Francesco CILEA (1866 – 1950)
L’Arlesiana (1897)
Annunziata Vestri (mezzo) – Rosa Mamai; Dmitry Golovnin (tenor) – Federico; Mariangela Sicilia (soprano) – Vivetta; Stefano Antonucci (baritone) – Baldassare; Valeriu Caradja (baritone) – Metifio; Christian Saitta (bass) – Marco; Riccardo Angelo Strano (counter-tenor) – L’Innocente;
FORM – Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana; Coro Lirico Marchigiano V. Bellini/Francesco Cilluffo
rec. Teatro G. B. Pergolesi, Jesi, Italy, September 2013
No texts but synopsis enclosed
DYNAMIC CDS7688/1-2 [62:20 + 37:58]

L’Arlesiana predates Cilea’s better-known Adriana Lecouvreur by five years, being premiered on 27 November 1897 with a very young Enrico Caruso as Federico. Caruso also sang the tenor lead in Adriana. Today it is the latter that more or less belongs to the standard repertoire but L’Arlesiana is occasionally revived. There was a complete recording on Cetra, issued in 1955, with Ferruccio Tagliavini, Pia Tassinari and Paolo Silveri in the central roles, but to my knowledge nothing else apart from a version dating from 2014 on CPO (review). After sixty years it is high time for new attempts.

This live recording from Jesi is also available on DVD and Blu-ray, enthusiastically received by my colleagues Robert J Farr and Michael Cookson, respectively. The latter even awarded it Recording of the Month. With no libretto available it isn’t too easy to follow the proceedings on this sound-only issue and for that reason I suppose the DVD or Blu-ray alternatives are preferable with subtitles in six languages. However the production seems to be a bit odd and those who have tired of ‘clever’ direction may be satisfied with this issue for the musical part of the work. For more background information I refer readers to those other MusicWeb International reviews.

Dynamic are very successful with their sound recordings of live operas and this issue is no exception. The fly in the ointment is as usual stage noises and audience sounds but they are no worse than what you have to endure at a performance in the opera house. The balance between singers and orchestra can also be a problem. Neither of my colleagues have remarked on the tenor’s distant sound in his set-pieces. To my ears his voice is rather small-scale or he is placed too far from the microphones. Turning up the volume I was able to appreciate his singing of the one well-known aria, Federico’s lament la solita storia del pastore in act II (CD 1 tr. 13), music that also appears again in the last scene of the opera. That said, this is not a one-number opera. There is a lot of music that is on the same level as the better-known Adriana music, Rosa’s monologue in act III, Esser madre un inferno (CD 2 tr. 5), being one example, touchingly sung moreover. There is also a previously unpublished aria for Federico, Una mattina m’apriron nella stanza in act III (CD 2 tr. 3), which was found some years ago by tenor Giuseppe Filianoti among Cilea’s papers in the Museo Francesco Cilea. It had been cut after the first performance and was then forgotten. It was then orchestrated and first heard in concert in 2012 and also included in the performances of the opera at Wexford the same year. The production recorded here is a spin-off from the Wexford production.

The playing and singing of the orchestra and chorus is fully worthy of the occasion and the soloists, though hardly in the premier league, do a good job. Annunziata Vestri as Rosa Mamai is a good lirico-spinto.

Readers with an interest in the byways of verismo have a fine opportunity here to expand their collections and whether one should invest in the CD, DVD or Blu-ray alternative is down to one’s preferences. Read those other reviews and make your decision based on that.

Gran Forsling

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