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Umberto GIORDANO (1867-1948)
Fedora - Opera in 3 Acts (1898)
Princess Fedora Romazov - Angela Gheorghiu (soprano); Count Loris Ipanoff - Plácido Domingo (tenor); De Siriex, a diplomat in Paris - Fabio Maria Capitanucci (baritone); Countess Olga Sukarew - Nino Machaidze (mezzo)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Monnaie/Alberto Varanesi
rec. Le Cirque Royal, Brussels. January 2008
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 8367 [62.24 + 34.00]

Experience Classicsonline

The front of the double jewel-case of this issue sports two prominent promotional stickers. One has a double statement, the first being: Angela Gheorghiu adds one of verismo’s greatest roles to her repertoire. Absolutely true, it is a great role for the right soprano voice; however, Gheorghiu has never sung it on stage, in concert, or on record before. The second asserts: Domingo’s first studio recording of this role created by Caruso, again absolutely true. Why am I going down this path? Well the blue single sticker, complete with Domingo’s image states The 70th Birthday Celebration. As every opera-lover knows, the great tenor is still singing, turned seventy as I write in early 2011. But what are we to make of that sticker about a recording made three years ago? Better to have been a bit more candid and to have avoided the implication.

More recently Domingo has performed and recorded the great Verdi baritone roles of Simon Boccanegra (see review) and Rigoletto. Six months prior to this recording he also set down the tenor role of Giuliano de' Medici in Leoncavallo’s I Medici, the first of a projected trilogy, Crepusculum, the second and third parts remaining unwritten as Leoncavallo suddenly, in 1892, became world famous as the composer of I Pagliacci. Those two works, like Giordano’s Fedora, and his better-known Andrea Chenier, are distinctly verismo operas and require biggish and more dramatic-voiced singing. Such roles and singing, as well as making these more considerable demands on the power of the voice, often lessen the need for gentle legato from the participants. Caruso did much to sustain this work with his singing of the brief aria Amor ti vieta; it easily fitted onto a ten inch shellac 78rpm. Here it is set in context of the quartet as Loris realises that Fedora is going to Paris where he dare not follow (CD 1 Tr. 10). As I listened to Domingo’s singing my mind went back to the lyric tone of his interpretation on his first CD recital (see review) and I could not help but notice the thicker tone and slight, but obvious vibrato now present. Elsewhere his singing, including the high notes, albeit never too high, still pings out and his lyricism in the act two recognition duet is typically ardent (CD 1 Trs. 15-17). Where he scores again is with his vocal power, colour palette and greater characterisation. This species of verismo also involves more declamatory singing and less legato, which suits Domingo’s current vocal skills whilst allowing for his now consummate ability to convey character and emotion.

If Domingo manages to convey Loris’s many emotions, this ability is significantly less so with Angela Gheorghiu as Fedora. She is very much a lyric soprano who, although having sung the heavier role of Tosca since this recording as well as the lyric coloratura of Verdi’s Violetta in La Traviata, simply lacks the required variety of tonal colour and vocal heft. In act one there is some lovely singing, particularly as she finishes her brief Son gente risoluta (CD 1 Tr. 5) with a lovely diminuendo. But when the going gets tough for Fedora in act three (CD 2 Trs. 1-6) the above shortcomings show through, and, with those qualities lacking, the ability to convey the drama of the story and the desperation of Fedora is absent. Mirella Freni, alongside Domingo in the 1993 DVD recording from La Scala (see review) was in her fifty-eighth year with performances of Aida and Leonora in La Forza del Destino behind her and with their pension secured if she had not had the voice for it. Elsewhere the singing of Fabio Maria Capitanucci as De Siriex is easy on the ear with Nino Machaidze as Olga less so.

The principle of verismo was the portrayal of 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. Whilst pre-dating Puccini’s Tosca by two years it too is based on a play by Sardou. The melodramatic plot starts in act one (CD 1 Trs. 1-6) with a murder in St. Petersburg of Fedora’s fiancé Vladimir. In act 2 (CD 1 Trs. 7-17) the scene has moved 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 (CD 2 Trs. 1-6) 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 by a Russian woman, and that he drowned in his cell when the nearby river overflowed. Worse, the shock had caused the death of 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 Loris’s arms.

Domingo surely seeks to emulate Caruso by leaving an unparalleled discography, in his case of complete operas not just arias. It was therefore inevitable that he would want to leave a studio performance of a work that has, from time to time, featured in his stage repertoire. Fair enough, although his studio discography and extensive recordings of live staging is never likely to be repeated. That said, an audio release of the La Scala performance of this opera with Mirella Freni in the name part would have served him better.

Alberto Veronesi on the rostrum is an excellent accompanist, the orchestral interlude of act two being a good example (CD 1 Tr. 13) of his skills. There is a brief essay, a good synopsis and full libretto, all with translations in English, French and German.

Robert J Farr




































































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