Once again Yours Truly comes to the rescue. Years ago I was assigned the task to choose a 20th-century opera aria for a young light baritone to enter a competition. This time it’s a Polish vocal student, in fact my Poznań host, who asked ideas for duets involving a bass and another voice, preferably for that of a female.
An invigorating task it is, though not a difficult one.
A first one that came to my mind was something I did earlier:
- “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” from Porgy and Bess, a piece I did with great pleasure even though it was distinctly too low for me. (I never felt truly happy in this piece except for when it climaxes on the (not very high) high E, so, voilà.)
(And since neither my youthful bass friend nor I was sure whether his voice can go for Verdi (likely not), I take up the easiest assumption that he’s a “common” lyrical bass. Therefore, no Verdi and no verismo, or anything that comes close to that, such as
- the mezzo/ bass-baritone duet in Samson et Dalila.
- “Qui chiamata m’avete?” from La gioconda, rather hefty for mezzo/ bass.
Other choices include:
- “La ci darem” from Don Giovanni
(I prefer a baritone Don, unless it’s a Cesare Siepi, but it is a valid choice for a light bass anyway)
- Susanna/Figaro duet from Le nozze di Figaro
[In my friend’s case, he claims to be more of a Bartolo than a Figaro, so this doesn’t work for him]
And steering to bel canto, there’re lots to choose from:
- “Ah! Cedi, cedi o più sciagure” from Lucia di Lammermoor, a scene previously often cut in theater. By the way, something to the advantage to my bass friend: Lucia’s part is much less florid than in the soprano-baritone duet — that is, if the latter scene is considered in the uncut sense. Hence, less for his female partner to work on.
- “Oh! Che muso, che fugura!” from L’italiana in Algeri: a fun choice, although my slim and sexy friend has to undergo some makeup makeover to be a Mustafa whose figure his Isabella (mezzo, although it can be taken by a soprano) is able to mock at.
- A more dramatic choice is the Lucrezia- Alfonso duet scene from Lucrezia Borgia, although I think it subsequently leads to a trio that involves the tenor.
- A very florid choice — something that requires very, very, very exacting coloratura is “Se la vita ancor t’è cara” from Semiramide.
Something distinctly in the baritone realm and not for my friend. Still, they’re lovely:
- La Favorita (or in the original French, La Favorite): Leonora (or Leonore, mezzo) and Alfonso (baritone).
- Roberto Devereux: Sara (soprano or mezzo) and Nottingham