Francesco CILEA (1866-1950)
L’Arlesiana - Dramatic opera in three acts (1897)
Baldassarre, an old shepherd - Stefano Antonucci (baritone); Federico, infatuated with L’Arlesiana - Dmitry Golovnin (tenor); Rosa Mamai, his mother - Annunziata Vestri (mezzo); L’Innocente, his mentally impaired brother - Riccardo Angelo Strano (tenor); Vivetta, madly in love with him - Mariangela Sicilia (soprano); Metifio, lover of L’Arlesiana - Valeriu Caradja (bass); Marco, Christian Saitta
Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana, Coro Lirico Marchigiano V. Bellini/Francesco Cilluffo
rec. September 2013, Teatro Pergolesi, Jesi, Italy.
Stage Director: Rosetta Cucchi
Set Designer: Sarah Bacon
Costume Designer: Claudia Pernigotti
Television Director: Tiziano Mancini
All regions. Aspect Ratio: 16:9. 16-bit LPCM Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1
Sung in Italian. Subtitles in English, Italian, German, French, Japanese, Korean
Booklet, synopsis and essay in English and Italian
Also available on Blu-ray (57688)
DYNAMIC DVD 37688 [105:00]
Francesco Cilea was born in Palmi, Calabria, Italy, in July 1866 and from 1881 to 1889 studied composition at the Naples Conservatory. The success of his graduation piece, the opera Gina, facilitated a contract with a Milanese publisher. However, academic life interrupted composition when he was appointed professor of piano at the Naples Conservatory in 1894 becoming director there in 1916. He is mainly known now for his opera Adriana Lecouvreur (1902). The first version of L’Arlesiana was staged in 1896 and revised editions followed in 1897, 1910 and 1937. The opera is based on one of Alphonse Daudet’s short stories "Les lettres de mon Moulin" published in 1862. Daudet’s Mill (Moulin), in western Provence still exists, its environs and atmosphere drawing tourists, including myself.

Cilea’s operatic compositions are very much in the Italian verismo tradition along with the likes of Mascagni, Giordano, Leoncavallo and Catalani, all being significantly inferior in both quantity and quality to their masterful contemporary Puccini. Such has been the forgotten nature of many of the compositions by the above composers, that this DVD recording from the small theatre at Jesi, east of Ancona in the Marche region of Italy is the first in filmed format of L’Arlesiana. It is a film of a three-act version of the opera originally composed in four acts and premiered in 1897. Subsequent revisions were in three acts with a prelude also added in 1917. Significantly it includes the aria Una mattina (Act 3 CH. 3) recently re-discovered and orchestrated.

Whilst famous for Federico’s Lament, (Act 2 CHs.5-6) sung at the premiere by Caruso, the remainder of the work has suffered from neglect. In the days before the internet New Grove "Masters of Italian Opera" (1983), in a contribution extracted from Mosco Carner's article on Puccini in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (Ed. Stanley Sadie, 1980) mentioned Cilea only once. Further, the summary of the opera (p.18), completely mangles the story quoting Federico as being in love with Rosa Mamai discovering she is the mistress of Metifio. In reality the story concerns the infatuation of Federico with the Woman of Arles (L’Arlesiana) who is supposedly never seen, but who in this production gets regular fleeting appearances. Federico is totally infatuated with L’Arlesiana to the point of insanity and suicide in a mental institution. This is to his mother's despair and that of Vivette, who in turn is in love with him, and who attempts a crudely staged seduction via a strip-show in act two (CH.6). There are other production idiosyncrasies such as the presence of Rosa Mamai pushing a pram in her act three aria (CH.5) and Metifio having only one hand for no apparent reason.

The production idiosyncrasies apart, the singing and orchestral accompaniment are pleasing and outside the presence of internationally renowned singers can hardly be bettered. Given the lack of competition it is easily recommended.

As is usual with Dynamic DVDs, each act is given its own chapter indications.

Robert J Farr

Previous review (Blu-ray): Michael Cookson (Recording of the Month)

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