[I wrote to the University of Chicago:]
This is an idle curiosity question for Philip Gossett, whose book Divas and Scholars I am very much enjoying. I have just finished the chapter on transposition.
Do you have, or would you wish to express an opinion of modifications made to Cyrano de Bergerac to accomodate the aging voice of Placido Domino. I have this on good authority. I was told this after complaining that the role sounded like it was written for a baritone.
I think your book is fascinating and very fun to read. I am interested in
how much these principles extend back into earlier Italians like Salieri and Paisiello.
[And got back this:]
Thanks for your very kind note.
What you tell me about Cyrano de Bergerac doesn't surprise me a bit. Placido has done this before, as he jumps from one vocal type to another. He is such a fabulous musician that usually it works for him, but occasionally he misjudges. (His "Figaro" with Abbado in Rossini's Barbiere was not a success!)
[Figaro is a baritone. Ach! Or madre de dio!]
I'm sure the procedure went back to the eighteenth century. And I find it all over the place in Verdi, not only with singers but with the composer himself, as he thinks through vocal ranges.
I've been working on La forza del destino for the critical edition recently.Verdi--as he composed the opera in 1861/1862 and as he revised it in 1869--made major transpositions in the Aria Don Carlo ("Urna fatale"), in the Coro ed Aria Melitone, in the Duetto for Leonora and Alvaro in Act I, in the Preziosilla solo in the Scena Osteria at the start of Act II. And it goes on and on.
I'm glad you're enjoying the book: I really wrote it to be enjoyed!
All best wishes,
[Isn't this cool!! If I wasn't supposed to post this, I'm sorry. It was irresistable.]