These Radio France live recordings of Puccini's first two operas are strongly cast and directed by their respective conductors. Le Villi (1884) treats the Giselle story, highly condensed for a one-act opera competition, and revised into two acts, the lead parts well taken by Melanie Diener and Aquiles Machado. It was well received and later conducted by Mahler. It is clearly by the composer we know so well, and fascinating to hear his unmistakable musical personality emerging.
His second attempt, Edgar (1884 revised 1889-1892) is handicapped by an over-eventful and sometimes ill motivated story line, with mounting absurdities and incongruities. There is plenty of violence, with a Carmen-like seductress who plays off the two men against each other, and finally kills the heroine. Julia Varady and Carl Tanner carry the drama and there are arias to savour in a well developed through-composed score.
Presentation is lavish, with full texts and translations; both operas deserve places in Puccini collections.
Copyright © 2003, Peter Grahame Woolf