OP0106. FRANCESCA DA RIMINI (Zandonai), recorded 1952, Roma, w.Guarnieri Cond. RAI Ensemble; Maria Caniglia, Giacinto Prandelli, Carlo Tagliabue, etc. (Italy) 2-Cetra CDO 22. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 8003927138834
“FRANCESCA DA RIMINI is an opera in four acts, composed by Riccardo Zandonai, with libretto by Tito Ricordi, (1865–1933), after the play FRANCESCA DA RIMINI by Gabriele d'Annunzio. It was premiered at the Teatro Regio in Turin on February 19, 1914, and is still staged occasionally.
This opera is Zandonai's best-known work. In the New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Renato Chiesa calls it ‘one of the most original and polished Italian melodramas of the 20th century, [which] combines a powerful gift for Italian melody ... with an exceptional command of orchestration’.
Daughter of Guido I da Polenta of Ravenna, Francesca was wedded in or around 1275 to the brave, yet crippled Giovanni Malatesta, son of Malatesta da Verucchio, lord of Rimini. The marriage was a political one; Guido had been at war with the Malatesta family, and the marriage of his daughter to Giovanni was a way to secure the peace that had been negotiated between the Malatesta and the Polenta families. While in Rimini, she fell in love with Giovanni's younger brother, Paolo. Though Paolo, too, was married, they managed to carry on an affair for some ten years, until Giovanni ultimately surprised them in Francesca's bedroom some time between 1283 and 1286, killing them both.
In the first volume of THE DIVINE COMEDY, Dante and Virgil meet Francesca and her lover Paolo in the second circle of hell, reserved for the lustful. Here, the couple are trapped in an eternal whirlwind, doomed to be forever swept through the air just as they allowed themselves to be swept away by their passions. Dante calls out to the lovers, who are compelled to briefly pause before him, and he speaks with Francesca. She obliquely states a few of the details of her life and her death, and Dante, apparently familiar with her story, correctly identifies her by name. He asks her what led to her and Paolo's damnation, and Francesca's story strikes such a chord within Dante that he faints out of pity.”
“Regarded by many as having had the most beautiful spinto soprano between the primes of Claudia Muzio and Renata Tebaldi, Maria Caniglia was chosen to record a number of major soprano roles, several of them with Beniamino Gigli. Her generous temperament sometimes led her to dramatic overemphasis and her technique sometimes failed her in the topmost register, but she was always a vivid presence, always committed to giving her all in performance. When Tebaldi and Callas divided La Scala audiences, Caniglia became the Prima donna Assoluta in Rome.
Born to a family from the province of Abruzzi, Caniglia studied at the Naples Conservatory with Agostino Roche, a famous pedagogue who trained many artists, notably mezzo soprano Ebe Stignani, with whom Caniglia would perform and record often. Roche believed that the young soprano was destined for more than lyric roles and, accordingly, trained her to sing the spinto repertory. In 1929, Caniglia was dispatched to La Scala to audition for three prominent conductors: Ettore Panizza, Carlo del Campo, and Gino Marinuzzi. The opinion of each was that she should return in a half-year's time to present a more lyric repertory. At that time, she was engaged, but ironically from the beginning was given more spinto roles than lyric. Her début, however, took place in 1930 at Turin's Teatro Regio where the soprano had already been engaged for a production of ELEKTRA. Singing Chrysothemis to the Elektra of Giulia Tess, she enjoyed a success, but felt overwhelmed by the power of her colleague's performance. When her La Scala contract began in 1931, Caniglia found that she had been assigned only one role, that of Maria in Ildebrando Pizzetti's LO STRANIERO, with the composer conducting. In the aftermath of her performances, she found that she had been scheduled for other productions for the duration of the season. Her next assignment was the premiere of Italo Montemezzi's LA NOTTE DI ZORAIMA, a work whose popularity prompted the scheduling of a second run of performances the following year. Several cancellations pushed Caniglia further into the spotlight as she took over leading roles in Mascagni's LE MASCHERE and in Wagner's FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER. Her success in the latter opera led to other assignments in the lighter Wagnerian repertory, culminating later in Sieglinde. During her La Scala years, Caniglia sang with the leading Italian conductors of the day, maestri such as Santini, de Sabata, Serafin, Panizza, Ghione, Gui, Marinuzzi, and Guarnieri. As Toscanini had already left the company, she had to wait until her performances as Alice Ford at Salzburg to sing under his direction. In 1951, Caniglia left La Scala, feeling that the discipline that had made it a great company in the 1930's and 1940's had eroded. She subsequently became the leading spinto/dramatic soprano at the Rome Opera. Meanwhile, Caniglia had also enjoyed successes in London, New York, Barcelona, and the theaters in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. During Covent Garden's 1937 season, critics objected somewhat to Caniglia's unevenness of voice in TOSCA, but found her Alice Ford sprightly and full of youthful vigor. New York heard her for only one season following her 21 November, 1938, début as Desdemona. The Italian government's confiscation of artists' passports denied her services to both London and America. Among Caniglia's recordings, TOSCA and LA FORZA DEL DESTINO represent her at her estimable best.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com