It’s been a while since I’ve written an “identity crisis” post, but as I’m starting to nail down arias for this fall’s audition season, the question of Fach is on my mind yet again. I’m coming more to terms with this every day/month/year, but it is still frustrating: I sit squarely between two Fachs! (Reminder for those not in the biz: Fach is the term used to describe someone’s vocal category. People love labels…)
I’m not quite a Lyric soprano, because my voice isn’t heavy enough to sing the big Lyric roles like Mimi or Marguerite. I also have an extension, meaning that I’m comfortable accessing notes above “high C” on a regular basis. Funny, but after a year of embracing my inner Lyric, my highest notes are coming back into focus again. I’m regularly warming up to an F# these days, and therefore that pesky E is getting more and more solid.
But I’m not a Coloratura soprano, because the color of my voice is warmer and rounder than one typically identifies with a “fireworks and bird calls” soprano.* I also am not comfortable with the pointalistic kind of coloratura, a la the Queen of the Night or Olympia, or even Lakme. But what’s one of my favorite arias to sing? Zerbinetta’s showstopper from Ariadne auf Naxos, widely considered to be “the” coloratura masterpiece. I just sang it again today after a few months away… what an incredible aria. It shows everything – lyric singing, agility, high and low notes, acting. Fantastic.
(* For the Associates concert, we all sang an aria or song, and I chose Caro nome (Gilda’s aria from Rigoletto). Several of my colleagues came to me afterwards and said things along the lines of “I’ve never heard anyone sing that with so much voice!” I had no idea what they meant by that; was I just loud that whole time? So I asked a couple of people whose opinions I trust to tell me what that meant. Turns out, it was, in fact, a good thing. The presence and warmth that I’ve been developing in my voice by working with Mark and by growing up and freeing up is really coming into focus, and rather than singing a light, quasi-chirpy Caro nome, my voice sings it as a Lyric soprano. Cool.)
So, I call myself a Lyric with Coloratura. Clear enough, right? The only trouble is that some auditioners might look at an audition list and see roles that, to their minds, might not belong in the same voice. But, I have to trust that they belong in my voice, and so the are “allowed” to coexist on my rep list. (See why this is frustrating?)
What are the roles I know I could sing the pants off of right now: Gilda, Susanna, Adina, Nannetta, Pamina, Zerbinetta, Anne Truelove, Baby Doe. So, arias from these roles should make up my audition list, right? Let’s see what that would look like. Generally, one aims for five arias representing the four major opera languages. I’m usually up to six arias these days, ‘cuz I want an extra Italian aria to show my budding bel canto chops.
It: Gilda, Caro nome
It, Mozart: Susanna, Deh vieni, non tarder
It, bel canto: Adina, Prendi, per me se libero
Ger: Zerbinetta, Grossmächtige Prinzessin
Eng: Baby Doe, Always through the changing (?? There are five others to choose from…)
What’s missing? What’s always missing?! Something French… I’m toying with “Non, monsieur mari” from Poulenc’s “Les mamelles de Tirésias.” Funny, 20th Century… Maybe I’ll spend some time with that tonight.
The trouble with Zerb is that her aria is 12 minutes long and a real test for the pianist. I usually bring my fearless companion, JD, to my auditions, and we’d rehearse it of course. I’ll have to poll some of my fellow sopranos who offer this piece and see which excerpts they offer – and if it ever gets asked for!
How does this list compare with last season’s list?
It: Nannetta’s aria
It, Baroque: Morgana, Tornami a vagheggiar
It, bel canto: Lucia, Regnava nel silenzio
Ger: Sophie, Presentation of the Rose
Fr: Sophie, Du gai soleil
Eng: Baby Doe, Silver Aria
I stopped offering Presentation about halfway through, ‘cuz I still have a hard time carrying that scene as a solo scene (it’s really a duet). And the “other Sophie” was rarely asked for. I feel like this new batch of arias is pretty consistent. I’m swapping a Verdi, a bel canto, and a Baby Doe aria for another of the same; I’m adding a character French (Tirésias) and a flashy German (Zerb).
This feels like a post I write every year… (Heh. Every year in mid-July, it seems...) Sorry for the rehashing, but it helps me get my audition book into focus! Up next: a recap of Instant Opera, but first a trip away from this idyllic countryside. A change of perspective is always good, especially when it involves good food, friends, and the best city in the world. Back soon…