Zandonai: Francesca da Rimini / Rizzi, Deutsche Oper Berlin
Shortlisted for the 2022 Gramophone Awards!
Riccardo Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini is a four-act opera set during the Renaissance period. The plot concerns an arranged marriage between Francesca and Giovanni, also known as Gianciotto, who is impersonated by his handsome brother Paolo, and with whom Francesca falls passionately in love. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Italian Tristan’, the opera ends in betrayal and a double murder. The production of this rarely performed opera from the Deutsche Oper Berlin proved to be a huge critical success.
Francesca da Rimini is a musical mix of late 19th century Italian Romanticism—the one ever present in Puccini along with the gritty Realism of Leoncavallo, Mascagni, Cilea, Giordano and Boito—all composers who, in one way or another, influenced, or mentored, or supported the efforts of Zandonai.
Beyond being an accomplished orchestrator, Zandonai’s greatest gift resides in writing for the voice in an unforced manner that accommodates text to music naturally. In addition one hears throughout the four acts of Francesca da Rimini flashes of inspired melodic brilliance, interspersed with a simple linking of scene to scene and moment to moment.
Zandonai’s theatrical style could be simply labeled Naturalism, while its musical counterpart may be described as a kind of second cousin to the blood and guts Verismo of Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci and Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. But, unlike that of either one of those operas, the music of Francesca da Rimini is structured as a kind of continuous thorough-composed dialogue that lacks many if any set pieces. When one suspects that one of those might be coming around, like in the pre-coital encounter for Paolo and Francesca, Paolo, datemi pace the straight-shooting approach of both the composer and the director are just perfect.
The cast of first-rank Europe-based singers is superb. In the title role of Francesca, American soprano Sara Jakubiak is visually, dramatically, and vocally brilliant. So is her counterpart, the sonorous tenor Jonathan Tefelman in the role of Paolo. Both these singers have resilient vocal equipment that can withstand the rigors of Zandonai’s no-holds barred vocal writing.
Baritone Ivan Inverardi is vocally impressive and dramatically pure coiled anger personified as Giovanni. In a supporting role made more important by his talent, Charles Workman is flawless as the physically and emotionally impaired Malatestino.
Carlo Rizzi perfectly paces a dozen more principal singes, and the Deutsche Oper Berlin Orchestra and Chorus in this indispensable, impeccably engineered video recording of a rarity whose long-overdue time has come.
-- Rafael's Music Notes
Release Date: February 11, 2022
Catalog Number: 2110711
Label: Naxos AV
Number of Discs: 1
Composer: Zandonai, Riccardo Zandonai
Conductor: Carlo Rizzi
Orchestra/Ensemble: Deutsche Oper Berlin