I have had a fabulous day today, both productive and entertaining. It is Spring term exams next week and everyone is busy preparing repertoire for assessment. I was up early to get some rehearsal time in with my very talented friend, Prajna Indrawati. Prajna is from Indonesia and is currently studying for her Masters in Piano at the RCM and kindly agreed to accompany me in my exam.
Prajna and Me
It was a lovely bright spring morning and the RCM looked very majestic in the sunshine. I enjoyed the rehearsal and it helped me to get a feel for how the pieces are developing. My exam slot is 10:00 am on Wednesday but on Tuesday I will be singing an aria with Prajna as part of her assessment, and also singing two Lieder with another student Laura Ayoub as part of her accompaniment assessment. It is going to be a busy couple of days.
The Royal College Of Music
This afternoon we were offered the opportunity to watch the dress rehearsal of ‘Faramondo’ which the RCM is staging in conjunction with the London Handel Festival. The Festival runs from March 18th through to April 24th and also hosts a number of amazing concerts and recitals. You can watch ‘Faramondo’ on Monday 20th March, Tuesday 21 March, Thursday 23 March and Saturday 25 March, in the Britten Theatre at the RCM.
It was wonderful to watch the dress rehearsal and see my fellow students from the RCM and the RCM International Opera School perform this fabulous opera. They brought the story to life in a dynamic interpretation under the watchful eye of the conductor Laurence Cummings and accompanied by the London Handel Orchestra. What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon 🙂
One of the songs that I have been working on this year is “Endless Pleasure, Endless Love” from Handel’s opera Semele. It is an English opera, from the Baroque period first performed in Covent Garden in 1743. George Frideric Handel turned to Greek mythology for this opera using a libretto written by William Congreve, who was the author of the famous phrase “Music has charms to soothe the savage beast”
It was first presented as an oratorio (in concert form rather than fully staged). The audience was confused, more used to sacred works by Handel the nature of Semele’s story was too much for them.
The main cast roles are:
Semele – Soprano
Jupiter/Apollo – Tenor
Athamas (Prince of Boeotia) – Contralto
Iris – Soprano
Cadmus/High Priest/Somnus – Bass
Juno/Ino (wife of Jupiter/sister of Semele)– mezzo soprano
Somnus – Bass
Jupiter ( Zeus )
Semele, the daughter of the King of Thebes, is to marry Prince Athamus. Her family have travelled to the Temple of Juno to solemnise the marriage. Semele has been delaying the ceremony because she is secretly in love with Jupiter. She pleads with Jupiter for his help and his thunder interrupts the ceremony extinguishing the sacred flames on the altar of Juno (his wife). The Priests advice everyone to leave but Athamus and Semele’s sister Ino remain. Ino reveals to Athamus that she loves him who is astonished at the revelation. Cadmus interrupts them with the news that Semele has been abducted by a giant eagle, the priests identify this purple winged eagle as Jupiter and Semele is heard to announce that “Endless Pleasure, Endless Love, Semele enjoys above“.
Juno, is angry at her husband Jupiter’s adultery and orders her messenger Iris to discover where Jupiter and Semele are. Juno reports that they are in a dragon-guarded palace. Juno swears to destroy her rival, she finds Somus the God of sleep to obtain his help. Waking in her bedroom Semele awaits the return of Jupiter, he appears and reassures her of his love. She tells him she is uneasy when she compares her mortality to his godliness, he is alarmed by her ambition. Rather than honestly tell her that she can never attain immortality he decides to divert her. He brings her sister Ino from Earth to her for company they both wonder at the beauty of the heavens.
From The Royal Opera House Production Of Semele
Juno and Iris arrive in Somus’ cave, Juno offers him his favourite nymph ‘Pasithea’ if he agrees to help her, he is keen to help and is even prepared to lend her his magic, sleep-inducing wand, which Juno will need to quieten the dragon guard. Juno disguises herself as Semele’s sister Ino she gives her ‘sister’ a magic mirror which causes Semele to fall in love with her own image ‘Myself I shall adore’. Juno then advises Semele how to obtain the immortality she desires. Jupiter must be tricked into making love to her in his true god-like form rather than his mortal form. Jupiter returns inflamed with desire, Semele rejects him ‘I am ever granting, you always complain’ until he swears to give her what she wants’ No, no I’ll take no less’. She asks him to appear in his godly splendour he is horrified and warns her of the danger she is in. She refuses to listen and he laments his part in her inevitable destruction. Juno gloats of her triumph, Semele realises too late the consequences of her request; as she approaches Jupiter his flames burn her and she dies.
From My Performance At The Llangollen International Eisteddfod 2014
One of my favourite soprano arias from my current repertoire is from the three act Opera ‘Floridante’ by Handel, ‘Amor Commanda’ and the recit ‘Servasi alla mia bella’; it is sung by the character ‘Timante’ in Act III; it’s had nearly 10,000 plays on my Soundcloud page, and it is also the first song I recorded on my cd Canzoni D’Amore (songs of love), so I thought I’d give a bit more information about the aria and the opera.
The opera is set in Persia.
There are six main roles:
Oronte, the King of Persia (bass), his daughters:
Elmira/Elisa (a contralto)
Rossane (a soprano)
Floridante, Prince of Thrace (alto/castrato) betrothed to Elmira
Timante, Prince of Tyre (soprano/castrato) betrothed to Rossane
Coralbo, Persian satrap (bass)
Years before the opera story begins Rossane’s father Oronte, a Persian general had staged a coup and murdered the King of Persia, Nino, stealing his throne and adopting his baby daughter Elisa as his own renaming her Elmira. When the his own daughter Rossane and Elmira were of marriageable age they were to be betrothed to princes of nearby kingdoms. Oronte had fallen in love himself with his adopted daughter and no longer wanted her to marry her betrothed prince Floridante from Thrace, a warrior in the cause of Oronte.
The kingdom of Tyre and Persia also went to war, so Rosanne’s wedding to Timante (who she’d not met having an arranged marriage for reasons of diplomacy) was also looking unlikely. Coralbo, a Persian satrap (from the Latin word satrapes) – meaning a provincial governor, usually of nobility, gives Floridante a letter from King Oronte saying that ‘for reasons of state’ his marriage to his daughter Elmira has been cancelled and commands him to leave the Country.
Timante, the betrothed of Rossane was believed to have been lost in battle. Rossane doesn’t lose faith and believes she will be united. Floridante returns triumphant from the battle with Tyre, he brings back a captive Glicone (who is Timante in disguise) saved for his skill in battle. He presents his captive to Rossane, to whom Glicone confides his true identity and swears undying love to her.
In Act 2 when Oronte declares his love for Elmira, telling her that she is to be his bride, she is distraught; she tells her adopted father that he is a monster. He tells her she is not his daughter.
In Act 3, Rossane tried to help her sister Elmira, proclaimed that even though they are not blood sisters they are joined till death by love. When Coralbo, discovers Elmira’s true identity he says the love of the Persian people for her family might make her Queen. Rossane and Timante begin to organise a coup in order for the two sisters and their betrothed to escape. Elmira goes to the imprisoned Floridante with a cup of poison which she had been told to administer to him, instead intending to drink it herself, Oronte enters and takes the cup from her hand. Timante and Coralbo enter arresting the King and proclaim Elmira Queen of Persia. Floridante the opera does have a happy ending; one of the most popular Elmira’s with fabulous reviews is Joyce DiDonato.
Here is a video of my performance of “Amor Commanda” from Bury, February 2014.
Here is a translation of Recitative and then the Aria into English ( source )
Recitative Let me dedicate myself to my beloved,
And devote myself to this noble aim.
Love in great souls is never
An obstacle to great endeavours,
And is even of greater value
When love and faith are the rewards of the beloved.
Aria Love commands, honour guides, A nobler principle in leading one’s life Does not exist. The soul, already afire with thoughts of glory Speeds towards its goal, Assured of victory.