After reading Divas and Scholars, I became interested in the career of Marilyn Horne, cited often in the book with great admiration, particularly in any discussion of Rossini. Curiosity led me to order three operas from House of Opera: Tancredi, Ermione and Bianca e Falliero. It took until this week for the disks to arrive from HofO, though I ordered them in mid September.
Tancredi, 1813, already discussed above, is very different from Bianca e Falliero, 1819, though only 6 years stand between them. Or is it only Marilyn Horne who is different? As the voice ages, its cartilage hardens, and the flexibility changes. In Tancredi she reveals more lyrical flexibility, but in Bianca e Falliero she is excitingly dramatic while still awesome in the performance of coloratura. This is a good choice for seeing Horne in all her glory. HofO apologize for the quality of the reproduction, but the volume doesn’t constantly phase up and down the way the other one did, so I actually prefer it. Bianca comes from Italian television, and includes no subtitles.
Or perhaps it is also the roles that are different. Tancredi is very somber and tragic while Falliero is powerful and dynamic.
Chris Merritt is here, singing Bianca’s father who wants to marry her off for money. Apparently in this period tenors played fathers. He has a big, meaty voice, almost the weight of a dramatic tenor, and not at all the Juan Diego Florez type of Rossini tenor. It is a joy to hear his easy, beautiful high notes and graceful, almost matter of fact coloratura. Like Horne, he is also in his prime.
Katia Riccarelli is very glamorous. I’m not sure why, but I seem to like this better than Tancredi. This is what opera used to look like and in some places still does. They form themselves into tableaux and move only occasionally during an aria.