Giacomo Puccini: Le villi
José Cura (Roberto), Nanà Gordaze (Anna), Stefano Antonucci (Guglielmo), Massimo Foschi (Narrator), Coro da Camera Sluk di Bratislava, Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia, Bruno Aprea (Conductor)
Recorded live in July-August 1994 – 68’45
United Classics # 8713545221329
When the word ‘Willis’ is bantered about in classical music, the more instantaneous connection lies within Adolph Adam’s ballet Giselle. But this ‘fraternal order of women’ whose kindred spirit lives on as a result of forsaken love in the mortal world, is also the predominant theme based on the short story Les Willis by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr which Giacomo Puccini used to create his first opera ballet, Le villi.
The first of many successful Puccini operas, Le villi had its premiere on May 31, 1884 at the Teatro dal Verme in Milan; however, a notorious and perpetual standard bearer in operatic repertoire it is not. United Classics has re-released this live 1994 recording featuring a trio of talented singers who help compensate the mediocrity in sound.
The voice of Nanà Gordaze is penetrating and direct; one can’t disagree that any sense of tentativeness exists within her character, Anna; her penultimate “Roberto!” is fiery. A familiar Puccini-esque draw prevails lightly in the “Preludio”, but becomes more magnified in Anna’s delightful opening aria, “Se com voi piccina io fossi.” José Cura sings with intensity and radiant passion as though his life depended on it. The voice is convincing, filled with anguish and pathos. Similarly, Stefano Antonucci’s Guglielmo interprets gravelly richness. Narration by Massimo Foschi bridging Acts I and II has a characteristically Italianate melodramatic ring. Bruno Aprea manages a satisfying interpretation of Puccini’s score, and the Coro da Camera Sluk is energized and sparky though not bearing uniform synapsis with the orchestra at all times.
Puccini’s sophistication certainly isn’t within the confines of Le villi, but it still is an interesting visit to comprehend the Italian composer’s operatic growth. The overall sonority lacks any richness, is shallow and tinny, only adding to the fact that this recording isn’t imaginatively memorable. No libretto is provided, and write-ups are unfussy, yet United Classics conveys the proper framework in order for the reader to fully comprehend plot and biographical outline.
We give credit to United Classic’s capture of Le villi. What Le villi definitely demonstrates is an entrée into something grander and more poignant to come in the Puccini roster. Treat this work as a stepping stone and educational experience.