June 14, 2007
My favourite operatic father is
SIMON BOCCANEGRA. Boccanegra, the plebian Doge of 13th-century Genova,
has an illegitimate child with a noblewoman, Maria Fiesco. His infant
daughter is abducted and he lives for 25 years not knowing if she is
alive. By chance, he discovers that Amelia Grimaldi, a woman of noble
rank, is actually his daughter. Out of love, he accepts her decision
not to marry his political ally, Paolo, as she loves another man, Gabriele
Adorno, who is actually conspiring against Boccanegra. At the end of
the opera, Boccanegra, dying of poison, chooses Amelia’s future husband
as the new Doge of Genova and pardons Fiesco, his daughter’s maternal
grandfather and one of the plotters who has conspired against him, for
the sake of his daughter. This father cares for his daughter’s happiness
more than he cares for political alliances (the marriage she does not
want) or for revenge against his enemy Fiesco. Boccanegra is also the
greatest baritone role in the Italian repertoire.
With my tongue planted firmly
in my cheek, I have to say my favourite Opera dad is Wotan, the Head
God. Why? First of all, he sired enough offspring to win an award
most “procreatively prolific”. At last count, there were the nine
Valkyries plus Siegmund and Sieglinde, and god knows (pun intended)
who else is out there. Wotan probably cares about his children and tries
to be a decent father, but he is far too inconsistent in his parenting.
I mean, he sets all the rules and then goes ahead and breaks them –
that’s what I call setting a bad example! On the other end of the
scale, I think another Wagner character would make a fabulous dad –
Han Sachs. He is wise, kind, judicious, compassionate, consistent, statesmanlike,
all the best qualities one could hope for. Only problem is, he is a
widower and managed to bat a big fat zero procreatively before his wife
passed away. Too bad Eva didn’t choose him – he would have been
a better father and husband than the hot-headed Walther von Stolzing…
I have a fundamental problem when
picking my favourite operatic father. No composer understood fathers
like Giuseppe Verdi. But which one should I choose? Is it to be Rigoletto
or Miller in Luisa Miller or Germont in La Traviata or
Boccanegra in Simon Boccanegra or Ford in Falstaff…all
have unbelievably beautiful and effective music to sing and are brilliantly
drawn by Verdi. Yet in the end I will go for Francesco Foscari, the
Doge of Venice in Verdi’s neglected masterpiece, I Due Foscari.
Not only does the role offer many remarkable vocal opportunities, but
psychologically, the character reveals all the human frailties and failings
associated with a man who tries to balance political power and ambition
with his personal relationships, especially that with his son Jacopo. In the end, he, like so many fathers
before and after him, realises too late that these goals are seemingly incompatible and that the price to pay is, ultimately, a heavy one.
Mon père préféré à l’opéra,
c’est Rigoletto. Le pauvre Rigoletto. Bossu, difforme, Rigoletto («celui
qui fait rire») est le bouffon de service à la cour du duc de Mantoue.
Il a une fille: Gilda. Gilda est la prunelle de ses yeux, son seul amour
au monde depuis qu’il a perdu sa femme adorée. Le père garde sa
fille jalousement près de lui.
Le Duc de Mantoue, de son côté,
a les yeux sur Gilda. Il l’accoste à l’église, se faisant passer
pour un étudiant sans le sou. Gilda en tombe amoureuse. Il fait enlever
la jeune fille par ses courtisans qui la traînent de force dans ses
Fou de douleur, Rigoletto engage
un tueur pour faire assassiner le Duc. Dans l’obscurité, l’assassin
se méprend sur l’identité de sa victime. D’un coup de couteau,
il abat Gilda qui s’était déguisée en garçon pour s’échapper.
Rigoletto vient récupérer
le corps, qu’il croit être celui du Duc, mais c’est sa fille mourante
qu’il découvre à ses pieds. Le duo qui suit est l’un des plus
déchirants de tout le répertoire.
Rigoletto est un des rôles que
j’ai eu le plus de bonheur à chanter, avec Figaro, Falstaff et Scarpia.
Le personnage de Rigoletto demande beaucoup d’énergie et d’endurance
de la part du chanteur, surtout au troisième acte, où l’histoire
du pauvre bouffon trouve son terrible dénouement.