Giacomo OREFICE (1865 - 1922)
Chopin - Opera in 4 acts (1901)
Steven Harrison (tenor) - Chopin; Mariusz Godlewski (baritone) - Elio; Ewa Vesin (soprano) - Flora; Damian Konieczek (bass) - Mnich; Evgeniya Kuznetsova (soprano) - Stella; Gracjan Szymczak (piano)
Wrocław Opera Orchestra, Choir and Children’s Choir/Ewa Michnik
rec. Wrocław Opera, May 2010
brief synopsis but no libretto
DUX 0775/6 [48:05 + 41:05]
The Italian composer Giacomo Orefice was born in Vicenza, studied at Liceo Bologna and later became professor at the Milan Conservatory. He also worked as a critic. He died in Milan. He composed ten operas between 1885 and 1912, a ballet, a symphony and a couple of other orchestral works, chamber music and piano works and a number of songs. Today he is largely forgotten and the reason for the Wrocław Opera to revive this opera is mainly that it is loosely based on some episodes in Chopin’s life but, more importantly, that all the music is by Chopin. Orefice simply chose a number of Chopin’s piano pieces and used the melodies for arias and other scenes. There is even some original piano music performed in the opera.
In the first act Chopin is dying. His friend Elio and his sister Stella are with him. Chopin remembers moments from his life and in the later acts we follow him to Poland in his childhood, to a Paris salon, to Majorca and then, in the last act we are back where the opera started, at Chopin’s deathbed.
So ... is it an unfairly neglected masterpiece that eventually has been brought back to mankind? No. The music is fairly well adapted but just as with Schubert’s operas the musical material is basically un-dramatic and all that remains is a number of melodies, not always belonging to the best known from Chopin’s oeuvre, though the inescapable E Major etude is there. I doubt I will return to this work more than perhaps for blindfold tests of musical friends: Who wrote this opera? Now that I have revealed it those of my friends who are reading this review will know anyway.
There is some fine choral singing and the orchestra play well, as I pointed out recently in the review of Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco with the same forces and the same conductor. In that review I also hailed the baritone Mariusz Godlewski for his excellent singing. He is just as good here and the best reason for acquiring this set. The rest of the cast is competent and the recording cannot be faulted. There is also a very good pianist. In general Dux produce estimable recordings and often present good liner-notes but in this case they are meagre: a very brief synopsis but nothing whatsoever about the composer or the work. I tried to find more on the internet but could only come up with the information on Wikipedia, quoted in the first paragraph above.
For inveterate collectors of Chopiniana this is a must, and other collectors of curios may also be alerted to it. It is also worth pointing out that Manuel de Falla in 1918 - 1919 wrote an unfinished opera, Fuego Fátuo (Firefly) based on music by Chopin.
For inveterate collectors of Chopiniana and other collectors of curios.