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Overtures, Preludes & Intermezzi
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Un giorno di regno, ossia Il finto Stanislao – Overture [4.51]
I Lombardi alla prima crociata – Prelude to the Trio (Act III) [4.34]
Alfredo CATALANI (1854-1893)
La Wally – Introduction to Act III [3.50]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La pietra del paragone – Overture [5.59]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Ugo, conte di Parigi – Overture [7.28]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Norma – Overture [5.32]
Umberto GIORDANO (1867–1948)
Siberia – Prelude to Act II [4.34]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Madama Butterfly – Intermezzo [8.19]
Edgar – Prelude to Act IV [6.22]
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886)
La Gioconda – Dance of the Hours [9.47]
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)
Pagliacci – Intermezzo [3.32]
I Medici – Prelude to Act I [2.57]; Prelude to Act III [3.31]
Arrigo BOITO (1842-1918)
Mefistofele – Prelude to the Prologue [5.18]
Filarmonica Della Scala/Riccardo Chailly
rec. June 2016, Teatro degli Arcimboldi, Milan
DECCA 4831148 [76.35]

On Decca Riccardo Chailly conducts Filarmonica della Scala, symphony orchestra of legendary Teatro alla Scala (La Scala Opera House), in a programme of opera Overtures, Preludes & Intermezzi. Spanning over nine decades, all fourteen operas from ten Italian composers, were premièred at La Scala with the exception of Leoncavallo’s Intermezzo from Pagliacci and the pair of Preludes from I Medici premièred at the nearby Teatro Dal Verme.

What a welcome homecoming it must have been in 2015 when Riccardo Chailly opened a new chapter at La Scala, Milan by becoming its principal conductor, later taking over as music director as recently as January 2017. Milanese by birth Chailly had worked at the great opera house numerous times during his career. The connection goes back several decades as Chailly’s father Luciano, an opera composer, was artistic director of La Scala from 1968/71 and the teenage Chailly himself made his conducting debut there, as assistant to Claudio Abbado in 1978.

The Filarmonica della Scala was formed in the early 1980s, by Claudio Abbado and the musicians of La Scala Opera House, as its symphonic concert orchestra to add an additional arm to La Scala’s distinguished opera tradition. With this project one thinks back to the success that Chailly had in developing the profiles of both the Royal Concertgebouw and Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestras. Worthy of praise is the Decca release Viva Verdi – Overtures and Preludes from the Filarmonica della Scala under Chailly, a celebration of Verdi’s bicentenary year in 2013 (review).

On this new album the earliest piece is the overture from La pietra del paragone Rossini’s first commission from a major opera house and an immediate success at its première in 1812. Although Pietra is rarely heard, the rousing overture is recognisable, since Rossini recycled it for Tancredi. The most recent work is the intermezzo from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. With its extreme popularity it’s hard to imagine today that the opera’s première in 1904 was regarded as one of the worst fiascos in the history of La Scala. Heading the second part of act two the substantial intermezzo with its pathos-infused melodies casts an alluring spell under Chailly’s baton.

Every track on the programme has real merit and I have chosen a couple of highlights which happen to be rather lesser known works. Giordano’s opera Siberia premièred in 1903, revised in 1927, is certainly not widely known; its ‘Prelude to act two’ is clearly influenced by Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. A real discovery, the score is full of compelling drama which Chailly underlines, especially the tension, reminiscent of a Hitchcock film score. Another marvellous score is the final track ‘Prelude to the Prologue’ from Boito’s underrated opera Mefistofele with Chailly revelling in yet more drama and generating a strong sense of foreboding. Recently I had the opportunity of reviewing Roland Schwab’s compelling and thought provoking 2015 production of the opera from Bayerische Staatsoper on C Major Blu-ray (review).

Completely at home with this music, the Filarmonica Della Scala under maestro Chailly gives characterful performances of infectious sparkle and generous tonal warmth. For this album Teatro degli Arcimboldi, a modern building completed in 2002, has been used as a recording studio not Teatro alla Scala. Nevertheless, the sound quality is excellent being clear with presence and well balanced. Informative and interestingly written too is Fabrizio Della Seta’s booklet essay translated from Italian into English.

It’s hard to imagine these Overtures, Preludes & Intermezzi receiving finer advocacy than these Chailly recordings from Milan.

Michael Cookson



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