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Blu-ray Review

Francesco Cilèa

L'Arlesiana

  • Rosa Mamai - Annunziata Vestri
  • Federico - Dmitry Golovnin
  • Vivetta - Mariangela Sicilia
  • Baldassarre - Stefano Antonucci
  • Metifio - Valeriu Caradja
  • Marco - Christian Saitta
  • L'Innocente - Riccardo Angelo Strano
Coro Lirico Marchigiano V. Bellini
Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana/Francesco Cilluffo
Recorded Live September, 2013 at the Teatro G.B. Pergolesi, Jesi, Italy
Director - Rosetta Cucchi
Set Designer - Sarah Bacon
Costume designer - Claudia Pernigotti
Light Designer - Martin Mclachlan
Dynamic Blu-ray 57688 105:00 PCM Stereo DTS-HD Master Audio
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon JapanOrder Now from ArkivMusic.com Find it at JPC
Also available on DVD 37688: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe - JPC
And available on 2CDs CDS7688/1-2: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe - JPC

Francesco Cilèa's L'Arlesiana is a rarely-staged and -recorded opera that appears here for the first time on video. This is a release that I believe will attract considerable notice, both for the fine performances and for the tasteful production. The libretto for the opera was fashioned by Leopoldo Marenco, who drew on Alphonse Daudet's play L'Arlésienne. Some readers will have familiarity with the incidental music for the play written by Georges Bizet.

Cilèa's L'Arlesiana was premiered in 1897 and then revised the following year, the composer making various changes and reducing the opera from four acts to three. As a rather very belated afterthought, Cilèa added the opening Prelude in 1937. This performance of the opera is apparently the first to contain the aria Una mattina, which was used in the original four-act version of the opera. The aria had been thought lost but Italian tenor Giuseppe Filianoti discovered its manuscript in 2011, and it is now restored and sung in the Third Act here.

The story to L'Arlesiana focuses on a character you never see in the opera, the mysterious woman from Arles. Federico is obsessed with her and plans to marry her. Metifio, a drover, presents letters to Federico's mother, Rosa Mammai. The letters prove the woman from Arles is his lover. Rosa Mammai shows the letters to Federico and he is devastated and feels betrayed by women in general. Vivetta, who has long been in love with Federico, tries to seduce him, but is rejected. Eventually, Federico agrees to marry Vivetta. When Federico hears talk of Metifio's plans to kidnap the woman from Arles, however, he becomes obsessed with her again. Federico turns delirious and commits suicide.

There is, of course, a little more to the story than that capsule summary of it might suggest, but the plot and action are nevertheless quite simple and straightforward. As suggested, this production is a good one, from the updated but appropriate costumes to the sets that include the very atmospheric decaying house front in the opening scene. In fact, everything about the opera visually is appealing and effective in conveying the story and the emotions of the characters. Kudos then are in order for stage director Rosetta Cucchi for her imaginative and sensitive treatment of the opera. The main asset here though is the Federico of Dmitri Golovnin, who is quite compelling throughout and who delivers one knock-out number, the famous Federico's lament from the second act, É la solita storia del pastore. The audience interrupts the performance for a minute or so with enthusiastic applause that comes at the end of this number. But Golovnin doesn't quite steal the show, as Annunziata Vestri is in good form throughout, despite her austere demeanor and somewhat ghostly appearance – qualities that are arguably appropriate to her character. Try her First Act aria Era un giorno di festa to sample her considerable vocal and dramatic skills. Stefano Antonucci as Baldassare and Mariangela Sicilia as Vivetta are also very convincing in their roles.

Francesco Cilluffo leads the proceedings with moderate to slightly brisk tempos and draws fine performances from the orchestra and chorus. The camera work, picture clarity and sound reproduction are all first rate. With so many positive aspects to this production, many will ask, is this little known opera by Cilèa worthy of such excellent treatment? More to the point, is it worthy of purchase? After all, to some, Cilèa is a one-work composer, that one work being his opera Adriana Lecouvreur, which is frequently staged and recorded, but still not exactly a major staple of the operatic repertory. L'Arlesiana is probably not a first-rate masterpiece, but it is at least a minor masterpiece. It has many attractive tunes, lush orchestration, and comes from a sound world not far removed from that of Puccini. Many opera lovers will find it enchanting, maybe even moving. You can find excerpts from this opera on several internet sites that might help you decide if you'll like the music and performances here. I can only say I'm glad to have this opera in my collection now.

Copyright © 2015, Robert Cummings

Trumpet