> MASSENET Werther Pradelli 8573874942 [CF]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Sung in French
First performance 16 February 1892, Vienna
Werther - Ferruccio Tagliavini (tenor)
Charlotte - Pia Tassinari (mezzo soprano)
Albert - Marcello Cortis (baritone)
Sophie - Vittoria Neviani (soprano)
Le Bailli - Guiliano Ferrein (bass)
Schmidt - Tommaso Soley (tenor)
Johann Per - Luigi Latinucci (baritone)
Coro di Voci Bianche
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI
Francesco Molinari Pradelli (conductor)
Recorded at Turin 1953
WARNER FONIT 8573 87494-2 2CDs [121.32] Superbudget £8.99


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Itís still just about seasonal to listen to Werther, set as it is at Christmastide. This set is a reissue of those famous Cetra LPs of the 1950s and very fine they were too. The choice is very much a matter of forgetting about any sense of French style and making do with voluptuous Italian singing, and itís certainly a fact that Tagliaviniís French is a language almost of his own making. His mezzo voce floats almost to falsetto but when fired up in this strenuous role (such as in Act two, Scene three), the voice has ringing power. Nevianiís French is even sketchier than Tagliaviniís but she trills, twitters and glitters as Sophie, one of the most irritating characters in all opera, always arriving at just the wrong moment. She is really better suited to soap opera rather than the musical sort. As Albert, Cortis puts as much passion as can be invested in such another one-dimensional personality, and as Charlotte, Tassinari has an appealing, dark voice (Ďil faut nous séparerí has genuine poignancy in Act one, Scene ten) and she is the most Italianate of the cast, with the Letter Scene full of passionate outbursts. Indeed she and Tagliavini underline the Mediterranean quality of Massenetís music, which ignores the placing of Goetheís novel in Frankfurt in 1780. With its Christmas setting there are frequent moments when we could be in the Parisian second act of La Boheme, but then Puccini wrote his opera only four years later.

The strength of Massenetís Werther lies above all else in its beautiful melodic invention and wonderful orchestration; indeed there are moments when one wants to listen to no more than the instruments (especially the sensuously lush harp writing and the various solo strings), which are very fine here under the experienced Molinari Pradelli. Over the years there have been recordings with the likes of Domingo, Gedda and (a rather ageing) Kraus in the title role partnered by Obraztsova, De los Angeles and Troyanos respectively. This Cetra set holds its own alongside such pairings, the finest Sophie, incidentally, being the late and much lamented Arleen Augér on the DG set with Domingo and Obraztsova.

The sleeve covers for these Cetra releases in LP format were always highly distinctive, and they remain so in their current reproduction as a cover of the CD booklet, though sadly this contains neither biographical information about the singers nor background details about the recording, other than to say that there are a few cuts in this performance.

Christopher Fifield


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