – moonlight, they are alone – as harp and flute add a shimmering glow to the string accompaniment. The second section becomes musically more ardent and daring, as Rodolfo explains the life and philosophy of the bohemians (‘Chi son? Sono un poeta’). The third section ‘Talor dal mio forziere’ is the real meat of the love-music as Rodolfo finally declares himself and we hear the opera’s most recognisable love-theme in the violins and voice rising to the famous top C.
Alcina’s aria ‘Ah! Mio Cor’ is a pivotal moment in the opera. Understanding that she has been deceived and betrayed by her beloved Ruggiero, Alcina goes from all-powerful witch to vulnerable woman.
A pulsing rhythm in the strings suggest a heartbeat, over which Alcina’s melody line feels almost like a wail – there’s an ululating quality to it that belies the rhythmic order and control. In the central section, this breaks out into musical ferocity as grief turns to vengeance and rage.
In Act III, Norina emerges into the garden, summoned by Ernesto’s serenade, and they come together to sing the love-duet ‘Tornami a dir che m’ami’.
A lulling nocturne, it sees the young lovers moving in swooning parallel 3rds while the woodwind coos in 6ths – totally in sync musically, as in their emotions. The music is tender rather than sensual, a musical picture of perfectly harmonious and truthful emotion at the heart of a comedy of deception and conflict.
Poulenc Double Bill
Thérèse and her husband thrash out the terms of their reunion. In music that’s by turns rapturous, light-footed and ironic and Broadway-glitzy, the people of Zanzibar come together to proclaim the opera’s credo of repopulation: ‘Heed the lessons of the war and make babies!’ In its quick shifts of mood and style, the finale sums up the topsy-turvy, always wrong-footing-you charms and ebullience of this opera.