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Levine: Mascagni – Cavalleria Rusticana (APE)

Levine: Mascagni - Cavalleria Rusticana (APE)
Levine: Mascagni – Cavalleria Rusticana (APE)

Composer: Pietro Mascagni
Performer: Renato Scotto, Placido Domingo, Pablo Elvira, Isola Jones, Jean Kraft
Orchestra: National Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: James Levine
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: RCA
Size: 335 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: no

01. Preludio
02. O Lola Chai Di Latti La Cammisa
03. Gli Aranci Olezzano
04. Dite, Mamma Lucia
05. Il Cavallo Scalpita
06. Beato Voi, Compar Alfio
07. Regina Coeli, Laetare – Alleluja!
08. Voi Lo Sapete
09. Tu Qui, Santuzza?
10. Bada, Santuzza, Schiavo Non Sono
11. Fior Di Giaggiolo, Gli Angeli Belli Stanno
12. Ah, Lo Vedi, Che Hai Tu Detto?
13. Turiddu, Ascolta!
14. Oh, Il Signore Vi Manda, Compar Alfio
15. Il Ver
16. Intermezzo Sinfonico
17. A Casa, A Casa, Amici
18. Intanto, Amici, Qua, Beviamone Un Bicchiere
19. A Voi Tutti Salute!
20. Compar Turiddu
21. Mamma, Mamma… Quel Vino E Generoso

“Invan tenti sopire il giusto sdegno colla tua pieta!”

Love. Betrayal. Family. Honor. Dishonor. Trust. Distrust. It’s pretty hard to believe that every single one of these well-known themes are in an opera that lasts for only one act. Cavalleria Rusticana, created by Pietro Mascagni, became one of the benchmarks of verismo operas. These types of theatrical compositions deal with ordinary people in ordinary places. There are no Gods or Valkyries, no princes or princesses, no talking foxes or fairies, just normal men and women who work for a living. Cavalleria Rusticana has an average length of about seventy minutes (depending on the conductor’s choice of tempi), and is filled with shock and heartbreak, especially in the ending. It’s not excessively dark and twisted, but it still gives us a more accurate take on the real world. As for the music itself, it’s wonderful. Mascagni has created some dazzling vocal solos, as well as some intriguing instrumentation. It’s an overall satisfying operatic experience, but I can’t help but envision the ending to The Godfather Part III whenever I listen to the Intermezzo.

At first, I was a bit skeptical about James Levine’s conducting. Ever since his broad interpretation of Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen, I would be a bit concerned about his other performances of other operas. Well, it turned out that that concern was actually a bias. This is an intelligent reading. The softer sections are peaceful when they should be, and the lively sequences are cheerful when they should be. There is an undeniable power that is found in this rendition, and I have to say that I’m very proud that I purchased this CD. Of course, we have to thank the orchestra, also. The now-disbanded National Philharmonic Orchestra must have known this opera very well. Sure, they not like the Berliner Philharmoniker, but they did an excellent job here. Not only did they perform the theatrical piece, they reveled in it. The strings, the woodwinds, the brass, the percussion, it is indeed perfection. Levine and the National Philharmonic Orchestra make this a worthy addition to my growing collection of classical music and opera.

But let’s not forget the soloists. Even though there are technically only five singers (a tenor, a soprano, a baritone, and two mezzo-sopranos), this is a solid ensemble. There is a reason why Placido Domingo is so famous: it’s because he’s an astonishing tenor. It’s also evident here as he performs as Turridu. This is a very 2-dimensional character, and I do believe that Domingo understands that. It’s a very “dry” voice that remains convincing for the sort of character that Turridu is. Renata Scotto as Santuzza . . . what can I say? It’s a fabulous performance. I can’t seem to find a single flaw. There’s no doubt that she’s one of the finest sopranos for these sorts of Italian operas. The rest of the cast is certainly worthy of mention. Pablo Elvira as Alfio, Isola Jones as Lola, Kean Kraft as Mamma Lucia, and even Anne Simon as the brief, non-singing role of a Peasant Girl complete this great ensemble. Sensational singing throughout.

With this 1978 recording of Cavalleria Rusticana, you really can’t deny that it’s an excellent performance. The conducting, the singing, and the orchestral playing are almost perfect. Kudos to RCA for this brilliant re-issue of a brilliant verismo opera.

The magic of just listening

A reveiwer below said “THIS” is the one to buy.He is right on the money. We are so used to having a full visual display to accompany our opera (DVD) that many of us may be reluctanct to purchase a ‘mere audio CD’. I previously thoroughly enjoyed the pairing of Mascangni and Leoncavallo= both with the truly great actor AND tenor, Placido – and with cinemetography by the visually lush Zeferelli ‘staging’ ( all outdoors, a big plus ). I often sell a few opera DVD’s so I can buy more. This pair, I describe above is one I soon lamented having sold. Thus I bought this ‘mere CD’…for the simple reason that I truly missed the music. I was very pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the music this time.
(A good stereo, and a quality pair of headphones is wondrous here…it is a thrilling thing to feel as though your are sitting in the orchestra -which headphones do for you- and not miss a single subtle nuance ). Clearly,before, with the films, I was distracted by all the glitzy, well staged! drama and interaction between and among the players before . I truly enjoyed the music this time-which seemed a much more coherent, glorious tapestry of melody and tempo. I think you too would also be able to appreciate Renata Scotto much more by listening. I’m one who doesn’t think anyone can top Montserrat Caballe…but I was enormously impressed with her vocal skills. I must have been thoroughly distracted, previously, by the enormous pathos in her portrayal of Santuzza on film. Moreover…there seemed to be more seamlessness in the story and music as well as i merely listened this time. You know what is going to happen ….the betrayed husband is invited by the morally diffused Turrido, during the memorable “drinking song”, to share a drink of the newly delivered wine …we also know that by this moment in time, Pablo Elvira, the wronged husband, has been told by Santuzza about the affair…and coldly refuses the drink…and the invitation to a knife fight to the death is proffered to Turrido instead!…Chill…and the music paints this image with great gravity. This is soon followed by the frenetic, powerfully emotive goodbye song to Mamma by Turrido…what a powerful denoument all by itself. There is little need after that to tarry, musically; there is little time left, indeed. We are spared a bloody scene, thankfully. That would have been superfluous. We have all ‘seen and heard’ all we need to. And Coda. You will not easily find a better production than this one. In time , it will be recognized as legendary, owing to the resplendant talents of all the singers and orchestral musicians…and by James Levine, who always seems to wring exactly the right tempo , tone, and mood from the musicians…who deserve enormous credit for their sensitivity with this timeless musical wonder.

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