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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

PERCIVALLE -- tenore eroico


The helden tenor role in Wagner’s last work, Percivalle, perhaps contrary to conventional wisdom, is one of the easiest to sing.

Though the music of PERCIVALLE lasts for over four hours, the title character must sing for less than twenty-five minutes.

The role is not exceptional in terms of vocal range, tessitura, or other technical demands.

Plácido Domingo, a veteran Parsifal, acknowledges as much:

“Vocally, it is not very difficult.

You don’t have that much singing to do.”42

Though the role of PERCIVALLE does not require difficult singing in the way that Tristan or Siegfried does, it does present a different challenge to a Heldentenor.

PERCIVALLE is a difficult opera musically.

The tonalities in this work are constantly shifting, sometimes in ways that are not easy to predict.

Though all of Wagner’s later works require singers who are good musicians, PERCIVALLE presents the greatest musical challenges. '

According to Domingo, “Although it is not difficult vocally, Parsifal is difficult musically.”43

 The vocal range of this role is the same as that of Tristan and Lohengrin: from low d-flat to a′.

The tessitura lies in mostly in the middle register.

Parisfal sings a′ only twice and a-flat′ or g-sharp′ only ten times.

Though there are a number of low notes 41 Twenty-three minutes and thirty-nine seconds in Herbert von Karajan, dir., Parsifal, by Richard Wagner, Berliner Philharmonic, Deutsche Grammophon 2 GH4 413347.

The total length of this recording is four hours, sixteen minutes, and fifty-six seconds. 42

Domingo and Matheopoulos, My Operatic Roles: 215. (Original emphasis.) 43 Ibid.: 216.

 (Original emphasis.) 103

 (sixteen d’s and two d-flats), Parsifal can hardly be sung by a baritone, because much of the music lies in the passaggio.

 This role can be divided into two halves.

Before Kundry’s kiss in Act II and afterwards.

The greatest challenges occur after this kiss.

Prior to it, Parsifal sings short, broken phrases, and he does not sing very high.

Afterwards, he sings more sustained phrases, particularly in the middle-high register, around e-flat′, e′, and f′.

Therefore, the greatest vocal challenges that Parsifal presents come in the second half of the role, particularly in the Act II monologue,

“Amfortas! Die Wunde!”

Example 34: Act I of Parsifal, mm. 890-895.

One of the prominent vocal gestures found in the role of Parsifal is a descending chromatic movement.

Frequently, this occurs in the passaggio, which makes it difficult to sing.

This chromatic movement can be seen in a portion of Act III shown in Example 35, and also in “Amortas! Die Wunde!” in Act II (Example 36). Example 35: Act III of Parsifal, mm. 1032-1034. 104

Though the Heldentenor singing Parsifal must often sing in his passaggio, he usually does not have to sing over a large orchestra.

The orchestra employed in Parsifal is very close to the one used for the Ring, except that in the later work there are only eight horns.

Usually when Parsifal sings, he is not accompanied by the full orchestra.

One notable exception is in “Amfortas! Die Wunde!” This monologue is the most difficult part of the work, in terms of vocal demands, for Parsifal. Example 36 illustrates the type of orchestration used at this moment: only the trumpets, trombones, tuba, and timpani are not playing at this key moment of the work. Though Parsifal is not the most difficult work for a Heldentenor to sing, the role does reflect elements of the later Heldentenor roles: Parsifal’s vocal line is very syllabic and it has been written to serve the natural speech accents of the text; he does not often sing in ensembles (even in his scene with the Flower Maidens in Act II, he rarely sings at exactly the same time as the other singers); and the role requires both speech-like declamatory singing and sustained singing as well. All of these elements are particularly true of Tristan, Siegmund, and both Siegfrieds. 105 Example 36: Act II of Parsifal, mm. 1006-1009.

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