Page:Romain Rolland Handel.djvu/133

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HIS TECHNIQUE AND WORKS

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to write operas for solo voices, of which the principal rôles were cast for the Prima Donna and for the contralto,[1] but whenever he could, he wrote his operas with choruses, like Ariodante, Alcina, and he only owed it to himself that he did not give to the tenor or to the bass their place in the concert of voices.[2] If it was not possible to break the uniformity of the solo voices by the addition of

  1. See the vocal distribution of some of the London Operas:
    Radamisto (1720): 4 Sopranos (of which 3 parts are male characters), 1 Alto, 1 Tenor, 1 Bass.
    Floridante (1722): 2 Sopranos, 2 Contraltos, 2 Basses.
    Giulio Cesare (1724): 2 Sopranos, 2 Altos, 1 Contralto (Caesar's rôle), 2 Basses.
    Tamerlano (1724): 2 Sopranos, 1 Contralto (male rôle), 1 Alto (Tamerlano), 1 Tenor, 1 Bass.
    Admeto (1727): 2 Sopranos, 2 Altos, 1 Contralto (Admeto), 2 Basses.
    Orlando (1732): 2 Sopranos, 1 Alto (Medora), 1 Contralto (Orlando), 1 Bass.
    Deidamia (1747): 3 Sopranos (one is Achilles' rôle), 1 Contralto (Ulysses), 2 Basses.
    It is the same in the Oratorios, where one finds such a work as Joseph (1744) written for 2 Sopranos, 2 Altos, 1 Contralto (Joseph), 2 Tenors, and 2 Basses.
    Thus, without speaking of the shocking inconsistencies of the parts thus travestied, the balance of voices tends to fall off as we go from high to low.
  2. In 1729 he went to Italy to find an heroic tenor, Pio Fabri; unfortunately he could not secure him for two years.—Acis and Galatea (1720) is written for 2 Tenors, 1 Soprano, and 1 Bass.—The most tragic rôle in Tamerlano (1724) (that of Bajazet) was written for the Tenor, Borosini.—Rodelinda, Scipione, Alessandro, all contain Tenor rôles.—On the other hand, Handel was not satisfied with having in his theatre the most celebrated basses of the century, the famous Boschi and Montagnana, for whom he wrote such fine rôles, such as that of Zoroaster in Orlando, and Polyphemus in Acis and Galatea; but he aimed at having several important rôles all taken by Basses in the same Opera. In his first version of Athaliah (1733) he had written a duet for Basses for Joad and Mathan. But the defection of Montagnana obliged him to give up this idea, which he could only realise in Israel in Egypt.