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Leoncavallo: Zazà
Ruggero Leoncavallo, Alberto Franchetti, Maurizio Arena
Leoncavallo: Zazą
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (27) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (19) - Disc #2


      
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CD Reviews

A verismo treasure
Andrew Greene | 01/04/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This was an absolute 'Find' of an opera and can be strongly recommended to all lovers of verismo and romantic opera. Although considerably cut in the first and third acts, the piece's value still shines through and in many places is more sophisticated and subtle than 'Pagliacci'. An excellent performance in general with the soprano Lynne Strow being consistently excellent in the title role. Hers is a new voice for me and I shall certainly be looking for other recordings that she has made. The baritone reminds me of Panerai and the only disappointment is the tenor who lets the side down a bit, although not to the point of destroying one's enjoyment of the piece. I would have given 4 and a half stars (the tenor stops me giving it 5) if I could have given the extra half star!"
Leoncavallo Light
Steven Muni | Sutter Creek, CA USA | 04/24/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"While any great composer can have an "off" day, in the world of late 19th/early 20th century Italian operas there were a group of composers that reversed the order of things. Essentially mediocre to good composers, each is famous for one huge success. Cilea had Ariadne Lecouvreur, Mascagni had Cavelleria Rusticana, and Leoncavallo had Pagliacci.

Zaza is Leoncavallo's second most popular opera, and frankly it's quite a way down the scale from Pagliacci. To be fair, he is not helped by his two librettists, who gave him a libretto of simply gooey sentimentality.

The opera is the story of Zaza, not the drag queen from Cage aux Folles but the star of a tacky music hall. When the curtain rises, she is in her dressing room waiting for her lover, Dufresne. Before he shows up, she is visited by Floriana, her bitter rival in the cast, her singing partner and ex-lover Cascart, her drunken mother Anaide, and the journalist Bussy, a friend of Dufresne's. It's beginning to seem like Grand Central Station in there.

Dufresne finally shows up, the rest of the crew clears off, and the lovers sing a nice duet, wherein Dufresne admits that although he has been hesitant to get too involved with Zaza, he does reciprocate her feelings. (Big of him.)

The second act starts at Zaza's house, where she and Dufresne are dealing with his imminent departure for America. He takes off, and Cascart shows up to try to get Zaza to dump Dufresne. (Cascart is still in love with her.) He drops portentous hints, finally coming out and saying that he's seen Dufresne in the company of a young woman at another theater. Understandably put out by this revelation, Zaza heads off, with her maid in tow, to beard the lion in his den.

Alone in his study, Dufresne sings a song about his imminent separation from Zaza. Zaza and her maid show up, and are met by Dufresne's young daughter, Toto, (Dufresne having conveniently left the stage before the ladies arrive.) Toto artlessly chats with the ladies, and very quickly Zaza realizes that the "other woman" was in fact Dufresne's wife, and that he is a happily married man with a daughter--thereby making Zaza herself the "other woman". Oops.

Toto's naivete makes Zaza reflect on her own unhappy childhood, how her father abandoned her, and how she had to face her mother's frequent drunken rages. Then Toto plays Cherubini's Ave Maria, and Zaza joins in with a descant that reflects her sadness on lost innocence and lost love. (Is no stone left unturned?) The ladies then leave. (So, probably, does half the audience.)

Zaza, understandably unhappy, goes home where she is met by her ex, Cascart, who is still pushing his suit. Dufresne shows up, Zaza tells him she went to his home and lies, claiming that she told his wife of their affair. Dufresne gets angry, calls Zaza a few unprintable names, Zaza tells him the truth, he apologizes and buzzes off, (glad to get away, no doubt.) She, realizing that this little affair isn't going anywhere (would that be why he is leaving for America--you think?) decides to give him up. End of opera.

Mercifully, the music is better than the libretto--in a pleasant, tunefull but not particularly memorable way. What rates this opera four stars is the quality of the production. This is a live 1976 Italian radio broadcast. The cast is led by the relatively unknown American soprano, Lynne Strow, who does a very credible job as Zaza. The opera is essentially a soprano vehicle, needing a soprano of sufficient ability and presence to make the audience forget (or at least forgive) the wildly overly-sentimental libretto. And Strow does very well, with a rich full voice and a wonderful artistry that rises above the obvious banality of the lyrics. She is well supported by her equally unknown Italian colleagues, including the marvelously-voiced baritone Angelo Romero as Cascart and the ardent if slightly overwrought tenor of Luciano Saldari. The RAI Symphony Orchestra and chorus also perform admirably. The sound quality, although not great, is better than most GALA recordings.


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GET AWAY FROM PAGLIACCI!
Alfredo R. Villanueva | New York, NY United States | 02/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I HAVE SWORN OFF THE MET REPERTOIRE. AND SURE ENOUGH, AWAY FROM PAGLIACCI, I HAVE ENTERED THE WORLD OF LEONCAVALLO'S OTHER OPERAS, WHICH ARE SIMPLY MAGNIFICENT. TAKE ZAZA, AND LYNNE STROW-PICCOLO, AN AMERICAN SOPRANO WHO SOUNDS LIKE TEBALDI AND OLIVERO ROLLED UP INTO ONE AND ABSOLUTELY SHINES IN THIS RECORDING. I FOUND NO FAULT WITH THE TENOR, LUCIANO SALDARI,ONE OF THE BEST I HAVE HEARD IN THE OFF-THE-BEATEN-TRACK VERISMO OUTPUT. AND WAIT TILL YOU LISTEN TO ANGELO ROMERO, THE BARITONE!!!! GREAT SOUND, NO LIBRETTO, BUT IF YOU ARE INTO THIS KIND OF MUSIC YOU ALREADY UNDERSTAND ITALIAN. MUSIC THAT MAKES LOVE TO YOUR EARS. TOTALLY AWESOME!"