Having trouble viewing this message? Click here Rossini in Paris Saturday, January 24th 8:00pm The Abigail Adams Smith Auditorium 417 East 61st St

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Rossini in Paris

Saturday, January 24th 8:00pm

The Abigail Adams Smith Auditorium

417 East 61st Street between First and York

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Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Rivera

After having spent nearly half of my career singing Rossini’s operatic heroines (12 different productions of The Barber of Seville and 5 Cenerentolas) I feel that I have come to know his vocal writing very intimately. I’m not sure how many times I’ve sung Rosina’s aria Una Voce Poco Fa since I learned it when I was 16 years old, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was literally in the thousands by now.

His highly decorated and acrobatic vocal writing, his ability to embody both feistiness and innocence within the turn of a single phrase, along with his obvious fascination with and dedication to the mezzo soprano voice all mean that not only do I never tire of singing his music, I manage to find new challenges and rewards each time I sing it. To put it another way: He keeps me on my toes.

"Richness, ease, and exactness" – The New York Times

So it was certainly a pleasure to visit some of the song repertoire from later in his life, when he had basically retired from composing, at least on the grand scale of his operatic masterpieces. The compositions on this recital were all created for his famous musical “Salons” that he held within his Paris residence, where the invited guests (which included everyone from Verdi to Liszt) all came to eat, gossip, and most importantly, experience the enchantment of a delightful evening of music. And while he may have technically been a retired composer, perhaps creating musical pastries for the fun and sport of it, his songs can’t help but contain his ability to convey both deep emotions and friendly humor within the context of utterly delectible melodies.


I knew I wanted to include songs in both French and Italian from this period of his life, and so La Regata Veneziana was an obvious choice, being one of the more famous of his song sets. The heroine of these songs, describing a gondola race in which her boyfriend will compete, demonstrates Rossini’s ability to create female protagonists that seemed suprisingly spunky for the 19th century. The narrator Anzoleta’s confidence and assertiveness reminds me a lot of Rosina –- both have voices of great assurity and show not a hint of trepidation in their narratives.

"Dark, musical, and very agile" – The New York Times

Rossini had a fascination with the 18th century poet Pietro Metastasio’s poem Mi Lagnero Tacendo, and so created dozens of settings of the text. The text itself is quite simple, allowing Rossini to astonish us with his ability to find so many musical nuances to the same words. I’ve chosen three versions written for different voice types; contralto, soprano and mezzo soprano, because I find the musical language he uses for the different voice types facsinating. I end the set with a setting in which the singer remains on the same note for the entire song, which illuminates Rossini’s sense of playfulness and humor.


Click to read more about Jennifer Rivera

The French songs I have chosen from his canon all show very different sides to his personality and abilites. L’Orpheline du Tyrol is a somewhat dramatic song which requires some of the vocal acrobatics Rossini is known for in his operatic style when the singer is reqired to yodel large intervals. Ariette a l’ancienne demonstrates sheer beauty and simplicity of melody, and Chanson du Bebe shows Rossini at his most humorous as he characterizes the bedtime conversation between a young boy and his mother. I also admit to choosing this last song because as the mother of a 2 year old son, I know the struggle of putting a vivacious toddler to bed all too well.


How much do you know of Pauline Viardot? Click on the pic to find out mo...

The final set of songs I have chosen for this recital were written by the singer and composer Pauline Viardot (1821 – 1910). Viardot, the daughter of Manuel Garcia and the sister of Maria Malibran, was a member of one of the most famous and important singing dynasties of this period. The Garcia family was well known for their interpretations of Rossini’s works, and it is reported that once Viardot decided to become a singer (as opposed to a concert pianist as she initially desired) her first 5 roles were all Rossini heroines.

While the music she composed was mostly for her own students, Liszt proclaimed her to be a “genius” and her songs certainly display both a wide emotional range and an impressive technical mastery. Madrid uses spanish rhythms to portray a sensual depiction of her heritage, Hai Luli is an arrestingly beautiful and plaintive song of love and loss, and Havanaise is a playful demonstration of vocal fireworks.

– Jennifer Rivera, January 2015

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