Beard fashions for trouser roles
Whilst watching Tobias Moretti’s hilarious production of Il mondo della luna, I noticed Vivica Genaux’s Ernesto got a funny goatee when disguised as Hesperus the star. That brought to mind other instances where mezzos singing chaps were equipped with facial hair. Incidentally, Genaux seems particularly prone to the beard treatment (check out Muley Hassem’s stylish beard during his entrance aria from Alahor in Granata).
Since I have no problems suspending disbelief at the worst of times, this occasional practice never fails to crack me up. Here are some instances that I could think off the top of my head. If you know of any others, do let me know, so I can chuckle some more 😉
In the grand tradition of quick’n’cheap operatic disguises, Ernesto thought sticking some wool to his chin would trick his future father-in-law. In the same grand tradition, it did! Nevermind that said wool did not match the colour of his hair (although it did match his silvery gloves and helmet in a way that brings together classical and avant-garde styles). But I guess everything is possible in the realm above. Most importantly, the silly trick did not bother his girl Flaminia as she gamely agreed to a nap together.
Next up we’ve got Serse’s little brother, Arsamene. Apparently less wacky than the tree-enamoured Serse, Arsamene is nonetheless just as stylish and dashing. Working overtime to stand out, he’s got carefully groomed pencil ‘stache and sideburns (which seem to have already attracted exotic babes unless they are his avant la lettre Harajuku girls and then he’s even more fashionable than I gave him credit for).
The sideburns and incipient mustache are the sign of youthfulness. His more confident brother spends the opera clean shaven yet and keeps stylish Arsamene as the butt of jokes. No wonder he gets the girl in the end.
An interesting tacit agreement among a plethora of productions has taught us that Sesto is another operatic character who prides himself on his ability to dazzle damsels with his good looks. I’ve come to think that entertaining the ladies (and sometimes also the gents) is his full time job at Tito’s court.
Here Alice Coote combines romantic long hair with chinstrap. Yea, Sesto’s straddling a fine line between ghetto and fabulous but that’s his lot in life, eh? Judging by her look, Vitellia has given her warmest approval. Hey, maybe this time she’ll be fine with Lentulo doing the deed!
The full beard
Marie-Nicole Lemieux’ Orlando might be furiously mad in Pierre Audi‘s production but he’s obviously got Figaro on retainer. And what a finely groomed beard! With good reason: the full beard is to manliness what Orlando is to medieval knights = the granddaddy. Since this production I’ve been mentally over-imposing a beard on anybody singing Nel profondo cieco mondo. Talk about chest voice – that’s clearly beard voice.