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Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana
Pietro Mascagni, Gioachino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi
Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #2

The first disc opens with a brief speech by the composer, delivered with verve and hammy declamation. It's a fun start to this 1940 recording, made 50 years after its premiere. His conducting is very free, ignoring score m...  more »

      
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The first disc opens with a brief speech by the composer, delivered with verve and hammy declamation. It's a fun start to this 1940 recording, made 50 years after its premiere. His conducting is very free, ignoring score markings and leading the slowest of the opera's many recorded versions. But it works; a reading full of atmosphere and an inevitability that, even after all these years, makes this one of the best-conducted of all Cavallerias. It also has one of the best casts ever assembled. Beniamino Gigli is a terrific Turiddu; he's in excellent voice, singing with intensity and involvement. He shares honors with the burly baritone of Gino Bechi, among the best of all recorded Alfios. Another plus is the passionate Santuzza, Lina Bruna Rasa, who lets out all the stops in true verismo style. Naxos fills out the second disc with Mascagni conducting overtures and preludes from his own and others' operas. But the Cavalleria is what counts, and Ward Marston's fine transfers make this issue preferable to other available versions of this performance. --Dan Davis

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CD Reviews

50 years on, Mascagni conducts his own Cavalleria Rusticana.
BDSinC | 10/24/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Ward Marston transfers of historic opera recordings continue be issued by Naxos. This one is noteworthy for several reasons: it offers the best and cheapest available edition of Mascagni conducting his own opera, and it has Beniamino Gigli in the tenor role. Some comments on the composer/conductor first. In 1940 it was fifty years since "Cavelleria Rusticana" debuted in Rome. The 76 year old composer was invited to conduct the recording, select the singers, and present an introductory speech. Sounding like a gladiator of former times addressing the crowd in the coliseum, Pietro Mascagni provides a two minute speech, here printed in the notes in translation. He directs a performance that is neither true to the original score nor calculated to present the opera's best features. You need only to listen to the famous intermezzo, where you'll hear dynamic and tempo exaggerations in the "big tune" that are not indicated in the score. Earlier, in fact during the opening orchestral prelude, you'll hear a production fault that Mascagni apparently ignored. A feature of this work, credited with being the first "verismo" (true to life) opera, is the interpolation of an off-stage "Siciliana" sung by the tenor Turiddu to Lola, the wife of Alfio, during the opera's orchestral prelude. Any suggestion that Turiddu wants to maintain their hopeless involvement is destroyed when we hear singing so loud from Beniamino Gigli as to suggest that Turiddu wants the whole of Sicily to know about it. Yes, Gigli is in fine voice, but his habit of adding a gulp or an extra note at the beginning of almost every phrase is an unwelcome crudity.Lina Bruna Rasa, a singer usually institutionalised at this time due to psychiatric problems, makes Santuzza sound like the sort of future wife for Turiddu who would be handier with the rolling pin than in dispensing tender loving care. Gino Bechi, early in his career, and Giulietto Siminionato, even earlier, take the parts of Alfio and Mamma Lucia. Because this performance with its introductory speech extends beyond the limit of a single CD, Naxos have filled the additional space on the second CD with transfers of some extremely rare recordings made by Pietro Mascagni conducting a Berlin orchestra in Rossini and Verdi overtures, and orchestral sequences from several of his own operas. Recording dates are not provided; I guess them to be from the late 1920s."
Definitive Recording
09/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"My review is based upon the original RCA Treasury Series recording. Despite its age, this is the quintessential Cavelleria Rusticano. The principals are all outstanding. My one caveat is the excessive sobbing in the last act's "Farewell to his Mother" by Beniamino Gigli, the opera's Turrido. Otherwise this tenor, whose singing is generally not my personal "cup of tea," does a great job. Lina Bruna Rasa has the perfect voice for Santuzza, and she pulls out all the stops. Bechi is a very convincing Alfio. Altogether, this is melodrama done in the true, southern Italian Style. Mascagni, who conducts "his own child" fifty years after its first presentation, makes some brief opening remarks. They are both apt and touching. I have numerous recordings of this opera, including the excellent Callas version. This one is by far the best."