Franz von Suppé: Il ritorno del marinaio (Des Matrosen Heimkehr)
Ljubomir Puskaric (Pietro Dorsalli), Mariukka Tepponen (Jela), Giorgio Surian (Quirino), Aljaz Farasin (Nicolò), Marco Fortunato (Giorgio), Rijeka Opera Choir, Nicoletta Olivieri (Chorus Master), Rijeka Opera Symphony Orchestra, Adriano Martinolli D’Arcy (conductor)
Recording: HNK Ivan pl. Zajc Rijeka (June 16-27, 2016) – 86’28
cpo # 555 120-2 – Booklet in German and English – (Distributed by Naxos of America)
Known for a generous portfolio of Viennese operettas still gives pause to another side of Franz von Suppé’s œuvres, namely opera. Despite his razor-thin contribution to this genre, it places greater importance to Il ritorno del marinaio…not simply because of its relative obscurity but because of its genuine exquisite music and amiable charm.
Suppé’s 1885 Hamburg premiere, entitled Des matrosen Heimkehr, originated with a libretto by Anton Langer. In this recording, however, cpo chose an Italian translation to effectively depict the might and seafaring impressions since the opera was set on the island of Hvar, off the Dalmatian coast. Born in Split, Croatia, Franz von Suppé was a distant nephew to Donizetti. Thus we have a two-layered style: a sheen of Italianate suffusions commingled by German folds that unfurl a broader blanket.
Quickly the opera captures the sole ‘Recognition Motif’ in the “Overture”, yet the notion elaborates during the Pietro/Jela duet. Ljubomir Puskaric as Pietro Dorsalli is a fine choice since his broadly warm and pleasant baritone voice delivers stability and comfort…his timbre smiles with humility, especially when he discovers that Jela (Mariukka Tepponen) is actually his daughter. The Pietro/Jela duet glances to one of many fine Verdian father/daughter passages, in this case, particularly from Simon Boccanegra and Luisa Miller.
The amorous connection kicks in when Jela and Nicolò (Aljaz Farasin) step out of Lesina’s inn. Their first encounter allows Mariukka Tepponen to chirp (occasionally a bit excessively) away in Donizetti coloratura fashion with vivacious trills. Suppé’s strong use of melisma for Jela emphasizes the Juliette-like giddiness in her character. The blending of soprano and tenor voice is well balanced. In particular, Aljaz Farasin shines with an ounce or two of understated self-confidence and youthfulness by singing notes that gather buttery substance and highlighted by a smartly silver edge.
Plot-wise, Il ritorno loosely resembles Il barbiere di Siviglia focusing on the absurdities of Podestà Quirino (Giorgio Surian) as he attempts to woo his ward, Jela. An unmistakable reminisce turns to Bartolo’s “La calunnia” even though a stronger connection can be made with Lortzing’s Van Bett (a Germanic version of a podestà – English: “mayor”) from Zar und Zimmermann (1837.) Surian corners “Pereat mundus, fiat Justitia” dramatically enough by well accented buffa, yet his vibrato gets overworked when overexcited.
Since flute was von Suppé’s instrument-of-choice, this could help explain the emphasis of woodwinds throughout. Much of the music is filled with the eloquent touches of harp glissandos, piquant clarinet, majestic brass and snappy snares while the Rijeka Opera Choir comments and elevates the setting’s terra firma…even Friederich von Flotow’s Martha seeps into the score with its ebullient flouncy fare.
“Superb reading”…that’s what can be said of M. D’Arcy’s meticulous dimension to the music and enlivened ballet passages. The first ballet comes early in Act I, the “Dance of the Ship’s Boys.” This likens itself to the “Ballabile” from Bournonville’s Napoli, yet the predominance of dance vignettes are housed inside Act II, each with their own characteristic metre and rhythms; hence, we refer back again to Bournonville ballets: Paulli’s The Kermesse in Bruges (1851) [ref: “Slowanka”] and Holm’s "Finale-Galop" from Livjægerne på Amager (1871) [ref: “Schluss-Galoppade.]
Franz von Suppé brought to stage some of the most lively and energetic works. Acoustics and sound mix on this cpo production are finely captured, and this is the first time Il ritorno del marinaio has been recorded. This rare gem of a piece is well worth experiencing.