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Respighi: La fiamma
Ottorino Respighi, Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, Milan Radio Symphony Orchestra
Respighi: La fiamma
Genre: Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #2

Respighi composed several operas, of which La Fiamma is generally considered the most successful. Enchanted by the Byzantine-era mosaics in Ravenna churches, Respighi had long wanted to write an opera in such a setting but...  more »

     
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Respighi composed several operas, of which La Fiamma is generally considered the most successful. Enchanted by the Byzantine-era mosaics in Ravenna churches, Respighi had long wanted to write an opera in such a setting but no libretto suggested itself. When the composer?s regular librettist, Claudio Guastalla, suggested an opera adapted from the stage play Anna Pedersdotter, the Witch, by Norwegian dramatist Hans Wiers Jenssen, Respighi felt it could be recast in early medieval Ravenna. The result was La Fiamma, which had a well-received premiere at the Royal Opera House in Rome in January 23, 1934 with the composer conducting. Although it has not entered the standard repertory, it continues to be performed worldwide. Live performance, Milan, August 7, 1955.

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CD Reviews

Thrilling performance
Aram V. Barsamian | Fullerton, CA United States | 06/19/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I adore La fiamma! I first got to know it when I was preparing to sing John Proctor in The Crucible and wanted to see how the subject of witchcraft was treated in other operas. Boy, was that the discovery of the century for me!

This is a live performance from Milano, 1955, in acceptable sound - mostly. The quality is slightly muffled and hissy, especially apparent in softer passages, but for those of us accustomed to listening to live recordings, this is perfectly tolerable.

Francesco Mollinari-Pradelli's conducting often sounds quite rushed, but much of the time the effect that is achieved is increased urgency and excitement. There is a kind of animalistic, visceral thrill to it all. The singers do their best to keep up with him and most of the time they succeed...

The cast is actually quite wonderful. Before I forget, let me mention that the Eudossia on the CD is uncredited. I did a bit of research and found out her name is Lucia Danieli -- a wonderful, strong, steely, robust mezzo: perfect for the role of the cold matriarch.

The young Anna Moffo sings the supporting role of Monica -- wonderfully, of course. Her dramatic scene with Silvana sizzles. The comprimarii are all wonderful. No weak links. Carlo Tagiabue, who created the role of Basilio at the opera's world premiere, is captured here towards the end of his career. He handles the high tessitura of his dramatic aria admirably, although the high G-flats do sound a bit taxed. The most impressive note he utters is actually unwritten: in his death scene he utters a few agonizing exclamations, one of them rising up to a stunning high B-flat! Giacinto Prandelli is not my favorite tenor, but he handles the technical difficulties of the role well. The top is no problem. There is a kind of shallowness to his voice in the middle, but on top he opens up nicely. The Agnese of mezzo Maria Teresa Mandalari is also a standout. And Nicola Zaccaria as the Bishop is luxury casting. The chorus sounds great, especially in the massive mob scenes.

The real discovery for me was Mara Coleva, who sings the leading role of Silvana. Wow! What an interesting, exciting artist! Her soprano is a full lyric/spinto, her vibrato on the fast side. She reminds me a lot of Magda Olivero and Raina Kabaivanska and other such "flawed and fascinating" divas. Just like them, she capitalizes on shimmering high pianissimi and explosive fortes. Her performance is full of temperament, never crossing the line into camp. The scene where she gets in touch with her inner "fiamma" and conjures the object of her desire, with her repetitions of "Donello, Donello, Donello!" is really exciting and believable.

Ilona Tokody's rendition of this tour-de-force role on the Hungaraton studio recording is unbeatable, but Coleva's interpretation is certainly worth a hearing. I just wish the sound quality were just a tiny bit better so one could truly appreciate the depth of characterization and Respighi's beautiful music."
Live Opera Appearance by a Young Anna Moffo
Ellwood J. Annaheim | Cheverly, MD | 07/09/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Here is an opera by Respighi, generally unknown by Americans, in a live performance with Anna Moffo in a supporting role. The recording (which has excellent sound) was made in the late 50s while she was studying in Italy on a Fullbright. Her character only appears in Act I, but her singing is superb and her acting is impressive. This is a good opportunity to hear Moffo's young voice before she became internationally known."