An Interesting Rarity
Timothy Kearney | Hull, MA United States | 10/24/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"When it comes to popular operas, Cherubini's LODOISKA is probably not at the top of too many lists. As a matter of fact, even the most well versed opera lovers have probably never heard of the piece, let alone whistle its memorable arias and duets. Some music lovers may be familiar with the opera's powerful overture, but that's about it. All of this is probably rather sad when you consider that in his day, Luigi Cherubini was a very well loved and highly regarded composer. In his younger years he was a contemporary of Mozart, Beethoven, Hadyn, and Schubert, and in his later years Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, and rivaled some of these composers in popularity. Sadly he is virtually unknown today.LODOISKA is a period piece and its plot is the rather familiar "rescue opera" of which Beethoven's FIDELIO is probably the best example. The lovely Princess Lodoiska is in love with the handsome and dashing Prince Floreski. The only person who stands in the way of the lovers' happiness is the evil Baron Dourlinski. Fortunately Floreski has made a pact with the Tartars who help him save his love just before she will be forced to marry Dourlinski. The opera ends with the two love birds living happily ever after.This set of disks is from a live recording from La Scala in Milan. Riccardo Muti is the conductor. Since this is the only recording of the opera available today (at least I do not see any others listed), it is also the greatest since it has no competition. Mariella Devia and Bernard Lombardo do well as Lodoiska and Floreski respectively. The second act of this recording is the strongest and probably has the most musical appeal. Unfortunately the first act is not all that gripping, but this is due more to the blandness of some of the music and not the performance. This opera will probably not be in the disk player all that often, but it is an enjoyable set to listen to for a change."
Lorenzo Moog | Seattle, WA USA | 11/23/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A voice inside asks, "You want to hear that again?" I answer "yes" as I slip the two discs out of their superbly designed boxed set, "that" being "Lodoiska" by Luigi Cherubini (Paris,1791); libretto (adapted) by Claude-Francois Fillette-Loraux. It was this "rescue-opera" that inspired Beethoven's "Fidelio" and was the first opera to be presented in post-revolutionary Paris to great public acclaim. Certainly the citizens of Paris must have felt in need of some rescuing after the long years of terror and deprivation. This set is a live recording from La Scala (1991) under the suave baton of Riccardo Muti, with Mariella Devia in the title role of the imprisioned Lodoiska; Princess of Altan. With the exception of Francesca Pedaci in the small role of Lysinka the cast is all male including Thomas Moser, Bernard Lombardo and William Shimell.
Since this work is from the genre "comedie heroique" there is the requisite (and abundant) spoken French dialogue. The music has a decidedly symphonic quality with the singing both engagingly spare and heroically grand. The whole cast gives a spirited, rich performance under Muti's dedicated reading of the original score (re-constructed by Lorenzo Tozzi) building the drama that leads to the rescue of the resolute Lodoiska and the downfall of the villian Dourlinski. Ms Devia turns in a grand performance as the undaunted heroine even though the role is relatively small (she first appears quite late and briefly in Act 1). At moments in Act 3 her voice is most angelic. Bernard Lombardo's tenor takes some getting used to. He has an interesting high tenor but with an odd pitch, however, in the role of the love interest, Floreski, he brings such dramatic skill to the language that I am drawn into his performance and by the rescue scene in the burning tower I am with him all the way. The rescue scene has terrific-heroic-horn-music with plenty of swords clashing and the stomping of many feet, very rousing. Thomas Moser turns in a first rate Titzikan, Leader of the Tartars; rich, dark, authoratative, mellow. Devia and Shimell have the villian/ captive heroine act spot on with neither of them about to give in. The set has an intelligent/informative book with libretto in English and images from this La Scala production (cast on set).
On my first hearing of this Cherubini opera I turned it off ("to much verbage") but then one day I opened my mind and listened through and have loved it ever since. I listened to it during the last years of the previous administration, with comfort, when "rescue-opera" seemed just right. It's a sound, fully composed work with a vividly dramatic texture. This would be a great opera for a Canadian company to produce, the French as spoken and sung is delicious. Bravo Luigi! Highly Recommended.