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Francesco Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur
Mirella Freni (Adriana Lecouvreur), Peter Dvorsky (Maurizio), Ivo Vinco (Prince of Bouillon), Fiorenza Cossotto (Princess of Bouillon), Alessandro Cassis (Michonnet), Ernesto Gavazzi (Abbé of Chazeuil), Giuseppe Riva (Quinault), Osvaldo Di Credico (Poisson), Patrizia Dordi (Mademoiselle Ila Jouvenot), Sara Mingardo (Mademoiselle Ila Dangeville), Saverio Porzano (Major Domo), La Scala Opera Orchestra and Chorus, Giulio Bertola (Chorus Master), La Scala Corps de Ballet, Robert De Warren (Corps de Ballet Director), Gianandrea Gavazzeni (Conductor), Lamberto Puggelli (Stage Director), Carlo Camerini (Musical Director), Paolo Bregni (Set Designer), Luisa Spinatelli (Costume Designer), Vannio Vanni (Lighting Designer), Brian Large (Television Director), Mario Pistoni (Choreographer)
Recorded live at Teatro alla Scala, Milan (June 2, 1989) – 159’
Opus Arte #: OA LS3009 D – Booklet in English, libretto in Italian. Subtitles available in English

Adriana Lecouvreur is one of those oft overlooked operas despite its marginal position within the operatic repertoire. Overshadowed by creations of better known composers such as Puccini, Leoncavallo and Mascagni, Adriana Lecouvreur essentially deserves greater merit, and in this Opus Arte edition there’s sufficient ammunition to build such a case.

This live 1989 La Scala recording captures a masterful interpretation of Cilea’s most conspicuous work with the illustrious Gianandrea Gavazzeni conducting. Those most suited to tackling the title role are seasoned singers demonstrating vocal weight and volumetric fortitude, and Mirella Freni is a perfect example of someone suited to uphold all of these theatric expectations. Her well tenured voice can project with amazing, heightened flair, and it helps magnify all characters with whom she interacts. In particular, her skirmishes with Fiorenza Cossotto’s Princess Bouillon are dynamite, and her resultant pathos reach a pinnacle conclusion with Michonnet, wonderfully interpreted by Alessandro Cassis.

The principals are so powerful that this could be defined as being one of the most prized treasures in operatic history. Brian Large’s talent for television translation is so visceral that no detail is overlooked inside the remarkable sets by Paolo Bregni, and the exquisite costuming by Luisa Spinatelli; Vannio Vanni’s lighting only intensifies the opera’s melodramatic qualities.

Dressed in authentic 18th century couture, Peter Dvorsky makes for a superlative Maurizio, while the sidebar talent stemming from Ivo Vinco’s Prince Bouillon and buffoonish marks by Ernesto Gavazzi’s Abbé di Chazeuil help lighten the gravitas of the piece. The manner by which Lamberto Puggelli conveys Adriana Lecouvreur is fantastic, creating a richness that may never be repeated with such finery. Act III includes La Scala’s Corps de Ballet presenting “The Judgment of Paris”, melding nicely into the operatic plot and featuring choreography by Mario Pistoni who possesses an extrication of genteel aesthetics and mythological beauty.

To the trained classical ear, Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur has attenuated influences of Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff plus smidgens of Puccini’s Tosca and La bohème with anticipations of La Fanciulla del West. Despite these influences, however, Adriana Lecouvreur is altogether in a class by itself, distinct in form and content.

Highly visual, highly sonorous, this Opus Arte collection is a “must have” for those with a deep appreciation for turn-of-the-century Italian verismo opera.

Christie Grimstad




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