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11/26/95: I am conducting Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette and beating “Je veux vivre” one beat per measure. But I often need to slow down mid-measure. (I give the oomp, and want to delay the pah pahs a bit). I’m tempted to tell the orchestra to simply listen to the soprano and follow her. Is there a better way?

“Je veux vivre” is a hard aria to conduct. If you have spent several decades doing Romantic vocal music, it gets easier. First, less experienced singers do too much rubato. In the section marked “un peu moins vite, mais très peu,” many singers do it beaucoup plus lent. She sings “loin de l’hiver morose” which does not mean “in sad winter” but “far from sad winter.”

It should be conducted in a flexible one, so you are on the right track. For example, in bar 26, in the last syllable of “m’enivre,” a slight stretch is done. But go right back to tempo in the next bar. That is, slow very little but allow the singer to breathe. You need to rehearse the soprano at the piano to ensure that she internalizes the beat and meets you on the first beat of each measure.

Just one long stretch occurs about 30 measures before the “un peu moins vite, mais très peu” marking. After a four-measure run, Juliette needs a big breath. You should imagine a fermata on the two eighth rests at that point.

Also take into account the breaths that are in the score, like:

     Cette ivresse de jeunesse’ ne dure hélas! qu’un jour, 
Puis vient l’heure ou l’on pleure,’

Only the measure and a half ritenuto before tempo primo should be conducted in three.

©2016 by Joseph Rescigno. The text here may be freely reproduced for non-commercial purposes as long as credit is given.

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