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Umberto GIORDANO (1867–1948) Fedora, melodramma in three acts [101.50]
Italian libretto by Arturo Colautti, based on the play Fédora
by Victorien Sardou DYNAMIC Blu-Ray 57772 [109 mins]
This release of Umberto Giordano’s Fedora
from Dynamic is the label’s tribute to Genoa born soprano Daniela
Dessì who died in August 2016, just over a year after this performance
was recorded at Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa. Showing Dessì in exceptional
form as Princess Fedora, a signature role, this certainly feels like
a fitting celebration of the life of this much-admired singer. Only
last year I reviewed Dessì’s exceptional performance as Mimì in
La Bohème from the 2014 Festival Puccini given at Gran Teatro
Giacomo Puccini di Torre del Lago on C Major which was released just
prior to Dessì’s death in August 2016 (review).
In both these productions of Fedora and La Bohème,
Dessì stars with her Genoa-born husband, tenor Fabio Armiliato.
In terms of international performances, Giordano’s most encountered
opera is Andrea Chénier, which seems to have become increasingly
popular in recent years. His next most popular opera, Fedora,
lags some distance behind, while Siberia is even further down
the pecking order. The plot of Fedora reminds me of Puccini’s
Tosca: both are verismo operas centring around strong
and distinguished women in love and caught up in political intrigues.
Both women feel guilt for causing another’s death and commit suicide.
First performed two years after Andrea Chénier the three act
opera Fedora was a success at its première in 1898 at Teatro
Lirico, Milan, with Gemma Bellincioni creating the role of Princess
Fedora and Enrico Caruso, then only in his mid-twenties, as Count Loris
Ipanov. In my view, Fedora is an admirable opera deserving
higher regard than its currently status and with the lead roles taken
here by passionate singers of the quality of Dessì and Armiliato it
is transformed into a most affecting experience.
In this new production, stage director Rosetta Cucchi creates a smooth-actioned
staging at Teatro Carlo Felice which is probably as traditional as the
budget allows. Set in the late nineteenth century, the three acts take
place in Count Andreievich’s palace at St. Petersburg, Princess
Fedora’s house at Paris and Fedora’s mountain villa in Switzerland.
Throughout the production, at the front left corner of the stage an
old man sits in semi-darkness at a small table, stirring tea or drinking
spirits, sometimes wearing a well-worn cardigan and at other times a
military jacket. No doubt this is Loris in his dotage and the production
is viewed retrospectively through his eyes. Set designer Tiziano Santi
uses furniture which looks convincingly of the period and suitable for
the finest homes. Consistent use is made of the rear wall, often covered
in window-like framework, onto which subtle scenes are projected, including
what I take to be snow, waves and even a battlefield. Costume designer
Claudia Pernigotti excels with a beautiful array of period costumes
for the Russian nobility, gorgeous gowns and riding clothes for Princess
Fedora, dashing military dress uniforms for Count Loris, elegant dresses
and silk harem trousers for the young Countess Olga and well-tailored
suits for the diplomat De Siriex.
Married in life, Dessì and Armiliato certainly generate convincing,
intense, and often stormy passion in their duets Lascia che pianga
io sola (Act Two) and Te sola io guardo (Act Three). Dessì
is in particularly impressive form and I especially relish Fedora’s
Act Three aria Dio di giustizia as she prays for Loris to be
saved from the disaster she has caused him. An impressive actor, Dessì
brings considerable vulnerability to the role, her warm-hearted personality
shining through. Benefiting from splendid vocal technique throughout,
her fluid, attractive, powerful voice is in fine condition, strikingly
passionate and deeply affecting in her big arias. Loris is well provided
for, with three substantial arias, and Armiliato gives a solid and assured
performance, communicating a wealth of emotions. Best of all is his
renowned Act Two aria Amor ti vieta, telling Fedora of his
love for her, conveyed with a penetrating depth of passion.
Russian soubrette Daria Kovalenko takes the role of Olga playing a youthful,
beautiful and rather scatty countess. In suitably girl-like in voice,
Kovalenko sings with a palpable enthusiasm and is able to jump satisfactorily
up to her high notes. As the French diplomat De Siriex, Italian baritone
Alfonso Antoniozzi struggles slightly with his coloratura but generally
sings well and his acting convinces, as he has considerable stage presence.
There are no problems whatsoever with the smaller roles, all which are
effectively cast. Assured maestro Valerio Galli draws warm, dependable
playing from his orchestra which makes a significant impression, and
the chorus has been noticeably well-drilled by Patrizia Priarone.
The performance was recorded in live performance at Teatro Carlo Felice
in 2015. Video director Matteo Ricchetti has selected his shots well,
choosing not to come up too close to the singers. I tend to think that
even short glimpses of the audience add to the atmosphere of a live
performance but no audience can be seen on the film; only the stage
and orchestra pit are visible. It is a shame that there is no bonus
footage provided, such as interviews from principal cast members or
the creative team. A directorial note from Rosetta Cucchi would be my
minimum requirement either on film or in the booklet. There are no problems
at all with the quality of the sound, which offers the usual choice
between stereo or surround. The accompanying booklet contains a helpful
essay by Danilo Prefumo, together with a synopsis and track listing.
Thoroughly enjoyable, Rosetta Cucchi’s staging of Giordano’s
Fedora is a credit to all concerned and serves as a fitting
tribute to the art of Daniela Dessì.
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