Giovanni PACINI (1796 – 1867)
Il convitato di pietra - Farsa o operetta in two acts (1832)
Leonardo Cortellazzi (tenor) – Don Giovanni; Geraldine Chauvet (mezzo) – Donn’ Anna; Zinovia-Maria Zafeiradou (soprano) – Zerlina; Ugo Guagliardo (bass) – Masetto/Il Commendatore; Giorgio Trucco (tenor) – Duca Ottavio; Giulio Mastrototaro (baritone) – Ficcanaso
Transylvania State Philharmonic Choir, Cluj
Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim/Daniele Ferrari
rec. during performances and dress rehearsals, Kurtheater, Bad Wildbad, Germany, 1, 2, 4 July 2008
The Italian libretto may be accessed at
NAXOS 8.660282-83 [44:55 + 47:28]

Giovanni Pacini was born in Catania in 1796, the year before Gaetano Donizetti, whom he survived by almost twenty years. He was a prolific composer, and also a precocious one. His first opera was produced in 1813, the same year that Rossini had his breakthrough with Tancredi and L’Italiana in Algeri. He had a long career: his last opera was premiered in 1867, the year of Verdi’s Don Carlos. Stylistically a revolution took place during those fifty-four years.

Il convitato di pietra (The Stone Guest) was written for a private performance in 1832 by the Pacini family and was compiled largely from other operas of his. It was not performed in public until 2008 when this recording was made. The story is well known. It’s the same that Mozart used for his Don Giovanni, though Donna Elvira is missing and Leporello is renamed Ficcanaso. Unusually though the title role is here sung by a tenor, moreover with a high tessitura. It is interesting to learn from the liner-notes that the Don who sang the role at the only previous performance was an amateur; certainly he must have been an accomplished singer.

We shouldn’t expect this work to be anything in the vicinity of Mozart’s master-piece but it is attractive even so. In the Singspiel manner – or operetta as it is labelled – there is spoken dialogue between the musical numbers. It is closely recorded which is good for Italian speakers. Too many recordings have the spoken voices placed so distantly that the words are impossible to catch without turning up the volume. There is no overture but a short spoken prologo, delivered by those members of the Pacini family who were to appear in the central roles of Don Giovanni, Donn’Anna and Zerlina.

Pacini’s melodies are agreeable and some of the numbers evince a measure of individuality. The Don Giovanni – Zerlina duet, for instance, the equivalent of La ci darem la mano, here with the wording La man tu mi darai (CD 1 tr. 8). And Ficcanaso’s buffo aria Di tutte le sue belle (CD 1 tr. 10) with the usual patter singing and partly a duet with Zerlina.

Don Giovanni’s romanza (CD 2 tr. 2) is beautiful with plucked strings accompaniment. Zerlina and Masetto have a rather long duet Mio dolce pensiero (CD 2 tr. 6) – one of the finest numbers. The fifth scene in act II, a dialogue with Don Giovanni, Ficcanaso and Il Commendatore, is preceded by a beautiful, melancholy and rather romantic orchestral intro, depicting the moonlit churchyard where the statue of Il Commendatore commands the scene. Finally Zerlina, who carries the heaviest burden of the soloists, gets an aria of her own: a charming address to the audience that all’s well that ends well. There is a long quintet and two extended finales, the second one quite anonymous. It’s as if the ensemble ran out of stamina – the composer too it seems – and just wanted to get it all over and done with.

Don’t let that deter you from lending your ears to this quite charming opera. It isn’t overlong – well, apart from that second finale – and the singing is mostly very good. Greek born Zinovia-Maria Zafeiriadou is an excellent Zerlina, technically impeccable and with beauty of tone to match. Leonardo Cortellazzi’s Don Giovanni is bright-voiced but warm. He sings with honeyed tone in the duet with Zerlina and caresses the melody in his romanza. Giulio Mastrototaro has the vitality for his comic role and Ugo Guagliardo’s Masetto is a worthy partner for his Zerlina.

The production is quite noisy but the recording per se is excellent, detailed and with good balance. I’m sure I will return to this opera for pleasure now and then, if only to confirm that Mozart still reigns supreme. Again the masterly is the enemy of the merely good.

Göran Forsling

I will return to this opera for pleasure now and then.