OP0578. IL RE; MESE MARIANO (both Giordano), Live Performance, 1998, w. Renato Palumbo Cond. Patrizia Ciofi, Rossella Ressa, Nicolas Rivenq, Giacomo Rocchetti, Francesco P. Panini, Maria Miccoli, , etc. (Italy) 2-Dynamic CDS 231, Slipcase Edition w.75pp Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, ever-so-slightly used copy! - 8007144602314
“If an opera’s success on the operatic stage were a true measure of its quality, TURANDOT would be regarded as inferior to TOSCA , and GÖTTERDAMERUNG to TANNHÄUSER. OTELLO would fade rapidly in luster before the genius of IL TROVATORE and, for that matter, all critics would abandon the operas of Monteverdi, Handel, and Rameau to lay wreaths upon the score of CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA. But we know this isn’t the case. An opera’s international popularity is due to a variety of circumstances. So why should we conclude that just because Umberto Giordano’s stage career hit its apogee with ANDREA CHÉNIER (1896), the rest of his works are feeble attempts to rehash it? True, he attempted the CHÉNIER theatrical formula several times again with moderate success, notably in FEDORA (1898 - its premiere also featured a barely known young tenor, Enrico Caruso) and SIBERIA (1903). However, by the 1920s, the composer had evolved a brilliant, complex, multifaceted style based in part on close study of Verdi’s FALSTAFF. The result in LA CENA DELLE BEFFE (1924) was not merely his greatest opera, but also a superb piece of theater that desperately deserves a modern, first-rate production.
Giordano’s final completed work, IL RE of 1929, isn’t far behind it in quality, though more genial in tone. Giovacchino Forzano drew upon fabliaux for his libretto about a young miller’s daughter who sees the King in royal procession days before her marriage to a young man, Colombello. Rosalina falls in love with the monarch; and when an astrologer, priest, and lawyer can come to no agreement for treatment, her parents take the matter before the King himself. He promises to help, but makes it conditional on her spending one night with him. This occurs over the parents’ objections; and the King is moved at Rosalina’s declaration of rapt love in his bedchambers. Then he disrobes behind a divider, and appears divested of his finery: old, bald, skinny, and tottering, laughing at the girl. Having cured Rosalina of her fantasy, the King proceeds to turn her over to her long-suffering Colombello.
Giordano’s score is invariably fleet-footed, and often ironical. Make no mistake, there are passionate lyrical moments every bit as good as Un dì, all’azzurro spazio’, ‘Come un bel di di maggio’, and ‘Amor ti vieta’ in this work: Rosalina’s ‘Questa è la veste bianca’, in particular, and her ‘Cosi coi fior d’arancio’, but much also is to be found in brief lines or double lines of text that occur outside any aria framework. Overall, though, the writing is expertly double-edged: are we meant to be entranced at the wordless chorus using a Debussyian whole tone scale when we first observe the King’s beautiful bedchambers, while the royal manservant opens the jewel chests for Rosalina’s inspection? Or are we meant to regard it with detachment as a tongue-in-cheek musical cliché, deployed expertly? The answer is probably yes to both questions. Then there’s the Intermezzo between the first and second scenes, vigorous strings leading to a floridly decadent, Chopin-like theme for solo piano, joined eventually by the violin, then the cello, in perfect Palm Court style - before the orchestra interrupts, changing the tempo and meter. Suddenly, we recognize the same theme as a dashing, gallant motif with all the blood of ANDREA CHÉNIER in it, and we realize we’ve been had. Rosalina will be taken in, too, for this is the theme associated with the King, or rather, his courtly appearance.
Since those initial performances, featuring the likes of dal Monte, Tancredi Pasero as the Miller, and Armand Crabbé as the King, the opera has never received the kind of performance that lets one appreciate it directly.”
- Barry Brenesal, FANFARE
“Premiering in 1910, MESE MARIANO follows a woman visiting an orphanage to see her child. It lasts a little more than half an hour. It is quite similar to Puccini’s SUOR ANGELICA and could make for a rather interesting double bill with the latter work.”
- David Salazar, 28 Aug., 2017
“Patrizia Ciofi has become a leading soprano exponent of the major operas of Bellini, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, and the Italian operas of Mozart. Not that her choice of repertory is limited to that clutch of composers: she has sung a vast array of roles in works by Monteverdi (Euridice from ORFEO), Handel (Polissena from RADAMISTO), Vivaldi (Idaspe from BAJAZET), and much else further afield, including Bizet, Offenbach, Massenet, Wagner, Richard Strauss, Debussy, Mussorgsky, and countless others. She has also sung contemporary opera: her major debut came in Gino Negri's GIOVANNI SEBASTIANO. It can be argued she has sung as many different roles on major operatic stages as any soprano of her time. Her attractive voice is bright in timbre and versatile, affording her the ability to tackle so many roles with such pleasing character and spirit. Ciofi has made over 50 recordings, the bulk of them available on EMI, Virgin Classics, Harmonia Mundi, Dynamic, and Decca.
By 1996, when she first sang Lucia in Donizetti's LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, in Savona, she had become a rising international star. She drew rave reviews for her Violetta (Verdi's LA TRAVIATA) in 1997 at La Scala. Ciofi's recordings were drawing attention, too: her 1998 Lucia (in the French version) on Dynamic was a huge success. A string of notable debuts followed: Opera Bastille (1999), where she sang Nanetta in FALSTAFF; Covent Garden (2002), portraying Gilda (RIGOLETTO); Chicago (2003) as Violetta, and others. Ciofi's long-awaited debut at the Vienna State Opera did not come until 2008, when she sang Amina in Bellini's LA SONNAMBULA.”
- Robert Cummings, allmusic.com