re: yes and no....
Last Edit: Chromolume 06:39 pm EST 02/11/24
Posted by: Chromolume 06:32 pm EST 02/11/24
In reply to: re: yes and no.... - AlanScott 03:46 pm EST 02/11/24

I don't necessarily agree with the idea that Sweeney shouldn't be a tenor because he is a dark and threatening character who has been through hell.

It's an interesting discussion in general, how composers use range to define character. One example - in opera, it seems that 99% of the time the devil (or other underworld characters - Charon, the Commendatore, the villains in Tales of Hoffmann, etc) are basses or bass-bartones. But Busoni, in his Doktor Faust, makes Mephistopheles a high tenor (with Faust as the baritone), and it's very effective. But it's a role for a dramatic tenor with heft in his sound, not at all a lyric tenor.

For Sweeney, even if keys are moved up a little, I need to hear that low note on "and he was NA-ive" at the end of the show. That octave jump is a telling and emotional nuance in Sondheim's writing, and if the low note isn't there, the impact of the phrase is lost. As written, it's a low G. Some "baritenors" could potentially manage that, but it wouldn't necessarily be a sound with the kind of depth and gravitas I would want.

Supposedly, Sondheim was writing Fosca as a soprano until he heard Donna Murphy. Then he changed it all for her lower range. Hard to imagine the role being that much higher up, though, now that we're used to it.

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