OP0091. EDMEA (Catalani), Live Performance, 1989, w.de Bernart Giglio di Luca Ensemble; Maria Sokolinska Noto, Graziano del Vivo, Maurizio Frusoni, Angelo Nosotti, etc. (Italy) 2-Bongiovanni 2093/94. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 8007068209323
“Alfredo Catalani has long been afforded a brief part in the story of Italian opera as a ‘transitional figure’. Born in 1854, the year after IL TROVATORE and LA TRAVIATA, and dying in 1893, the year of FALSTAFF and MANON LESCAUT, he is acknowledged as a key figure in the transitions from Verdi to Puccini and Mascagni, and from grand opera to verismo. In another sense, too, Catalani has been squeezed into musical histories as an ‘inbetweener’, for his great love of Wagner led him to write operas which seek to reconcile the Verdian tradition with the German music-drama. This lofty goal has generally endeared him to neither the Verdian nor Wagnerian camps.
After EDMEA, Catalani’s close friend Giuseppe Depanis (1853-1942), a Wagnerian critic, encouraged him to revise ELDA, which was recast as the three-act LORELEY, a ravishingly beautiful opera with a much more organic sense of form and greater dramatic urgency. Unfortunately, Catalani now experienced a hiatus in his career. LORELEY was finished in 1887, but in spring 1888 Giovannina Lucca retired and sold her business to her great rival, Giulio Ricordi. Catalani soon found that Ricordi had little time for him, and he had to wait until the debacle of Puccini’s EDGAR (April 1889) was over before the publisher started to show an interest in promoting the much superior LORELEY. From this time on Catalani was embittered by Ricordi’s clear preference for his fellow townsman, Puccini. LORELEY was premiered at the Teatro Regio, Turin, in February 1890, to considerable success, but it was slow to get taken up by other theatres, in part because of Ricordi’s apathy. Catalani was already well into the composition of his final opera, LA WALLY, an almost perfect synthesis of Italian tradition and Wagner, premiered at La Scala in January 1892. It contains by far his best known aria, Wally’s achingly beautiful ‘Ebben? Ne andrò lontana’. LA WALLY was a popular triumph, but Ricordi again did little to promote it, and it was soon overshadowed by FALSTAFF and Puccini’s MANON LESCAUT.
Catalani, then, far from being merely a ‘transitional figure’ who kept a seat warm for Puccini, actually did more than anyone to set the agenda for Italian opera in the half century after AIDA. That agenda was to create a meaningful response to the Wagnerian music drama. LORELEY and LA WALLY were superb demonstrations of what was possible, and I would rank them, with L’AMORE DEI TRE RE, among the greatest products of Italian Wagnerianism. Remarkably, they enjoyed their greatest popularity between about 1905 and 1930, when the fuss over verismo had subsided and Catalani’s more subtle and spiritual qualities could be appreciated, almost, it seemed, for the first time. It is the refinement of Catalani’s musical language, his steady refusal (apart, perhaps, from in DEJANICE) to over-egg his puddings and serve honey as sauce to sugar, that distinguishes him from his immediate contemporaries. As Toscanini, his friend and greatest champion, stated: ‘He [Catalani] was the most simpatico of the composers, refined - he wasn’t crude as the others, Puccini, Mascagni, Giordano, or even Franchetti’.
The rest of Catalani’s music has been surprisingly well served by record companies, especially Bongiovanni. There are reasonable-to-good recordings of LA FALCE, DEJANICE, EDMEA and the orchestral music available, good recordings of the piano music and early Mass, and excellent recordings of the songs and chamber music.”
- David Chandler, musicweb-international