OP0320. FRANCESCA DA RIMINI (Zandonai), Live Performance, 16 March, 1961,Trieste, w.Capuana Cond. Teatro Comunale Ensemble; Leyla Gencer, Renato Cioni, Anselmo Colzani, etc. (Italy) 2-Arkadia 597. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 8011571597020
"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.”
“Gencer is affectionately known as the ‘Queen of the Pirates’ because she made almost no commercial recordings, and yet countless live performances were captured and have been preserved on disc for her vast legion of admirers. It is difficult to say why Gencer was largely ignored by recording companies during her career, although the fact that she was something of an idiosyncratic interpreter, coupled with the fact that her repertoire overlapped with artists who were more of a safe commercial bet, such as Callas and Caballé and, to a lesser extent, Tebaldi and Sutherland, may have something to do with it. At her best, Gencer was incisive and compelling, in an utterly unique way.
Gencer gives a well sung, idiomatic account of Donizetti’s heroine and proves herself the match for all of its vocal challenges….The famous Gencer glottal is not in evidence, and although some may consider it an undesirable mannerism, it always seemed to feature in her singing when she was so involved and she had so much to express that she was almost seeking to get beyond the boundaries of her own voice.
This radio performance is, unsurprisingly, superior to the live EMI set, but not to a degree that should make a significant difference. It surprises me that the radio recording is as boxed in and opaque as it is, but for those of us who got over the typical sound quality on many of these 1950s releases long ago, it isn’t in the least problematic.
Any Gencer aficionado will not want to be without this recording.”
- John Woods, MusicalCriticism.com, 9 Jan., 2009
“Leyla Gencer was the greatest Turkish opera singer of the 20th century and a singing actor of formidable power and individuality. Although she came from what she herself referred to as a ‘Muslim and oriental’ background, she had the good fortune, as a student in Istanbul, to study with the famous Italian dramatic soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi, so that when she went to Italy in 1953, she was thoroughly grounded in the traditions of Italian opera. Gencer had no career whatsoever as a recording artist, but many of her broadcasts from Italian radio have now been issued on disc and are a fine memorial to her voice and dramatic ability.”
- Patrick O'Connor, The Guardian, 12 May, 2008