OP1214. LA FIAMMA (Respighi), Broadcast Performance, 7 Aug., 1955, w.Molinari-Pradelli Cond. RAI Ensemble, Milano; Anna Moffo, Giacinto Prandelli, Carlo Tagliabue, Lucia Danieli, etc. (Italy) 2-GOP 66.343. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 8012719663430
"LA FIAMMA (The Flame) is an opera in three acts by Ottorino Respighi to a libretto by Claudio Guastalla based on Hans Wiers-Jenssen's 1908 play Anne Pedersdotter, THE WITCH. The plot is loosely based on the story of Anne Pedersdotter, a Norwegian woman who was accused of witchcraft and burnt at the stake in 1590. The most successful of Ottorino Respighi's operas, is a tale of witchcraft and forbidden love set in Byzantine Ravenna, orchestrated with the lush resourcefulness we expect from the author of THE PINES OF ROME.
The melodramatic tale involves the illicit love of Silvana, the daughter of a witch, for her stepson Donello. When her husband Basilio dies of a heart attack, Silvana is accused of causing his death by witchcraft and is condemned to death.
LA FIAMMA premiered to considerable success on 23 January 1934 at the Teatro Reale dell'Opera in Rome in a performance conducted by Respighi himself. The production was directed by Alessandro Sanine with sets designed by Nicola Benois. Appearing near the end of Italian opera's creative lifespan, it made the rounds of international introduction in the mid-1930's, but its good reception then did not lead to many postwar revivals.”
- Will Crutchfield, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 6 Dec., 1987
“Violent, super-heated and exotic, this is the most successful of Respighi's several operas. Premiered in 1934, it is essentially verismo in style, with frequent echoes of Giordano's ANDREA CHÉNIER intermingled with some Puccinian lyricism, elements of Gregorian chant and the archaic tonalities of which Respighi was fond and apt to colour his otherwise impressionistic idiom. There is a kind of mirror image in the structure of the opera whereby both the First and Third Acts end with febrile, intense crowd scenes centering on witchcraft and burnings at the stake.
The shifting, unstable, kaleidoscopic nature of the core can be disconcerting to the first-time listener but it is certainly not boring or lacking drama. There is an almost frenetic, hot-house atmosphere to this opera which most reminds me of Montemezzi's L'AMORE DEI TRE RE, another tragedy of guilty, illicit passion which moves with frightening speed towards a violent climax. Respighi's inclusion of an additional supernatural element courts lurid sensationalism but there is considerable psychological and musical subtlety to offset that danger; that complexity is indicated by the composer's choice of title: instead of calling his opera LA STREGA or similar, Respighi opted for LA FIAMMA to allude to the pervasive power of erotic love rather than magic.
This is hard to find but if you ever do - buy it! It's a fabulous work, very rich and perhaps too opulant for some tastes - Richard Strauss, Korngold, Massenet are all called to mind.”
- Ralph Moore