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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

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Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)
Fedora - opera in three acts (1898)
Princess Fedora - Mirella Freni (sop); Count Loris Ipanoff - Placido Domingo (ten); De Siriex, a diplomat in Paris - Alessandro Corbelli (bar); Countess Olga Sukarew - Adelina Scarabelli (mezzo)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala, Milan/Gianandrea Gavazzeni
rec. live, Teatro alla Scala, Milan, May 1993.
Directed for the stage and also TV and Video by Lamberto Puggelli.
Set and Costume Design by Lisa Spinatelli
Sound format, DD 5.1. DTS 5.1. LPCM stereo. Picture format 4:3
Introductory essay in English, German and French
Subtitles in Italian (original language), English, German, French and Spanish
TDK DVWW-OPFED [113:00]
 


The Italian verismo composer Giordano, like his contemporaries Leoncavallo and Mascagni, is really only remembered for one early opera. In Giordano’s case his one widely recognised work is Andrea Chenier, which has had several distinguished recordings. These have featured some of the greatest singers including Domingo on DVD (see review).
 
Fedora, if not of the standard of Andrea Chenier, is very worthwhile. Premiered in 1898 it was well received and travelled widely. Giordano however, married into a wealthy family and his creativity declined. After Il Re (1929) – his tenth opera - he composed nothing further for the stage despite living until 1948. Fedora is mostly remembered for the hero’s brief solo Amor ti vieta in Act 2, the tune pervading the opera. Like Puccini’s Tosca but pre-dating it by two years Fedora is also based on a play by Sardou. The plot is somewhat melodramatic. Act I (Chs. 2-8) starts with the murder in St. Petersburg of Fedora’s fiancé Vladimir. In act II (Chs. 9-22) the scene moves to Paris where Fedora, still pursuing the murderer of her fiancé, has tracked down Loris who she believes responsible. He admits the killing, but insists he can prove his innocence. Fedora draws up a list of names for the police including Loris’s name and that of his brother. Loris later convinces Fedora that the death followed Vladimir seducing his wife. Fedora believes him and in a passionate duet the two confess their love for one another. Act 3 (Chs. 23-30) is set in Fedora’s villa in the Bernese Oberland. She and Loris are living together contentedly until he discovers that his brother was arrested thanks to an earlier denunciation, in Paris, by a Russian woman. She also learns that the brother drowned in his cell when the nearby river overflowed. Worse, the shock had caused the death off Loris’s mother. Loris realises that Fedora was the Russian woman concerned with the original denunciation. Fedora seeing no way out takes poison and dies in the arms of Loris.
 
At the time of the present recording Mirella Freni was in her fifty-eighth year. In the halcyon years of her career in the 1960s through to the mid-1980s her lovely lyric soprano, convincing demeanour and vocal acting were strengths on many recordings and in stage performances. With age, her voice became heavier and she took on more dramatic roles. Fedora in this typical verismo opera is typical of these roles with its heavy demand on the voice. Although her age is visually more obvious in parts, particularly act III, her appearance and acting ability in the other scenes make her a very convincing Fedora. Only under the most extreme pressure does her voice show any unsteadiness and then only momentarily. Placido Domingo is vocally and visually ideal as Loris. Rarely has his acting been so convincingly caught on camera. He has the vocal heft demanded by the role and sings his showpiece aria with ardent tone. The duets between Loris and Fedora are the significant highlights of the work and of this performance. Domingo and Freni bring out the appropriate passion and tension (Chs. 19-22 and 27-30).
 
Adelina Scarabelli as Olga sings with security and acts her part well. As Count de Siriex, Alessandro Corbelli’s rather lean tone and unbecoming appearance are not wholly ideal. The many minor parts are sung without weakness vocally or in terms of acting.
 
The verismo principle involved real life situations, the more contemporary the better. The action in this opera starts in 1881/2 in St. Petersburg and fits the verismo concept like a glove. The La Scala sets are sumptuous and appropriate with the act III backdrop of lake and mountains in the Bernese Oberland being particularly noteworthy and appealing. On the podium the eighty-six year old Gianandrea Gavazzeni, steeped in the verismo tradition, conducts with a passion that belies his age whilst giving due to his experience in works such as this. The camera work is discreet and artistically achieved by subtle blending of close-up and medium shots and is of the highest standard.
 
Robert J Farr

 

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