The Metropolitan Opera presented Berlioz’ gargantuan epic Les Troyens today to its HD audience. Because of another commitment I was unable to attend the performance. I’ll catch the repeat. But I did get to hear the last act. Tenor Marcello Giordani was supposed to the sing the opera’s most challenging role – Aeneas. But he withdrew after three performances and announced that he would no longer sing the role anywhere. He is not the only tenor to be overcome by Berlioz’ killer role. Placido Domingo gave up after four performances at the Met in 1983. The young American (New Orleans) tenor Bryan Hymel was flown in from London to replace Giordani. He made his Met debut on December 26 and had a triumph.
Here is Aeneas’ scena from the fifth act. Remember that Mr Hymel has been singing for three hours before he get to this aria which pushes the tenor voice almost beyond its full capacity. Hymel has a big beefy spinto that can handle Berlioz’ high tessitura and his high notes which often come at difficult places in the vocal line. If Hymel can keep his voice together under the pressure of the big roles he will doubtless be offered there’s almost no limit on what he can accomplish.
Among the roles that would perfectly suit his rich voice is the title part Berlioz’ other great opera – Benvenuto Cellini. The Met had planned to bring it back put didn’t because of financial concerns. With Mr Hymel available they should reconsider.
If you really want your jaw to hit your instep watch the video below of Hymel singing Arnold’s aria from act 4 of Rossini’s William Tell. This aria is one of the reasons Rossini’s masterpiece is rarely performed.