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Nino ROTA (1911-1979)
La notte di un nevrastenico (1960) [37.26]
I due timidi (1950) [61.38]
Giorgio Celenza (baritone), Daniele Adriani (tenor), Sabrina Cortese (soprano), Reate Festival Orchestra/Gabriele Bonolis
rec. live, 30 September - 1 October 2017, Teatro Flavio Vespasiano, Rieti, Italy
Libretto and translations included
DYNAMIC 7830.02 [37.26 + 61.38]

Nino Rota is a composer who has always been something of an enigma to me. I rarely find myself disliking any music of his that I have heard – indeed, his film music is often both involving and exciting, as Riccardo Muti showed so brilliantly in his superb recordings. Film scores for films as varied as The Leopard, Waterloo, Romeo and Juliet, La Strada and The Godfather reveal a composer of astonishing virtuosity and variety. More recently, Chandos’ commitment to his music has given us splendid recordings of his symphonies. Yet I have always struggled to discover the composer’s own voice behind the accomplishment. An interesting comparison is with Malcolm Arnold – for all the latter’s versatility and easy command of different styles, one is continually aware of a strong musical personality behind the versatility.

These new recordings do nothing to resolve my dilemma. The music is accomplished, fluent - though not necessarily helped by indifferent recorded sound and performances which are merely serviceable and enthusiastic. The two short operas provide some gentle entertainment and together would provide an enjoyable evening, but probably arouse no great desire to return a second time. Their tonal world is unchallenging, and, for me, not especially memorable.

The plots of the two operas are fairly silly. Of itself this is not necessarily a problem (is there a dafter plot than that of Tosca, or a heroine more spectacularly dim?), but there must be compensating qualities. La notte di un nevrastenico concerns a neurotic insomniac trying to get a good night’s sleep, only to be disturbed by a Commendatore on one side who drops his shoe, making a thud which wakes him up. He calls the hotel staff, only to discover the Commendatore fast asleep. Then he is woken by an amorous couple on the other side, leading him yet again to summon the staff, meanwhile pulling a revolver. The Commendatore and the loving couple have to leave, but by the time they have left the hotel, dawn has arrived and it is time to get up. (That most hoteliers would tell the neurotic to sling his hook, or the police would be called, is obviously a thought to be put out of mind). I due timidi is marginally more sombre as a tale of unrequited love, but there is precious little in it.

Performances are by an overwhelmingly young cast, some of whom reveal no little promise, but nuance is lost through indifferent recorded sound. Chiara Osella, who appears only in I due timidi, is a striking mezzo-soprano. The recorded sound can best be described as clunky, with many on- and off-stage distractions, and detail in what sounds a smallish orchestra is too often lost.

I wish I could be more enthusiastic, but we have only what is here.

Michael Wilkinson
Previous review (Blu-ray): Paul Corfield Godfrey

La notte di un nevrastenico
Giorgio Celenza, baritone – The neurotic
Carlo Feola, baritone – The concierge
Daniele Adriani, tenor – The commendatore
Sabrina Cortese, soprano – She
Antonio Sapio, tenor – He
Mariangela De Vita, mezzo-soprano – Maid
Lucia Filaci, soprano – Maid
Maria Rita Combattelli, soprano – Maid
Siri Kval Ødegård, mezzo-soprano – Maid
Vincenzo Carni, tenor – A floor boy

I due timidi
Giorgio Celenza, baritone – Narrator
Daniele Adriani, tenor - Raimondo
Sabrina Cortese, soprano – Mariucca
Antonio Sapio, tenor – Dr Sinisgalli
Chiara Osella, mezzo-soprano – Mrs Giudotti
Mariangela De Vita, mezzo-soprano – Mariucca’s mother
Giacomo Nanni, baritone – Vittorio, A guest
Lucia Filaci, soprano – Lucia
Maria Rita Combattelli, soprano – Maria
Siri Kval Ødegård, mezzo-soprano – Lisa

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