‘Cessa di più resistere’ is the tenor aria that closes Rossini’s Barber of Seville. There’s a few minutes of music that follows it, but the bravura piece is effectively the opera’s end. That is when it’s performed. It’s so difficult that that it was dropped from the opera shortly after it’s premiere in 1816. So rapid was its disappearance that Rossini reused part of it in Cenerentola written the following year – ‘Non più mesta’.
Rossini scholars are divided about whether the aria should be included in the Barber. It’s purely a display piece that adds nothing to the story and is of limited musical worth aside from displaying the ability of a virtuoso tenor. My opinion is that if you have Flórez, Camarena, or their like (see below) then do it. The problem is that the appearance of the two great Latin American tenors has intimidated the rest to attempt the aria when they lack the resources to adequately realize it. Hence, it’s likely best to ignore the aria under usual performance conditions.
Tenor Rockwell Blake started singing the aria as part of the opera in the 1980s and it has crept back into routine stagings of Rossini’s comic gem. What established the piece as a regular part of the opera was the arrival of Juan Diego Flórez as the leading Rossini tenor of the first decade of this century.
The aria’s difficulty is not that it soars to the vocal stratosphere, but in the extraordinary coloratura technique required to get through the thing without sinking or crashing on the shoals of song. I’ve appended the vocal score below as a pdf file. It also contains the words in both the original Italian and in an English translation. Just looking at the score is enough to send most tenors into thrice weekly psychotherapy sessions.
Cesare Valletti sang Almaviva often at the Met in the 1950s, but ‘Cessa…’ was never included in any of these performances. I heard him several times as the Count; he was wonderful in the role. When he recorded the complete opera under Erich Leinsdorf’s direction in 1958 all the cuts were opened. Valletti’s tenor was beautiful and he handled runs and fioratura with ease. He did not have great high notes, but they are not needed for this aria. Despite the ornamentation, his singing is very graceful. I think it the most musical of all the versions presented here. Unlike the others below he eschews a high note at the aria’s end. Valletti Cessa di più resistere
Next is the Mexican tenor Francisco Araiza in a 1986 recital. He was an outstanding tenore di grazia before he destroyed his voice singing heavy roles like Walther von Stolzing in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger. His rendition of the aria is fine, though he’s as animated as an exclamation point.
Rockwell Blake included ‘Cessa…’ in a televised Barber from the Met in 1989. It runs to the conclusion of the opera. Blake does a credible job and makes the case for including the aria.
Frank Lopardo regularly sang Almaviva at the Met. He too included the aria. Another good job,though Lopardo’s somewhat heavy sound, despite his name, is not Italianate. Lopardo Cessa di più resistere
Lawrence Brownlee has the right voice for the Count. His performance of the aria in a 2005 recital is spot on.
Juan Diego Flórez became the undisputed king of the tenorinos by singing arias like this one with ease, sensational coloratura, and notes so high that even wolves can’t hear them. This video is from a 2007 Met HD telecast.
But nobody stays on top forever. Javier Camarena is yet another Mexican tenor; the country seems to turn out really good ones out like chocolate bars in Hershey PA. He is another bel canto wizard who has all the technical abilities and acuti of Flórez. Having two such tenors at roughly the same time is an extraordinary occurrence. Camarena sings the aria on a recital disc. Camarena Cessa di più resistere
Finally, a tenor who can sing this music with ease, but who has a completely different voice from all the others above. Michael Spyres has a large voice that can sing many different styles using all possible vocal registers. He recently made an inauspicious Met debut as as Berlioz’ Faust. The coronavirus may have been the best thing that could have happened to him. He’s been singing more often than an aria of canaries which has likely placed a strain on his voice. He was about to embark on a tour more taxing than the IRS until the epidemic forced him to rest. Hopefully, he will emerge from imposed inactivity with restored vocal capacity. This video is from a 2019 recital
Rossini’s florid aria seems to have regained purchase as part of the Barber. Whether there will be sufficient tenors up to its challenge is doubtful. Regardless the Barber will persevere.