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Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Cavalleria rusticana [1890)
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)
Pagliacci (1892)
Chorus and Extra-chorus from Opera Graz
Grazer Philharmoniker/Oksana Lyniv
rec. live, 7 June, 7 & 19 October, 21 November 2019, Opera Graz
OEHMS CLASSICS OC987 [71:39 + 73:02]

The inseparable friends – popularly named Cav & Pag – are here again, this time with Oper Graz as home address. It is the second largest opera house in Austria, seating an audience of 1,800, an imposing neo-Baroque building inaugurated in 1899. Chief conductor of Oper Graz and the Grazer Philharmoniker since 2017 is Ukrainian born Oksana Lyniv, who also conducts this production, which was recorded during a number of live performances in October and November 2018 and one in June 2019. To judge from this recording the hall has warm acoustics which wraps especially the strings in an agreeable sheen (in the prelude and the intermezzo in particular), while letting the woodwind protrude with admirable clarity, not least in their important solo passages. Overall the sound picture is well-balanced and the playing big-boned which suits these operas. The presence of an audience is nowhere perceptible, not even applause at the end of operas. Oksana Lyniv chooses sensible tempos, neither slow nor hectic but with a keen sense for dramatic pulse. The big choral scenes in Cavalleria are impressively built up and there is flair in the singing. Regina coeli from within the church is truly atmospheric.

The solo singing is a bit varied but everyone is deeply involved and the dramatic development is tangible. Aldo Di Toro, who previously has been heard in roles like Werther, Alfredo, Gerald (Lakmé), Nemorino, Duca and Rodolfo, i.e. mainly light lyrical roles, seems a number too small for Turiddu. In the big duet with Santuzza he has to force and the tone becomes pinched and sometimes wobbly – but there is no lack of intensity. In Viva il vino and the following meeting with Alfio he essays some softer nuances but also produces some bleating sounds. He is at his best in Mamma, quel vino, where he summons his powers admirably and also manages some sensitive lyricisms. Per me pregate Iddio is deeply felt and the total impression is in the end good. Ezgi Hutlu’s Santuzza begins a little hesitantly with strong but slightly wobbly singing, but she grows along the way and Voi lo sapete is touching and at forte she sings gloriously. In both duets she is greatly effective. Audun Iversen’s voice has dried out a bit since I last heard him, but he delivers a vivid, though not very Italianate Il cavallo scalpita and is mentally quite subdued in the duet before he ignites – and then he is formidable. Mareike Jankowski sings beautifully and seductively as Lola, and as Mamma Lucia legendary Cheryl Studer at 63 gives a penetrating study of the small but essential alto role.

All in all this recording presents, warts and all, Cavalleria rusticana as a true thriller.

Much the same can be said of Pagliacci. Audun Iversen’s Tonio is dry-voiced but expressive and the sounds he produces are better suited to this role, who is supposed to be elderly, than to Alfio who is a young virile bloke. It also seems that Aldo Di Toro is better suited to Canio than to Turiddu. His short lyrical aria Un tal gioco is excellently sung and Vesti la giubba even better. Aurelia Florian’s Nedda is also first class. Her aria is excellent with fluent and youthful singing, and the duet with the likewise youthful sounding Silvio of Neven Crnić is another highlight. Add to this Martin Fournier’s excellent Beppo (Harlequin) and readers who want a thrilling dramatic experience with minor vocal blemishes can with confidence acquire this set.

For vocal splendour on an even higher level there are several alternatives as well. Both operas in mono recordings from the early 1950s are available with Jussi Björling in the leading tenor roles. Those discs are self-recommending. For stereo recordings but still vintage I personally turn to the 1961 Decca set with Mario Del Monaco and Cornell MacNeil for real blood and thunder readings, or, if I am in a more sophisticated mood, I choose Herbert von Karajan’s La Scala recordings from the mid-1960s with Carlo Bergonzi in the tenor parts. But I will certainly return to the present set for the wholehearted involvement that can only be achieved at a staged performance.

Göran Forsling

Performance details

Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Cavalleria rusticana [1890)
Santuzza – Ezgi Kutlu (mezzo-soprano)
Turiddu – Aldo Di Toro (tenor)
Lucia – Cheryl Studer (soprano)
Alfio – Audun Iversen (baritone)
Lola – Mareike Jankowski (soprano)
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)
Pagliacci (1892)
Canio – Aldo Di Toro (tenor)
Nedda – Aurelia Florian (soprano)
Tonio – Audun Iversen (baritone)
Beppo – Martin Fournier (tenor)
Silvio – Neven Crnić (baritone)
1st peasant – Sangyeon Chae
2nd peasant – Christian Scherler
Chorus and Extra-chorus from Opera Graz
Grazer Philharmoniker/Oksana Lyniv
Librettos in Italian and German enclosed




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