> Friedrich von Flotow - Marta [IL]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812-1883)
Marta - ‘Semi-serious’ opera in four acts
Lady Enrichetta…………………….Elena Rizzieri
Nancy………………………………Pia Tassinari
Lionello…………………………….Ferruccio Tagliavini
Plumkett ………………………… Carlo Tagliabue
Sir Tristano di Mickleford………….Bruno Carmassi
The Sheriff of Richmond…………..Mario Zorgniotti
[The second CD also includes eight arias by Rossini, Donizetti, Thomas, Verdi, Bizet, Massenet and Wolf–Ferrari recorded by Ferruccio Tagliavini in Turin between 1940 and 1948]
Orchestra and Chorus - Torino della
RAI/Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
Mono recording made in Turin in July 1955
WARNER FONIT 0927 43552-2 [2CDs: 2hr 15:55mins]

Flotow’s genial opera, Marta, was first performed in Vienna in November 1847. Flotow’s life was almost contemporaneous with that of Wagner but there was a great disparity between their styles. Flotow’s was much more conservative, although his influences were quite cosmopolitan, embracing the German (Beethoven and Haydn), French (Grossec and Méhul) and Italian (Salieri) traditions. He moved to Paris when he was 17 and he was much impressed by the international operatic style adopted first by Rossini, Auber and Meyerbeer; and, later, by Gounod and Offenbach.

The story of Marta is set in England during the reign of Queen Anne. The wealthy Lady Enrichetta is bored. She and her friend Nancy decide to have an adventure dressing up as servant girls to visit the market in Richmond Square. Here they meet farmers, Lionello and Plumkett, believed to be brothers (as it turns out Lionello is really the long-lost son of Lord Derby). The girls, through a misunderstanding, are bound to be servants to the brothers for a year. Not surprisingly, Enrichetta (posing as Marta) and Nancy (alias Betsy) are disinclined to obey their orders. Plumkett argues with ‘Betsy’ while the more sentimental Lionello falls madly in love with ‘Marta’. Then the girls are rescued from servitude by their gentleman friend Sir Tristan. Some time later, the farmers are drinking at an inn when a hunting party arrives that includes not only the Queen but the two girls now restored to their former position in society. Enrichetta loftily dismisses Lionello when he recognises her and has him arrested when he protests that she is his servant girl. In the last act all is forgiven and the lovers reunited.

The style of the overture (performed with great zest and style by Molinari-Pradelli’s Turin orchestra) is German. The most obvious character though is the stylistic mix of French, German and Italian elements. The music is consistently bright and cheerful, the melodies popular in character with the choruses seemingly derived from folklore motifs.

The singing is predominantly florid bel canto with much opportunity for Elena Rizzieri to show off her coloratura capabilities. Her lovely ‘Qui sola vergin rosa’ is the best known aria of the opera. Only occasionally do her top notes seem shrill (although the ageing mono recording might be at fault). Ferruccio Tagliavani is a dashing, passionate Lionello (his tessitura somewhat reminiscent of Caruso). His vocal range embraces high whispered dolce pianissimi to oaken low fulminations. Just listen to him in his beguiling Act 1 aria ‘Solo, profugo, rietto’ and the other big hit of the opera ‘M’appari – tutt’amor’ from Act IV. Pia Tassinari’s earthy Nancy is a worthy foil to Enrichetta and her timbre blends and contrasts nicely with Rizzieri. Carlo Tagliabue’s four-square Plumkett is a perfect anchor. In fact the voices of all four principals make up a most attractive ensemble - the opera has an abundance of exquisite, demanding, decorative quartets.

Ferruccio Tagliavini’s recital is most rewarding; although the orchestral sound is a little shaky now and then, Tagliavini’s voice, in top form during the forties, (imposing and expressive and nicely controlled) is captured very well. The arias include ‘Ecco ridente in cielo’ from Rossini’s Barber of Seville, ‘Una furtiva lacrima’ from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore, ‘Addio Mignon’ from Ambroise Thomas’s Mignon, ‘Oh, dolce incanto … Chiudo gli occhi’ from Massenet’s Manon, and ‘Lucieta xe un bel nome’ from Wolf-Ferrari’s I quatro rusteghi.

Maestro Molinari-Pradelli leads a sparkling performance of Flotow’s popular opera so full of merriment and gaiety. The four principals deliver some excellent solo, duet and ensemble singing. Hugely enjoyable.

Ian Lace

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