The no-nonsense Tancredi (Horne, 1977)

  • Tancredi: Marilyn Horne horneT77
  • Amenaide: Margherita Rinaldi
  • Argirio: Renzo Casellato
  • Orbazzano: Nicola Zaccaria
  • Isaura: Bianca Maria Casoni
  • Roggiero: Clara Foti

Conductor: Gabriele Ferro | Orchestra e coro del teatro dell’Opera di Roma (1977)

Like the Valentini Terrani Tancredi I wrote about a couple of months ago, this too is an Italian TV relay, obviously shot on VHS, and the colours are a bit off and fuzzy. It’s a very traditional but fitting and uncluttered production.

We have Marilyn Horne to thank for bringing Tancredi back to the repertoire. Whether hers is the ultimate Tancredi or not is a matter of taste (and of how wide/tight you like your vibrato). She’s properly knightly and she’s got a lot of elaborate fioritura.

Act I

Maestro Fero: the tempi are sloooooooooooow, especially in the recits. We get a lot of declaiming from Horne. Her diction was always great but it’s a bit lost on me as I don’t particularly care about this aspect.

I’m very fond of the duettino between Argirio and Orbazzano (the giuriam tutti fedelta) at the beginning but I like my Orbazzano sung lower and darker. Chap1 is not particularly subtle in the subsequent staccato. Argirio is a tough role, with a bitching high tessitura, vanquisher of many a tenor yet Casellato copes well, although he looks rather like Idomeneo. Isaura is a bit mature of voice. The acting is not very natural all around2 but not the pits.

Rinaldi’s Amenaide has ease in the top notes. Iffy about the tone, could be more girlish. Her entrance aria is quite interesting, as she is singing with text and subtext – the text being about the peace treaty between Argirio and Orbazzano’s clans and the subtext about joyfully but secretly hoping for Tancredi to return to her3. Needs a bit more subtlety in the lovely coloratura. However, I find Margherita Rinaldi4 very pretty.

Oh, patria/ Di tanti palpiti: rough seas tempo: nice tone, heroic demeanor, vibrato ahoy; Horne must’ve been at the height of her popularity, the crowd was simply wild upon her finishing the aria but for my money I liked other renditions better5.

Tancredi’s subsequent recit: Tancredi is in charge, not bad.

Argirio’s dutiful daughter aria: coped well.

Amenaide/Tancredi encounter recit: good

L’aura che intorno spiri: both of them played as strong and honourable, not overly emotional but works within the context and the kind of characters this Tancredi and Amenaide are. Amenaide is not a doll, she’s got a mind of her own, though she is trapped by tradition. Good job meshing voices together, lovely.

Orbazzano is a hero chorus: particularly manly.

Orbazzano presents the damning letter: Orbazzano is self righterous; Argirio good at reading it, seems stunned.

Act I finale

  • section a: slow; Argirio very good; Amenaide good; still don’t like Orbazzano; Tancredi ok;
  • section b: good pace; Amenaide good; Argirio good; Tancredi ok; Orbazzano as usual; Isaura good;
  • section c: pretty good pace; Argirio again leading; some issues with Amenaide’s topmost notes – straining; would like better blending, you can hardly hear the others besides these two.

Act II

Heart-broken Argirio: both strong and credible; the more I hear him, the more I like him, even though he looks like Idomeneo.

Isaura’s aria: not bad

Amenaide’s prison lament: tasteful stage design with the guards passing by the sleeping Amenaide; aria: not bad, she’s soulful.

Tancredi throws the gauntlet: gutsy, no doubt, still with the if-i-say-it-really-slow-it-wiil-make-more-of-an-impact.

Argirio/Tancredi duet: very good. Horne also thought to insert some fioritura whilst Casellato is going on as per usual. Somehow it works.

Amenaide’s 2nd aria: she’s very effective dramatically; good job; nice contrast from the manly choir;

— end of part 1 —

Ah, come mai quell’anima: possibly my favourite operatic duet. If the singers’ voices are well suited it can be ridiculously sexy-wistful6. In this case Horne and Rinaldi’s voices mesh very well. The result is heartfelt and beautiful, finished with a satisfyingly powerful take on the cabaletta.

There was an intermission after this. I’m not a fan of frequent intermissions.

Tancredi’s lamenting arioso: nicely done by Horne to funereal tempi. This seems to be Horne’s way of driving home emotion: slow and slower. Works for her but I’d rather have singers play with colour.

Perche turbar la calma: slow, man, slow. I get that Horne’s general idea of Tancredi is of a very upright, strong willed, manly man. This is a knight of unshakable authority, someone born to rule over others but not so much a lover. The pace is so slow it loses momentum, but it fits this characterisation. Horne’s voice is well suited for this aria in the sense that it suits the tessitura. But she’s not doing it darkly nor is she doing it in a sensual manner, which, to me, are the two ways you could go. The delivery is rather cold; it warms up slightly during the non sa comprendere il mio dolor. Even during tradittrice! Horne doen’t get too worked up and she even keeps it together whilst singing tu piangi…? Her Tancredi is cool as a cucumber, not given to either self-pity or any other kinds of pity. In that sense his focus when going into battle is to win and not to punish Amenaide.

The point of the intermission right after Ah, come mai… was to give the sad ending the focus as it goes on for quite a while. Some might like these feats of soulful acting but I like more singing with my opera.

Verdict: mixed bag for my taste but well worth seeing. Best Argirio I’ve seen/heard so far.


  1.  A propos of nothing, Nicola Zaccaria was apparently Horne’s life partner at the time. 
  2.  The direction is wide-arm gesture happy. Sometimes you wish the characters got closer or sang to each other instead of towards the audience and back to back. However it could be argued that the plot is such that the characters would naturally avoid facing each other at important moments. 
  3.  We’ll see this same trick with Tancredi in Perche turbar la calma, where he is thinking about Amenaide’s treachery and is constantly brought back to reality by the choir. 
  4.  This was my first known encounter with Sra Rinaldi. I see that she’s also sung Lucia, Ginevra (Ariodante), Ilia, Adalgisa and Giulietta (I Capuleti), sadly with Aragall. I can see her in all these roles and I’m sure she made a lovely Giulietta though I can’t bring myself to listen to Aragall as Romeo. It just feels wrong. Maybe I’ll pick her arias. Pity, those Giulietta/Romeo duets are to die for… 
  5. Mainly I don’t know what’s going on with her vibrato…? I really don’t (check it out at 6:24). Whatever it is, I find it odd. 
  6. Few things make better drama than two people who love each other but think otherwise. It sounds stupid when you think about it but it’s very effective emotionally. 
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About dehggial

Mozart/Baroque loving red dragon

Posted on January 16, 2014, in mezzos & contraltos, rossini and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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