Rossini – Willow Song / Larmore & DiDonato

Thinking about Verdi’s Otello made me think of Rossini’s opera of the same name. (The libretti were written by different guys too.)

I’ve never listened to all of Rossini’s Otello, largely because I kind of have limits with Rossini, but this is a snippet that I have heard many times. It’s the Rossini version of Desdemona’s willow song. The music feels simpler than Verdi’s, but it’s quite pretty. Here is Jennifer Larmore singing it:

I really liked the harp introduction in this version (the first version I ever heard of this was Marilyn Horne, and while Horne was great, the harpist wasn’t as good as this one). I love the way Larmore just makes those phrases float along, e.g. 2.05 to 2.25 or so – and that little rippling signature phrase (first occurrence is just after 2.31) is lovely. The orchestral playing in the sections when they’re setting up the vocal line has a feel of conversing with the vocal part, which is nice – even though they do get that Rossinian “uh oh!” music at 6.10 or so. Larmore does her characteristically impressive ornamentation of the vocal line all the way through, and she brings the drama in that last section.

And just for the hell of it, here’s Joyce DiDonato singing ditto – with more fun harp accompaniment. (And bonus footage in the video, which is not mine, of DiDonato performing other things.)

I like how the video says “mezzo” along the side – just in case you weren’t sure.
This version is a little faster, which changes the feel of the thing a little, and the rhythm of that same aforementioned ripply phrase is subtly different. Also, I liked the woodwinds at 5.09 and after.

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