OP2962. Corrado d'Altamura – Excerpts (Federico Ricci), w.Roland Böer Cond. Philharmonia Orch.; Dimitra Theodossiou, Dmitry Korchak, Andrew Foster-Williams, Camilla Roberts, Cora Burggraaf, James Westman, Mark Wilde, etc. Opera Rara ORR 246. Includes Elaborate 131pp. Libretto-Book. Final Copy! - 792938024622
“Anticipation is always great for new Opera Rara releases, because the mixture of excellent studio conditions and superb packaging always makes for a luxury product. On top of that, we get to know interesting works from a fascinating period of music history – ones which have fallen by the wayside, either because of poor librettos, difficult performance conditions at the premiere or a negative critical reception.
This new CD, Federico Ricci's CORRADO D'ALTAMURA, is no exception: it's beautifully produced and contains excellent playing and some high-quality singing. And for sure, the work deserves reconsideration – so much so that one wishes that Opera Rara could give the piece a complete recording rather than just highlights (though the whole libretto is included in the lavish booklet). We're told that this piece was a favourite of Patric Schmid, the late Artistic Director and former driving force of Opera Rara, and it's to him that the recording is dedicated.
One can see why he liked the opera so much. Ricci had written six operas when he came to compose CORRADO, but he was still struggling to establish himself as a writer of opere serie. The failure of UN DUELLO SOTTO RICHELIEU in 1839 upset the composer so much that he fell silent for two years, returning to the fray only in 1841 with MICHELANGELO E ROLLA (notable for featuring Verdi's future wife, Giuseppina Streponi, in the lead female role). La Scala was then captivated later in the year with CORRADO, putting Ricci on the map with the critics.
The work's serious tone is indeed striking, from the dark, grave prelude to the spellbinding final scene. Ricci is capable of great complexity, including the interweaving of the voices with different instrumental lines in the orchestra and sophisticated large-scale structures. Jeremy Commons notes in his liner essay that the choice of ostinato figures in Ricci's score is unusually nuanced, as well as a sense of the theatrical. Listen to the trumpet blares, trombone scales and cymbal crashes at the start of the first-act finale to witness a composer with a forward-thinking attitude to vivid opera orchestration. There is such promise in the work that it's a shame that Ricci did not take his career further; all but one of his remaining operas, it seems, was unsuccessful at his premiere, and as we know, his works have all but sunk into oblivion.
Top marks here to Roland Boër and the Philharmonia Orchestra for providing a near-ideal accompaniment in this recording. There's such vitality about the playing that one would imagine the orchestra had the theatre in its blood, rather than spending most of its time in the concert hall. Boer's tempo choices tend to be sprightly but never rushed, and he breathes with his singers.”
- Dominic McHugh
“Frederico Ricci's CORRADO D'ALTAMURA is a dramma lirico that opened at La Scala in 1841. Set in 12th-century Sicily, the highly dramatic plot tells of betrayal and then revenge between Roggero, the Duke of Agrigento and his former friend and tutor, Corrado, to whose daughter, Delizia, Roggero has promised marriage - only to break his vows. The great expert in 19th-century Italian opera Julian Budden thought Ricci's serious works, ‘are worthy to stand beside Mercadante's’. This is the sixth opera in the Essential Opera Rara series and, once again, a vivid impression of the work is captured on a single disc, accompanied by a complete libretto and article by the eminent 19th century musical scholar, Jeremy Commons.”
- THE GUARDIAN
“Ricci's orchestral writing is remarkably original, and he has a fine sense of theatre. The closing scene, in which Delizia, now a nun, denies Roggero sanctuary in her convent and hands him over to a bloodthirsty lynch mob, has considerable power.”
“The tenor here is the young, clear-voiced and stylish Dmitry Korchak. Corrado is James Westman, a baritone well supplied with high A-flats for his cabaletta and with a well placed voice sometimes recalling Sherrill Milnes.... Dimitra Theodossiou...has a comparably strong dramatic instinct. ...the voice is well contrasted with the lighter soprano of Cora Burggraaf who plays Margarita, the ‘other woman’... Good work by orchestra and chorus under Roland Böer, who shows a sure feeling for the style.”
- Zillah Dorset Akron