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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Luigi DALLAPICCOLA (1904-1975)
Il Prigioniero (The Prisoner) - Opera in a Prologue and One Act (text: Dallapiccola) (1948)
Giulia Barrera (soprano) - The Mother
Maurizio Mazzieri (baritone) - The Prisoner
Romano Emili (tenor) – The Jailer/The Grand Inquisitor
Gabor Carelli (tenor); Ray Harrell (baritone)
University of Maryland Chorus; National Symphony Orchestra/Antal Dorati
rec. 6-7 April 1974, Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C.
No text or libretto.

Dallapiccola was originally a partisan of Mussolini. Only in the 1930s did he come to realise the evils of the Fascist regime. This change was responsible for his choral work Canti di Prigioniera of 1932 and, to a lesser degree, the one-act opera Volo de Notte (Night Flight) of 1940. After suffering further under Mussolini’s regime in the 1940s Dallapiccola crystallized his experiences in another one act opera Il Prigioniero (The Prisoner) of 1948. This expands both musically and philosophically on themes from the Canti di Prigioniera.

The main character of Il Prigioniero is a prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition in the latter half of the sixteenth century. In the Prologue his mother visits him in prison telling him of a horrible dream she has had. She grows more frantic but suddenly is silenced by an off-stage chorus. The main act is in four scenes. In the first scene his dialogue with his mother continues as he speaks of the sympathy shown him by his jailer. The second is a dialogue between the Prisoner and the Jailer in which the Jailer seems sympathetic to the Prisoner and convinces him to hope. He leaves the door to the cell unlocked as he goes. The Prisoner runs into the prison passages and finally thinks he will escape the prison entirely when he is stopped by the Grand Inquisitor, who leads him to the stake.

This disc is a reissue of the first studio recording of Il Prigioniero. In the mid 1970s this was considered a sharp and vibrant recording and the sound is still quite immediate. Dorati constantly drives the music forward but neglects no detail of this fascinating score. He also obtains excellent performances from his soloists and the choral forces. Most notable is the gradually increasing sense of menace that Dorati produces almost from the first notes of the opera. This makes the sudden shifts of the plot all the more effective.

There was a later recording of Il Prigioniero in 1995 conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen (Sony SK68323), but this is no longer in print and the Dorati version first issued in Decca's Headline LP series (HEAD 10) will probably remain the standard. However, the Dorati version was also re-released on Australian Eloquence (480 8781) about a year ago and listeners will have to decide for themselves which version of the Dorati they wish to purchase.

William Kreindler



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