Despina Chronicles: Susanna Detour

Despina was off to a great start, but I’ve been on a slight detour the past few weeks as I prepare for the two Mozart concerts this weekend: selections from Le nozze di Figaro on Saturday, and the Mozart Requiem on Sunday.

Susanna has been an absolute joy to work on. It does not lie particularly high, and the absence of outrageous high notes has been a nice break for someone who has been obsessed with stretching the extension! The challenge has actually been in the opposite direction. Susanna repeatedly visits Bb below the staff – for example, in the Act II and IV finales – and even traverses all the way down to A3 in “Deh vieni non tardar.” That one note is quite notorious (and it’s fun to see how various singers navigate it).

Although Susanna is regularly lumped into the soubrette category, I’m not sure I would consider her a soubrette beyond the stock attributes she has been assigned: young, fun, and the maid. The whole opera is built on the premise that people are not (or are more than) what they appear to be, so why wouldn’t Susanna be more than just the light-hearted, light-voiced comic relief? The Countess is supposed to be the heroine, but I think Susanna’s brains and heart make her as much a leading lady, if not more.

Le nozze di Figaro score.jpg

Preparing the Susanna and Cherubino duet. NYC, 2014.

Pondering about these characters and their relationships to each other has been just as fun as learning the music. There was an element of pressure involved given the amount of music, the amount of time, and this awful cough and cold/virus I’ve been battling, but much of it was lessened by the fact that it didn’t take long for it to feel good in my voice. Some music takes a while to settle in, and other music seems to fit your voice immediately. Thankfully, Susanna felt right from the start and despite a very short rehearsal period, I think I’m ready for tomorrow’s concert. I have a few concerns, but they’re more about keeping the terrible coughing under control and catching all the entrances in the ensemble numbers. Vocally, other than an overabundance of phlegm from being sick, everything feels easy and accessible!

I’m excited but also a bit nervous for tomorrow. I essentially lost my voice this past week after cantoring three masses and singing a four hour rehearsal while sick and on all sorts of medication. I put myself on vocal rest for two days when I realized my voice was gone, limiting my talking at work and marking during rehearsals. My voice has gotten a little better each day, but it still gets tired very quickly, whether I’m speaking or singing. At tonight’s run-through, I tried using a little more voice, but I didn’t want to give it my all just in case 18 hours wasn’t enough recovery time. I’ll drink lots of water, take my cough medicine, and we’ll see how it goes!

Even if I’m not able to sing my very best, I’m so glad I had this opportunity and pushed myself to learn all this music. Susanna is an intimidating role because of how much singing she does – now that I have some of it under my belt, I’ll be less likely to panic if/when the time comes to learn the whole thing!

Saturday’s selections:

  • Act I Susanna/Marcelinna duet “Via, resti servita, madama brillante”
  • Act II trio “Susanna, or via sortite!”
  • Act II Susanna/Cherubino duet “Aprite, presto, aprite”
  • Act II Finale
  • Act III sextet “Riconosci in questo amplesso una madre”
  • Act III Susanna/Countess duet “ Sull’aria”
  • Act IV Finale
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6 responses to “Despina Chronicles: Susanna Detour

  1. Question. In concert style does Cherubino wear pants or a dress?? 🙂

    • I think some mezzos wear dresses when singing a pants role in a concert, but there are also those who wear pants! Our mezzo had a gorgeous gown on – I don’t blame her for not wanting to pass up the chance to wear it!

  2. pinustorreyana

    To Joyce and Baritone Boy,
    BREAK YOUR LEGS TODAY AND TOMORROW
    Best, Bill and Ida

  3. I can’t believe you forgot to mention the BEST part. You will be singing your first Mozart opera with Baritone Boy.

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