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Opera Bespoke's Opera Duets

22nd Jan 2011

We love opera. We especially love taking opera and classical music out of the Opera Houses and Concert Halls and creating productions that have everyone singing along. To do this we choose repertoire that suits all tastes. This week we thought we would share our audiences’ favourite top three soprano and mezzo-soprano duets. So here we go, we hope you like them:

“Barcaroll” from Tales of Hoffman by Offenbach
The opera tells of the bizarre adventure of the poet Hoffman and his tragic quest for love. On his travels he meets three beautiful women, but each encounter has a tragic ending. Set in a Venetian palace, the beautiful courtesan Giulietta holds a party, and the guests sing the romantic barcarolle. Originally derived from the songs of the Venetian gondoliers, the term ‘barcarolle’ has come to describe boat songs in general, whether arranged for voice or instrument. A major characteristic of the ‘barcarolle’ is its steady flowing rhythm.

“Canzonetta Sull’Aria” from Le Nozze di Figaro by Mozart
“Le Nozze di Figaro” was composed by Mozart by command of Emperor Joseph II of Austria. After congratulating the composer at the end of the first performance, the Emperor said to him “You must admit, however, my dear Mozart, that there are a great many notes in your score.” “Not one too many, Sire,” was Mozart’s reply. In Act 3 of the opera the concoction of the letter by the Countess and Susanna is the basis of the most beautiful vocal duet in the opera, the “letter duet” or Canzonetta sull’aria (the “Canzonetta of the Wind”) – an exquisite melody, in which the lady dictates, the maid writes down, and the voices of both blend in comment.

“Sous Le Dome Epais” from Lakme by Delibes
Lakme is an exotically tragic opera by Delibes. The story is along the same lines as Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, except that the British officer in Lakme is not quite so despicable as Pinkerton in Butterfly. He does not intend to bring harm to the Indian Girl who has captivated his affections, but cultural differences doom the relationship, in spite of his good intentions. In the garden, Lakme and Mallika begin this dreamy duet in praise of the beauty around them.