Gioachino Rossini - Tancredi - "Di tanti palpiti" (Cecilia Bartoli & Vesselina Kasarova) - Appendix


Not one compilation of Rossini's musical output would be complete without his first "hit tune": "Di tanti palpiti", the moderato section (a cabaletta of sorts) from the cavatina of Tancredi. In his biography of the Maestro, Stendhal wrote that the aria of Tancredi, known throughout Europe, was the most popular opera aria of its time... And also refered to as the "rice aria" because Rossini is supposed to have composed it while waiting for his risotto to cook one day in Venice (imagine: a hungry composer composing such a little masterpiece out of boredom :) )! The cavatina deals with Tancredi's return from exile Tancredi to defend his homeland against the Saracene besiegers (and to see Amenaide, of course). Although many recordings of the aria usually give us only the moderato, Tancredi's cavatina is actually a whole scene: an interlude (depicting Tancredi's boat dropping anchor in a port) - an impassioned recitative - a short (and rather boring) aria - a "cabaletta". It's also interesting to point out that the aria is quite "unrossinian" in character, it almost seems to come from another musical period: the moderato section could be attributed to any composer from the end of the 18th century. I decided to post only the "Di tanti palpiti" section for a number of reasons, chief amongst them being the fact that it is really the best part of Tancredi's cavatina. It's almost a suprise when it appears after the rather uninspired cantabile. I once had about ten versions of this aria (including two renditions sung by sopranists, Kowalsi and Manzotti) but I narrowed the choice to six versions: 1) Marilyn Horne (I presume that it's from her full recording of the score). A real classic, Horne just continues to pour out beautiful sound during the whole piece. I also the use of moderate ornamentation during the repeat which doesn't destroy the musical balance and the slow, relaxed tempo from the orchestra. 2) Lucia Valentini-Terrani (from her disk "Arie di Rossini" with Zedda). A good rendition but I find the voice a bit too light for the role. The additional coloratura is well integrated but a bit over the top in places (listen to the very beginning of the repeat, it's a bit too extroverted for a warrior returning to an "ungrateful homeland"). 3) Agnes Baltsa (from "Agnes Baltsa sings Rossini" with Marin). Baltsa really "gets" the situation and offers some relaxed singing though I don't like the intrusive mannerisms (there some unattractive glottal attacks). Marin seems to want to mute out the singer with a very loud orchestra. 4) Ewa Podles (from the complete recording with Zedda). I personally love the relaxed conducting here: no rushing. I also think that Podles comes close to Horne's standard. An excellent account. 5) Vesselina Kasarova (from the complete recording with Abbado). Again, as in the selections of the second act duet for the lovers, I find that Kasarova is somehow over the top: she paints almost every word and adds quite a lot of ornamentation, even to the first verse (though, most of it is tasteful; the problem is in quantity, rather than quality). She is good but quite overwhelming. 6) Jennifer Larmore (from her excellent album "Call me Mister"). I really do like Larmore, and she doesn't disappoint here: she really sounds like a warrior (compare with Valentini-Terrani who sounds rather tame by comparison). Ornamentation is good, even if it is familiar (though after listening to six versions of the same aria it is bound to be). The renditions are grouped into two uploads (just check the title to find the one you would like to hear :)). I also decided that a little appendix wouldn't hurt, so I am also uploading two replacement arias for "Di tanti palpiti": 7) Cecilia Bartoli (from her hit album "Maria"). The piece presented is actually Giovanni Pacini's own composition, "Dopo tante e tante pene" composed for "Tancredi" to show off Maria Malibran's wide vocal range. It's actually not bad, the cabaletta is even quite fun to listen too but it would seem out of place in Rossini's opera (to my mind it is too romantic for Rossini's more classically composed opera). 8) Vesselina Kasarova (again, from the full recording under Abbado). This aria is very similar to the replacement aria for Lindoro in "L'italiana in Algeri" ("Concedi, amor pietoso"), especially the cabaletta. It is quite good as a replacement because it features a much better cantabile section (a way better one, in fact) and the cabaletta is as passionate as in the original. Hope you enjoy :)! Do take your time and listen to all selections, it's quite interesting to compare them (though, again, this isn't a contest, rather a comparison). P.S. If you'd rather hear a countertenor sing the aria, then check David Daniel's excellent account on Youtube :).

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