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Marcella (1907) [64.18]
Marcella – Serena
Giorgio – Danilo Formaggia (tenor)
Drasco – Pierluigi Dilengite (baritone)
Clara – Nataliza Carone (mezzo)
Raimonda – Angelica Girardi
Eliana – Mara D’Antini
Lea – Maria Rosa Rondinelli
Vernier – Marcello Rosiello
Barthelmy – Giovanni Coletta
Flament – Graziano De Pace
Bratislava Chamber Choir
Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia/Manlio Benzi
rec. live August 2007, Palazzo Ducale, Martina Franca,
Giordano’s Marcella was
premiered at the Teatro Lirico in Milan in 1907 with Gemma
Bellincioni and Fernando De Lucia. The opera went on to
have some success with Magda Olivero and Tito Schipa. Sadly,
wartime bomb damage to the Sonzogno Publishing House meant
that both full score and parts disappeared. For the 2007
Festival della Valle d’Itria Giordano’s manuscript score
was re-copied so that centenary performances of Marcella could
be given. It is these performances which form the basis
for this disc.
opera is relatively short, just three scenes lasting a
total of 64 minutes. The plot, such as it is, owes something
to La Traviata - though without the death - and
something to La Rondine, with the addition of a
rather strange streak of politics. Politics in various
ways, in fact, threads its way through a number of Giordano’s
operas such as Andrea Chenier and Fedora.
a pure but desperate girl, Marcella, is forced into prostitution
by hunger. She is befriended by a young painter who is
in reality the heir to the throne of a European country.
The two fall in love. The prince is recalled to his duties
by events in his home country and leaves her. There is
nothing realistic about the plot, it is very contrived.
It is only at the end of the second scene that Marcella
realises that her lover Giorgio is in fact a prince; and
we are asked to believe that the two of them have had a
blissful country idyll lasting a few months.
Rondine, the opera lacks the desperation of La
Traviata and instead substitutes a mood of pleasant
melancholy. Also, like La Rondine, Giordano opens
the opera in a café, creating an attractive mélange of
styles and some interesting orchestral effects. But once
Giorgio and Marcella have met, then the opera becomes
theirs. It is almost as if Giordano is seeing how much
plot he can miss out without jeopardising the essentials
of the core relationship.
Daolio and Danilo Formaggia make an attractive couple and
seem to respond well to the focus which Giordano places
on them. It helps that Giordano manages to come up with
some pretty good tunes. You don’t quite go away humming
them, but he comes quite close. Daolia has a bright, spinto-ish
voice which can sound a little over-bright. The recording
sometimes catches her vibrato rather badly, but overall
she has a good sense of line and allows the voice to blossom
on Giordano’s grateful lines. You don’t ever believe that
she is a put-upon house-maid - she sounds far too strong
minded for that, but she gives a fine musical account of
her lover Giorgio, Danilo Formaggia has the sort of slightly
dry, grainy but attractive tenor voice which I now associate
with Andrea Bocelli. Formaggia sings the role with enviable
freedom and certainly relishes Giordano’s long-lined melodies.
opera was recorded live and this seems to help, allowing
both protagonists to involve us in what little drama there
is. You might not believe the plot but at least you believe
in Daolio and Formaggia as a romantic couple.
supporting cast are all well cast, providing good support
in the ensembles in the opening scene. Of them it is really
only Pierluigi Dilengite’s Drasco who gets much of a look
in with his dramatic opportunity in scene 2 when Drasco
recalls Giorgio to his duty.
ending is obviously meant to be romantic as the couple’s
big tune is followed by a passage where Giorgio hurries
away leaving Marcella in tears. The net result is that
we are left feeling the opera doesn’t finish so much as
Benzi and the Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia give a
fine account. The booklet includes a useful, if flowery,
article about the opera plus a complete libretto in Italian
and English - always a help with this sort of rarity.
is going to claim that Marcella is a forgotten masterpiece,
or that this cast is superlative but they give a fine,
creditable account of an interesting rarity. Anyone interested
in what was happening in Italian opera besides Puccini
can buy this knowing that they will gain an attractive
and idiomatically performed account of the opera.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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