Printer Friendly

Arias for a tenor from Mozart's Vienna.

Arias for Vincenzo Calvesi: Mozart's First Ferrando. Edited by Dorothea Link. (Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era, 84.) Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2011. [Acknowledgments, p. vii; introd., p. ix-xxvii; texts and trans., p. xxix-xxxv; score, p. 3-107; crit. report, p. 109-18. ISBN/13, 978-0-89579-717-9. $130.]

Vincenzo Calvesi (fl. 1777-1811), the tenor-turned-impresario who created the role of Ferrando in Cosi fan lutte, was, in Dorothea Link's words, "obviously very good" (p. ix). Throughout his career, Calvesi sang predominantly in dramma giocoso, beginning in Rome. After his known debut in 1777, he had engagements in Florence, Lucca, Trieste, Verona, Padua, Treviso, and Venice before arriving in Dresden in 1781, where he stayed until 1784. Before settling in Vienna in 1785. Calvesi sang in Bologna and twice more in Trieste. Of the twenty-four known roles of Calvesi's early career, twentv-two were comedic--dramma giocoso (twenty) and opera buffa (two). Upon arriving in Vienna, Calvesi sang Sandrino in Giovanni Paisiello's Teodoro in Venezia. Calvesi's versatility as a lyric tenor enabled him to create several leading roles, in addition to Ferrando for Martin y Soler (Una cosa rara and L'arbore di Diana), Antonio Sakti (La grotto di Trofonio and Axur, re d'Ormus), and Stephen Storace (Gli sposi malcontenti and Gli equivoci). Aside from 1788-89 when he sang in Naples (Annibale in Pasquale Anfossi's I matrimoni per fanatismo. Pantaleo in Domenico Cimarosa's I due supposti conti, Leandro in Vincenzo Fabrizi's L'incontro per accidente. and Marchese Astolfo, in Pietro Alessandro Guglielmi's La pastorella nobile), Calvesi was a fixture in the Viennese operatic world. He would sing the last of these roles again, in Vienna, in 1791. Calvesi remained in Vienna through 1793, after which he returned to Rome for the 1794 carnival season. His last known singing engagement was on 4 April 1795 in Florence, where he sang the primo mezzo carattere role in Paisiello's I zingari in fiera. Upon retiring from singing, he became one of the foremost impresarios in Rome, working from circa 1796 and continuing at least until 1811. It appears that he was less successful as an impresario than as a singer. While Link offers few details, she highlights the financial difficulties of at least one company with which Calvesi worked.

Link's collection of arias written for Calvesi reveals his strengths as a singer, situates the social role of the primo tenore in late-eighteenth-century Vienna, and places him in the development of the tenor voice. One of the most striking aspects of Link's description of Calvesi is her defense of him as a first-rate singer. Since Cosi premiered in Calvesi's fifth season in Vienna, Mozart had many prior opportunities to observe him in at least twenty-one roles, and even contributed music for him in Francesco Bianchi's lit La villanella rapita in 1785. Link astutely postulates that the difficulty of the music for Ferrando reflects the high regard in which Mozart held Calvesi and his singing technique.

Many have cast suspicion on Calvesi's often claiming that Mozart himself cut the aria, "Ah lo veggio quell'anima bella," from Ferrando's part during the initial production. Link reveals the two assumptions feeding this claim are erroneous. One is that Mozart did eliminate the aria; the other is that its thirteen high B-flats were too much for Calvesi. For the first of these. Link points to Ian Woodfield's recent study (Mozart's Cosi fan hate A Compositional History [Woodbridge, Suffolk, UR Boydell, 2008]) that reveals a misreading of Mozart's annotations in the autograph regarding the aria. Link reiterates Woodfield's conclusion that because Mozart did not cross out "segue l'aria di ferrando" (sic, p. ix), the two remarks in the autograph form a .single instruction for the court theater's copyist, "Ferrando's aria follows; after this comes scene 7: accompanied recitative for Fiordiligi and rondo" (p. x). Link asserts that while significant cuts occurred within the aria. Calvesi did sing it during the premiere of Cosi. Addressing the claim that Mozart overestimated Calvesi 's abilities, Link reveals that the cuts shorten the aria by about half; all of the high B-flats, however, remained. Her conclusion is that, taken with the other cuts in Ferrando's arias, the cut to "Ah lo veggio quell'anima bella" served the practical purpose of shortening the opera, and that "Mozart did not miscalculate when he wrote Calvesi 's music" (p. x). The inclusion of "II mio bene io gia perdei" from La pastorella nobile in this volume reveals that Calvesi sang high Cs and Ds, supporting her characterization of his vocal abilities.

Link's. second order of business is to situate the tenor within the operatic world of late-eighteenth-century Vienna, Turin, and Naples. Calvesi, along with the other tenors of his generation enjoyed, by modern standards, comparatively modest success and acclaim. "In the highly conventionalized dramma per musica, the roles invariably consist of primo uomo (or primo soprano), prima donna, and prima tenore, followed by the second-rank singers in each category as applicable" (p. xi). While the prim uomo and prima donna alternated between the first and second positions on pay scales, the prima tenore invariably ranked a distant third.

The Italian opera in Vienna during the course of Calvesi's career appears to have consisted of an opera India company, although an attempt to expand into opera seria in November of 1791 proved futile. Link surveys the careers of Domenico Mombelli, Francesco Bussani, Valentin Adam berger, and Michael Kelly in order to contextualize Calvesi's place among tenors of the day. While Calvesi's highest pay of 3,600 gulden was less than Mombelli's apparently standard rate of 1,500 gulden, it was nevertheless a comfortable salary. As a primarily buffo tenor, Calvesi's pay, and value to the Viennese court opera ranked fourth behind the prima donna, primo nom, and prima tenore. Even so, in the world of opera buffet, the buffo tenor was second only to the prima buffa. While the position of the buffo tenor was not the most highly paid, it still required a solid command of technique. Link's defense of Calvesi's (and others') technical aptitude has its basis in the understanding that the Viennese compositional practice was not to notate above the high &flat. The arias in this collection bear this out; all but "Il mio bene io gia perdei" from La pastorella nobile go no higher than this note. This aria, written for Calvesi in Naples, demonstrates both his range and a difference in conventions of Neapolitan and Viennese compositional practices. If not lor his leave of absence in 1788-89, Link suspects that Calvesi might have been selected to create the role of Don Ottavio in the Viennese premiere of Don Giovanni. Upon Calvesi's return to Vienna, Mombelli was no longer with the company. Calvesi thus found himself singing prima tenore-roles, likely because of a tighter budget that inhibited the hiring of a replacement for Mombelli, and perhaps the downward slide of Adamberger's solo career. Calvesi appears to have remained in this position un-dl his final departure from Vienna after the 1793-94 season. During his time in Vienna, he appears to have been quite popular as a singer, moving from a functional second option for impresarios and composers to a singer dependable enough to perform prima roles.

Beyond locating Calvesi's career trajectory in the context of singers of the period, Link also examines the place of late-eighteenth-century tenors in the history of the voice type. Relying upon John Potter's work. (Tenor: Histonn of a Voice [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009]), Link characterizes Calvesi and his contempo-rarieN as the penultimate generation of tenors in the tenon' contraltini or tenore di grazia tradition. The generally higher tessi-tura of these tenors, as well as sopranos, 0-1.6 6-1 stemmed from competition with castrati. The tradition of the tenore contraltini would reach its pinnacle. with Giovanni Battista Rubini, for whom Vincenzo Bellini wrote a high F in I puritani (1835). Generally, these tenors were able to seamlessly unite the chest and head registers, apply power to the male voice, but also temper it with the mellifluousness and allure of the female voice. This style is noticeably different from the sound of most modern tenors. who, aside from Juan Diego Florez, fall securely into the tenore di forza tradition thal supplanted the tenore contraltini.

Link closes the introduction by addressing a common question that still lingers for performers of Mozart's vocal music, namely ornamentation. Here, one finds an tmdeniable challenge to the notion of Werktreue and urtext with respect to Mozart's works. While some have .claimed that Mozart's music is. to remain unembellished beyond markings in the score, Link suggests that he may have been willing to entertain a singer's inclinations, including the interpolation of high notes. Perhaps a similar convention with ornamentation also existed. Link further posits that any lack of ornamentation was due 10 the "thick orchestral accompaniment of the sort that Niccolo Jommelli and Mozart were known for" (p. xvi) rather than a polemical stance on the part of composers.

If Mozart left any clear indications regarding his sensibilities regarding ornamentation, scholars have yet to find them. What Mozart did leave for Calvesi was "highly virtuosic music" (p. xvi). Ferrando's three arias demonstrate the breadth and depth of Calvesi's musical prowess ranging from the lyricism for "Un'aura amorosa," the command of passaggio and the aforementioned thirteen occurrences of a high B-flat in Ah lo veggio quell'anima and the combination of a variety of styles "Tradito, schernito." Link points out that perhaps the most striking aspect of Mozart's music for Calvesi is the "near absence of coloratura" (p. xvi), aside from the end of "Tradito, schernito," especially considering his willingness to do so for other tenors, and Vincenzo Righini's elaborate writing for him in the aria "Se pieta d'un infelice" (from the cantata Ii natal d'Apollo), included in the volume and performed shortly before the premiere of Cosi.

The collection contains fourteen arias--one by Pietro Alessandro Guglielmi, two each from Righini and Storace, three from Soler, and six from Salieri. These arias span the eleven years of Calvesi's career preceding his creation of Ferrando. Excepting Salieri's "A me par che ii mondo sia," which was not written for Calvesi, but whose singing of it garnered high praise from Count Zinzendorf. and Righini's "Se pieta (run infelice," the arias in this collection suggest an overall profile for Calvesi's vocal abilities. The two most apparent components are lyricism with a beauty of tone, and energetic singing capable of handling coursing melodies with few opportunities for rest. Link notes that Zinzendorf was particularly fond of Calvesi as "one of the best tenors in. Italy, who combines a naturally sweet, agreeable, and sonorous voice with a technique which ... cannot help but please our public" (p. xvii). Another reviewer seconds Zinzendorf's appraisal, but also notes that one flaw in Calvesi's performing Ability was a lack of the "requisite liveliness (p. xvii). Given what Link has es-tablished about Calvesi's singing, this deficiency seems likely to have existed in his acting.

In examining the music for Calvesi, several interesting complementary additions to Link's proposed vocal profile for him become evident. In addition in link's conclusion that Calvesi was likely a singer with enough energy to sing almost continuously, this trait Also suggests that Calvesi was, thoroughly reliable, as the lack of pauses iii he vocal line would have provided limited chances for him to rediscover his place if he were to go astray in performance. Such vocal writing might also indicate Calvesi's ability to focus mentally, vocalv, and physically for long periods while singing.

Also noticeable is a significant degree of arpeggiation of various chords. While runs typical of the late classical era do appear, they do so with no more frequency than triadic movement.. The high degree to which this motion occurs seems to insinuate that it was not just the result of compositional conventions in the late eighteenth century, but rather a movement either easy for Calvesi's voice or one that had a particularly .appealing sound. While the arpeggiation gesture appears throughout the entirety of the range of the arias, it most frequently occurs in the middle to upper extent of the range, carrying through the passaggio, and often is the method of approach for the highest notes. In light of Potter's history of the tenor voice, this kind of writing quite possibly indicates Calvesi's unification of his registers into a smooth, single unit, befitting the aesthetics surrounding production of the tenor sound over two centuries ago. Usually, Calvesi's arias range from D to g or a. Two arias required Calvesi to sing lower notes: Salieri's "Fra l'orror di questa selva" demands a twelfth from C to g. and Righini's "Se pieta d'un infelice" straw; two octaves from [B.sub.1] to I). Composers willingness to write music for Calvesi throughout his range seems to allude to the degree to which he managed to unify the various parts of his instrument.

Because this collection contains a decade's worth of music for Calvesi by Salieri, it is possible to develop a sense of how, in the eyes of Vienna's director of Italian opera, the tenor progressed through his career. As noted, Salieri did not write the first aria for Calvesi, but it appears to have become a staple in his repertoire. Two noticeable differences between the arias, "A me par che ii mondo sia" (the earliest in the collection) and "Fra l'orror di questa selva" (the latest), are present. First, there are the larger leaps in the latter (c to g); only the octave G to g occurs in the former. Somewhat more impressive is the rhythmic complexity of Salieri's later aria for Calvesi. Herein, Calvesi sings exclusively in duple subdivisions of the beat while the accompaniment frequently commences in triple subdivisions. This change might indicate that Calvesi became more metrically secure, or perhaps Salieri's willingness to experiment with polyrhythms. There are other areas of investigation with the potential to augment our knowledge of Calvesi's vocal profile, of which maw di yore (including its locations within Calvesi's range) and diction (including consonant type and placement within the range, as well as pace of declamation) are two such examples.

In her critical report, Link acknowledges recent studies by John Rice ("Bear-beitungen italienischer Opern fur Wien 1765-1800," in Bearbeitungspraxis in der Oper des spaten 18. Jahrhunderts: Bericht uber die internationale wissenschaftliche Taping vom 18. his 20. Februar 2005 in Wurzburg, ed. Ulrich Konrad [Tutzing: Hans Schneider, 20071, 81-101) and Ian Woodfield (his study of Cosi cited earlier) as attempts "to understand the place of the various types of scores in the court theater's productions" (p. 109). According to Rice, three kinds of scores existed for each opera performed in Vienna's court theater in the 1770s and 1780s: performance scores, copies of performance scores, and source scores. While she seems to accept without reservation Rice's account of various score types' .circulation through libraries of the theater and the emperor, Link is hesitant to fully embrace Woodfield's hypothesis of a second theater score, currently missing, for Cosi. Her primary misgiving is that no documentation exists to support the existence of two court theater scores for this opera. Nevertheless, Link acknowledges that Woodfield has attempted to understand how "unwieldy performance scores were actually used in performance" (p. 109)..

The number of sources Link examined to compile this volume is indeed impressive. In constructing these vocal scores, she consulted over fifty sources, including performance scores, presentation scores, autographs, modern editions, and the libretto for each opera whose aria(s) appear herein. Additionally, Link located a number of sources for casting information to establish dramatic context and identify singers with whom Calvesi frequently appeared on stage. She studied reports from the press and accounts from Zinzendorf, Michael Kelly, and others either present at or involved in the premieres of these operas. In weighing these sources, Link has again demonstrated her aptitude for sifting through a multitude of information in order to project a clear portrait of a singer, the music he sang, and the people with whom he worked.

In her editing process, Link accounts for changes in notational conventions that appear in this collection, most of which she has implemented for modernization. Link has maintained the original note values and textual incipits (checked against librettos and multiple scores), but has modernized almost every other aspect of the notation. The most divergent aspect of Link's editorial method involves the creation of the piano reductions. Two practices are common. One is to accept the late-eighteenth-centwy reductions made shortly after first performances. These mirror the orchestra accompaniment and often maintain its thinner texture, frequently resulting in unidiomatic writing for the piano. The other common practice, which arose during the nineteenth century, was to adapt the music more idiomatically. Link has attempted to "match the relatively thin texture of the eighteenth-century vocal scores while making. the keyboard parts somewhat more pianistic than those found in the eighteenth-century arrangements" (p. 110). Link's accompaniments achieve her stated goal, thereby lending appropriate support for tenors wanting to learn the music.

Link's aims in this volume are similar to those in her previous collections devoted to Nancy Storace (Arias for Nancy Storace: Mozart's first Susanna, Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era, 66 [Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2002]) and Francesco Ben ucci (Arias for Francesco Benucci: Mozart first Figaro and Guglielmo, Recent Researches in the Music of the Classical Era, 72 [Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2004]). But she has also gone beyond her earlier collections and has established the vocal profile for Mozart's first Ferrando, situated him in the context of his time and place, and placed him in the development of the tenor voice. While she acknowledges there are limits to our knowledge of a singer's profile, her conclusions _about Calvesi's strengths are founded on solid research and reasonable hypothesis. Additionally, the collection, like its predecessors, affords aspiring singers access to music often beyond the periphery of the modern repertoire. In short., there is something beneficial for both scholars and performers in this collection.


University of Florida
COPYRIGHT 2013 Music Library Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Neumann, Joshua
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2013
Previous Article:Two versions of C.P.E. Bach's Magnificat.
Next Article:Two editions of Ravel's piano Trio.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters