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December 2013
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Who Cares What the Composer Wants?

Tenor Franco Corelli

Tenor Franco Corelli

Aida on the Tuesday Night Opera, 8:00 PM

Franco Corelli was legendary for his Radam├Ęs. For 25 years he electrified audiences with the sheer power of his voice. He knew how to work a crowd, and wasn’t afraid to take liberties with a score, a practice which produced many copycats.

In the aria at the beginning of Aida, Corelli famously disregarded Verdi’s dynamic markings: in the last four bars, Verdi asks for music that’s very hushed. In order to hit a Bb so quietly, he forces the singer to use falsetto. Corelli on the other hand chooses a different tack: he builds the last four bars, hitting the final Bb with full voice before getting quiet (diminuendo).

It is interesting to compare the two interpretations because they produce such different affects. Here the composer uses dynamics as a device to build character: his version evokes a man filled with tenderness; the other, bravado. A conductor like Riccardo Muti has based his career on staying true to the composer’s intentions, much to the chagrin of some divas and divos.

Listen to the two approaches side-by-side. Putting other qualities aside, see what you think about the difference.

Tonight Peter van de Graaff takes us back, with the recording Corelli made with Birgit Nilsson as Aida, and Grace Bumbry as Amneris on the Tuesday Night Opera, 8:00 PM.

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