My quiz question has been answered, and I’m delighted to welcome La Cieca, the divine creatrix of the Parterre Box queer opera zine to my humble blog. She knew the answer, as of course she would.
Parterre Box has reported the most delicious scandal. A top conductor — a name known, I’m sure, to almost everyone who reads this blog — was conducting in Beijing just now, and arranged a little tryst. “I WANT TO FIND YOU NAKED when I arrive,” he e-mailed to his paramourlette, adding instructions for retrieving the key to his hotel room.
And then he sent the message to his entire contact list. It then spread onto the web, of course. And you can read it on La Cieca’s site. And the relevance for this blog? (Not that we don’t love gossip as much as the next girl.) If classical music was in the gossip columns, that would help it draw a larger audience. I know that purists (who would never read Parterre Box, but do read me from time to time) think that all attention should be on the music, but life doesn’t work like that, and never did. Exclude the human element, and you have an art that nobody will care about. Nobody, at any rate, with blood flowing.
Or let me put it upside down. If we had a vibrant classical music scene that our whole culture cared about, then of course classical music would be in the gossip columns. I’m going to e-mail this story to a columnist at the New York Daily News, and see what happens.
And now for La Cieca’s answer to my question. I’d asked which singer gets the most new music, when the frequent cut in the second-act Lucia finale is dispensed with, and we hear the piece complete. La Cieca wrote:
You are talking about the section that we over at parterre.com have dubbed “Alisa’s aria?” (My own suspicion is that Alisa’s line here was originally written for Lucia but was traded off during rehearsals for the first production in order to spare the soprano who created the role, Fanny Tacchinardi-Persiani. She was relatively young (only 22) and reportedly not a very large voice.)
Which is correct. The singer who benefits is the mezzo who sings Alisa, Lucia’s confidante, who otherwise is only audible in the second scene of Act 1, when she prompts Lucia’s aria and cabaletta with her questions and her worries. In the second act stretta she gets some cries — or maybe screeches — on repeated high As, which can make a great, if momentary, splash if sung securely. (As did happen at the Met.)
Alisa also sings in the sextet, but she’s buried in the harmony, and sometimes doesn’t do much more than double one of the chorus parts. Nobody will notice her. La Cieca‘s speculation is interesting. I wonder what Donizetti’s manuscript would show, if it survives. Probably some musicologist has written about this, if La Cieca’s right.