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Gioachino Rossini - Giovanna d'Arco (Daniella Barcellona) - No. 1. Recitative & Aria

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Published on Apr 6, 2008

In between excepts from "Tancredi", I decided to put up one of my favorite cantata's by the "Mozart of Pesaro": "Giovanna d'Arco".

It was created in 1832, only three years after Rossini had withdrawn from composing stage works. Rossini composed the solo cantata or gran scena as an early gift to Mademoiselle Olympe Pélissier, whom he married in 1846, after his first wife's death. The piece was first presented publicly at a soirée at the composer's house (though Olympe wasn't the one who premiered it).

Narratively, the cantata follows Joan of Arc as she bids a sad goodbye to her mother and her homeland and readies herself to follow God's dictates to lead the French in battle against the English.

When we look at the structure of the piece, we can see that it follows the standart Rossini model, though there are some surpises: prelude - recitative - cantibile - tempo di mezzo - cabaletta. An elaborate prelude is followed by a dramatic recitative and an unusually intense aria, "O mia madre", which details Joan's imagination of her mother's grief when she realizes her daughter has left. The unusual part if the tempo di mezzo. It starts, I believe, with a musical invocation of Joan's vision, beckoning her. Then a quick stretta follows representing Joan agitation. At this point, I thought the piece would end, but an ecstatic cabaletta, "Corre la gioia", replete with elaborate passagework, follows, bringing a piece to a brilliant finale. The scene is unusually dramatic, the music detailing perfectly each emotion. I actually find it hard to believe that most musicians and painters aren't interested in this exact moment of Joan's quest: the moment when she decides to follow the path God has chosen for her. Can you imagine: a peasant girl leaving her parents to a brilliant, if tragic, future? Thankfully, Rossini did take up the subject and composed a scene which would certainly make any lesser composer famous :)!

The most obvious choice for this upload would have been Cecilia Bartoli's version, from her album "Rossini recital", but I have decided to enshew it for several reasons, chief amongst them being the fact that the rendition in question uses a piano instead of an orchestra which is a real shame when we are talking about a piece as richly orchestrated as "Giovanna". So I decided to choose another rendition, the only other I have in my collection, in fact: this one by Daniella Barcellona. I can't say that the version in question hasn't got it's own bumps, but, at the very least, it has an orchestra, and Barcellona brings vocal credibility to Joan (I also like the overall slower tempo than in Bartoli's version). It is a live recording, so the sound isn't of the highest quality, but I believe that live recordings have a special sense of occasion which is missing on studio recordings. Hope you enjoy :)!

P.S. While I was searching for information on this piece, I found out that both Marilyn Horne and Joyce DiDonato have sung this piece. If anyone has any of these, I pray that you will be able to upload them :)!
P.S.S. As the scene is quite large (over 16 minutes in total), I have decided to cut it into two separate parts, 1) the prelude, the recitative and the aria itself and 2) the tempo di mezzo and the cabaletta, so do pay attention to the title, if you are looking for something in particular :)!

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