Today we’re listening to…
“Caro nome”, one of the most famous soprano arias from Act 1 of the Italian opera Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi.
Rigoletto has kept his daughter hidden away to protect her, but Gilda (a young woman no more than 16-18 years old) has fallen in love with the Duke, who disguised himself as a poor student named Gualtier Maldè. Gilda is young and infatuated with this man and sings of the “caro nome”, the “dear name” of her new love.
Gualtier Maldè… name of the man I love,
be thou engraved upon my lovesick heart!
Beloved name, the first to move the pulse of love within my heart,
thou shalt remind me ever of the delights of love!
In my thoughts, my desire will ever fly to thee, and my last breath of life
shall be, beloved name, of thee.
(O Heaven, give me courage!)
Each holy day, in church, as I prayed to God, a fatally handsome young man stood where I could see him…Though our lips were silent, our hearts spoke through our eyes.
Furtively, only last night he came to meet me for the first time.
“I am a student and poor,” he said so tenderly, and with passionate fervor
told me of his love.
He went…my heart was rapt in the sweetest dreams, when suddenly the men broke in
who carried me away; they brought me here by force, cruelly afraid.
We are listening to soprano Nadine Sierra sing the role of Gilda here, a role that is written for a dramatic coloratura soprano (requiring coloratura ability and significant vocal weight).
The vocal embellishments and coloraturas (fast-moving, fast note, elaborate vocal melodies) you hear throughout this aria are signs of the tenderness and vulnerability of a still, very young woman. As we mentioned when we covered the quartet from Act 3 of Rigoletto, Verdi’s is probably one of the best at depicting complex characters and their frame of mind.
📺 Watch and listen here (6 minute listen) Soprano Nadine Sierra singing Gilda’s aria from Act 1 of Verdi’s Rigoletto at the final stage rehearsal at The Metropolitan Opera, Roberto Abbado, Conductor, 2015–16 season
“Caro nome” is a demanding aria for the soprano (the vocal line is incredibly exposed and the orchestration is very light with flutes and violins featured with woodwinds and strings playing through the aria) but an even more demanding role —the soprano must be able to portray youth, innocence, and dreaminess, but also grit and determination at times. Gilda’s innocence during “Caro nome” becomes even more apparent when compared to “Tutte le feste al tempio,” the moment in the opera when Gilda tells her father of her love for the Duke. She’s changed, and her vocals capture that transition from a young girl to a young woman.
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Thank you for reading (and listening),
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