Francesco CILEA (1866 - 1950)
Adriana Lecouvreur (1902)
Micaela Carosi (soprano) - Adriana Lecouvreur; Marcelo Álvarez (tenor) - Maurizio; Marianne Cornetti (mezzo) - La principessa di Bouillon; Alfonso Antoniozzi (baritone) - Michonnet; Simone Del Salvio (bass) - Il principe di BoLuca Casalin (tenor) - Abate; Antonella De Chiara (mezzo) - Jouvenot; Patrizia Porzio (mezzo) - Dangeville; Carlo Bosi (tenor) - Poisson; Diego Matamoros (bass) - Quinault; Giuseppe Milano (bass) - Un maggiordomo
Orchestra and Chorus Teatro Regio Torino/Renato Palumbo
rec. live, Teatro Regio, Turin, Italy, 1, 5, 8 July 2009
Synopses in Italian, English, German and French
DYNAMIC CDS 628/1-2 [75:23 + 66:21]
Eugène Scribe (1791-1861) must be one of the most popular writers for the opera stage. He produced many librettos and his plays were transformed into librettos by others. Auber, Bellini, Boieldieu, Hálevy, Donizetti, Meyerbeer, Rossini and Verdi all set his words. His play Adriana Lecouvreur resulted in at least three other operas before Cilea wrote the definitive version, the only one that has survived. Though less frequently seen than Puccini’s, Mascagni’s and even Giordano’s most successful creations, it is widely regarded as Cilea’s masterwork. The premiere at Teatro Lirico in Milan on 6 November 1902 was a great success and what else could it be with the starry central trio Angelica Pandolfini, Enrico Caruso and Giuseppe De Luca. All of them were still young: the soprano had just turned 30, Caruso was only 29 and De Luca still younger: 26. Caruso, by the way, recorded an excerpt from the opera with the composer at the piano just a few days after the premiere. When CBS, as it was then, nowadays Sony, recorded Adriana Lecouvreur in the late 1970s they boasted a similarly starry trio - actually amended by Elena Obraztsova singing La principessa - Renata Scotto, Placido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes. This has been my favourite since it was first released and every newcomer has to compete with it - normally a losing battle.
The present issue doesn’t fare too well either, even though there are some good things. Renato Palumbo is a good and experienced conductor and his forces from Turin sing and play well. However, set against James Levine, the Ambrosian Opera Chorus and the Philharmonia they are ruled out - albeit not totally. The feel of a true performance - recorded live across three evenings and then edited together - gives the recording a sense of occasion. That said, there is no doubt that Levine’s reading has more ‘nerve’, more light and shade. The recording is, as very often with Dynamic issues, excellent and the balance mostly more than acceptable.
But when we come to the solo singing reservations begin to creep in. Adriana requires a large voice - a Tebaldi of an instrument! - and Micaela Carosi has the heft. It is a vibrant voice, but I have heard many more unattractive attempts at this music. The big aria in act I, Io son l’umile, is quite well managed and she finds some lyricism in it. Beside an undeniable glow. Poveri fiori is intense but rather thick-voiced. Elsewhere there is a fair amount of squally shouting. This also goes for Marianne Cornetti, whom I have admired in several complete sets these last few years. Hers is a mighty voice and she is thrilling and expressive - but too much! Obraztsova on the Levine set isn’t the smoothest either but is easier to stomach. Renata Scotto, always singing off the words, may not have such a voluminous instrument as Carosi, but is so much more sensitive.
Alfonso Antoniozzi sings Ecco il monologo expressively and with nuances but the tone is shaky - and it doesn’t improve, rather it becomes more wobbly the further the drama unfolds. He is sensitive and relishes the words but the dryness of the sound is rather forbidding.
Much the best singing comes from Marcelo Álvarez. Here is a singer who, like the baritone, is sensitive and willing to sing a pianissimo, but also has that glow and brilliance that a true tenor in this repertoire must have. La dolcissima is a fine calling-card but the real high-spot is L’anima ho stanca, where he almost challenges Domingo on the Sony set. The furious ovations are well deserved.
Let me add that Simone Del Savio, singing Il principe, is a very good bass and that Micaela Carosi is at her best in the spoken Phedra’s monologue. It is melodramatic but spine-chilling.
Quite often Dynamic provides librettos and translations but this time we have to make do with synopses. Those with a fair knowledge in German can acquire the libretto with German translation here but the layout leaves a lot to be desired.
This recording deserves to be heard for the excellent singing of Marcelo Alvarez but those wanting a more comprehensive picture of this melodious and quite fascinating score should search out the Levine recording. At present it is available at super budget price, but no libretto.
Göran Forsling 

Deserves to be heard for Alvarez but the Levine is more melodious and fascinating.