"Gloria" to Cilea!
Leo J. Wolansky | 07/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those who love or have loved a verismo opera such as "Tosca", "I Pagliacci", or "Cavalleria Rusticana", and wish there were other operas along those lines, "Gloria" is a must.
The story itself is a "throw-back" to the "Il Trovatore" era, with castles and war, so it's hardly a "verismo" in the sense of telling a story about "a slice of life", the premise of "realism", but the music...ah, the music is as beautiful as virtually any verismo opera. The recording gets off to a suboptimal start. The first track is a brief unimpressive overture which includes a fanfare with out of tune brass instruments. The second track is a pretty chorus of women, "Primavera al tuo limpido raggiare". The third track is a beautiful ode to a fountain, "Fonte muta", symbolizing the fountain of love and life. The aria is made up of a perfectly structured "sequence" building to a climax. Margherita Roberti, the heroine and title character has a beautiful instrument even at times calling to mind that icon, Renata Tebaldi, in terms of timbre as well as vibrato speed in the middle register, Italianate mannerisms, and even the slightly wild top. In track four, Flaviano Labo, makes his appearance and combines with Gloria for a brief but pretty duet-type scene. Labo plays Lionetto, the male lead, a sort of "good bad-guy". In track five he sings an exciting aria, "Storia ho di sangue" with a dramatic, although perhaps somewhat derivative, orchestral accompaniment. His voice is energetic with a lively vibrato and perfect Italian dramatic tenor mannerisms, a la Mario del Monaco. In track six, Lionetto is confronted by Aquilante (Ferruccio Mazzoli), Bardo (Lorenzo Testi) and the townsfolk. Track seven, "Vergine, d'astri" is a beautiful prayer by Gloria to the blessed virgin against an accompaniment of strings playing arpeggios in a fashion almost plagiarized from the intro to Cilea's earlier success "Ecco: respire appenna" from "Adrianna Lecouvreur". In tracks eight and nine, the plot develops with the help of some fine ensembles leading to the end of act 1. In act 2 (starting with track 10) we hear a dramatic instrumental prelude symbolizing that war has broken out (although the orchestra almost falls apart). The Sienese woman then informs Gloria that her city is being destroyed out of revenge by her captor and future husband. This is followed (track 11) by what has to be the "show-stopper" of the opera, "O mia cuna fiorita" a haunting aria sung by Gloria as she laments the fate of her beloved Sienna. The aria, in ¾ time, is perfectly structured, built on a series of suspensions which create an absolute musical gem. Track 12 is a pretty chorus of maidens. Tracks 13 and 14, a duet/scene between Gloria and her angry brother, Bardo, serves to move the action forward. Track 15 "O mia dolce sorella", in which Bardo demonstrates his admiration for Gloria his sister, is the baritone's big aria before it turns into a duet. Lorenzo Testi is quite solid despite being a little insecure on his high note. "Vergine Santa" is a prayer by Gloria, which is sort of a chant, being less melodic than the earlier arias. This is followed by a duet for strings on the "O mia dolce sorella" theme, in which the second string instrument goes badly out of tune at the climax. "Pur dolente son io" (track 17) is Lionetto's big aria. It is beautifully sung by Flaviano Labo who builds nicely to the climactic high notes. The aria's drawback is that it resembles quite a few compositions that were written years later (including the James Bond rising and descending ½ note motif, played by the orchestra). Track 18 provides more pretty music in a scene/love duet between Lionetto and Gloria. Act 3, the wedding scene starts with track 19, an instrumental solo in which the orchestra sounds good under the excellent baton of Fernando Previtali. This is followed by another aria of Lionetto, "Popolo esulta!", which Labo handles well. On track 21, there is a dramatic turn of events resulting in Lionetto's murder, which is reflected by appropriately dramatic music. Track 22 "Gloria, ove sei" is a beautiful death duet/scene between Gloria and Lionetto. Labo is occasionally under pitch, acceptable for a singing actor portraying a dying man.
After the conclusion of the opera, the recording includes a handful of bonus songs to piano accompaniment, which overall is not impressive; and a sonata for a chamber group, the second movement of which is lovely.
The CD comes with a libretto in Italian and English and good background essays (with an imperfect translation into English). Another thing worth mentioning about the recording is that somehow the two stars, Margherita Roberti and Flaviano Labo, are excluded from the names of the Amazon product listing, probably because their names were in a larger font from the supporting cast on the CD cover and presumably overlooked.
In conclusion, Gloria is a beautiful well-paced opera, running only 79 minutes, and deserves a place in today's repertoire. It is unfortunate that, to the best of my knowledge, the centennial passed in 2007 without any revivals. The man who produced such beautiful arias such as "Federico's lament" and "L'anima ho stanca", certainly produced a winner when writing his swan-song opera, "Gloria.""
Proof that Cilea was not just a one opera composer
Ralph Moore | Bishop's Stortford, UK | 10/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Everything else written by Cilea has been overshadowed by "Adriana Lecouvreur" which has many wholly recommendable recordings (see my reviews for the Levine set and the live Naples recording with Corelli and Olivero) but this, Cilea's last opera, contains so much lovely music that I wonder I why it has been so neglected. Perhaps it begins rather unimpressively but the music goes from strength to strength as the opera unfolds. Highlights are the set piece arias for soprano ("O mia cuna") and tenor ("Pur dolente son io") and their duet which concludes Act 2. There is much delicacy in the orchestration as well as some lovely choral pieces and orchestral interludes. Flaviano Labo made so few studio recordings that this set is indispensable as a souvenir of his fine, plangent tenor, and Margherita Roberti (an American soprano who had a not inconsiderable career mainly in Italy) deploys a fine spinto which is certainly up to the demands of the score, if not especially memorable. Supporting roles are less impressive but Previtali directs expertly and secures rhythmically vigorous playing from the Torino della RAI orchestra. The whole thing hangs together beautifully and provides solid entertainment; there is something infectiously whole-hearted about Cilea's writing and his desire to please; I for one am very happy to have made the acquaintance of this stirring opera.(Sample also his "L'Arlesiana" - see my review.)"