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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.

Michael Cookson

Previous review (CD): Göran Forsling

Performance details

Fedora – Daniela Dessì (soprano)
Loris – Fabio Armiliato (tenor)
De Siriex –  Alfonso Antoniozzi (baritone)
Olga – Daria Kovalenko (soprano)
Dimitri – Margherita Rotondi (mezzo-soprano)
Desirè – Manuel Pierattelli (tenor)
Baron Rouvel – Alessandro Fantoni (tenor)
Cirillo – Luigi Roni (bass)
Boroff – Claudio Ottino (bass-baritone)
Gretch – Roberto Maietta (baritone)
Lorek – Davide Mura (bass)
Genoa Carlo Felice Theater Chorus & Orchestra/Valerio Galli
Stage director – Rosetta Cucchi
Set designer – Tiziano Santi
Costume designer – Claudia Pernigotti
Lighting design – Luciano Novelli
Video director – Matteo Ricchetti
rec. live, March 2015, Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa, Italy
Video Format/Aspect ratio: 1080i60 – 1 BD50
LPCM Stereo 2.0ch, 48kHz/24bit; DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1ch, 48kHz
Regions: All
Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Korean, Japan

 

 




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