'Voices And Vines' performers, mezzo-soprano Charlotte Kelso and soprano Karina Bligh, have formed an enduring vocal pairing.
It began while studying together at the Elder Conservatorium, and has continued as they established their careers, first with Co-Opera, Adelaide Chamber Singers and now at the State Opera of South Australia. Charlotte, as a mezzo, often plays operatic pants roles: where women play men. For her, these five have the most zip.
Cherubino, Le Nozze di Figaro – W A Mozart
Cherubino is possibly the most famous pants role. He is a young teenager, confused and in a state of almost melodramatic wonderment at love and desire. His arias talk about the tumultuous and exciting feelings that he can’t seem to control, particularly around women…
Recording: Isabel Leonard, ‘Non so piu’ for the Met Opera, dir. Richard Eyre
Nicklausse, Les Contes d’Hoffmann – Offenbach
In Hoffmann, the Muse of poetry disguises herself as Nicklausse, the poet Hoffman’s closest friend, in order to convince him to reject all love but the love of poetry. He has some beautiful arias and sings one of the most famous duets of all time (‘Barcarolle’).
Recording: Elīna Garana and Anna Netrebko
Sesto, La Clemenza di Tito – W A Mozart
Mozart allegedly wrote this politically-driven opera in just 18 days. When the woman he loves demands that he murder his friend, the Emperor Tito, Sesto attempts to do so and is captured. In this aria, he accepts all guilt and tells Tito to have him killed. There’s an interview with one of my favourite mezzos, Elīna Garan a, who says that Sesto is the only one in the opera who ever actually does anything – essentially, he drives the action.
Recording: Kate Lindsey, ‘Deh, per questo instante solo’ for Le Cercle De L’Harmonie, dir. Denis Podalydès
Giulio Cesare, Giulio Cesare in Egitto – G F Handel
This Baroque opera underwent a revival recently at Glyndebourne, with the incredible Dame Sarah Connelly in the title role. Cesare was originally written for a castrato and is now performed both by mezzos/altos and countertenors. Both Cesare and Cleopatra have eight arias each, so the roles show off a wide range of the singers’ voices and abilities.
Recording: Dame Sarah Connelly, ‘Empio, dirò, tu sei’ for Glyndebourne, dir. David McVicar
Octavian, Der Rosenkavalier – R Strauss
In this masterpiece, all three main roles are played by women: the Marschallin and Sophie, both sopranos, and Octavian, a mezzo. Octavian is the young lover of the married Marschallin, who has been chosen as the ‘Rosenkavalier’ – the knight of the rose – to present a silver rose to Sophie, the new bride of the oafish Count Ochs. Of course, they fall in love… but before this, in his aria, ‘Wie du warst’, Octavian tells the Marschallin how he loves her.
Recording: Elīna Garan a for The Metropolitan Opera, dir. Robert Carsen
'Voices And Vines: Opera And Art Song' plays Golding Wines on 1 September.