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16 Aug 2005
Collectors have known this piece for more than a quarter of a century due to the MRF-pirate recording. Some have probably transferred these LP's unto CD-R and don't see a reason why they should buy this issue. Well, there is one and it's a compelling one. The MRF-sound was good mono, obviously culled from a radio broadcast. This Bongiovanni-issue however gives us the original brilliant stereo sound and it makes for a world of difference. I always liked the opera though I thought the first act somewhat lacking in inspiration; the performance only taking fire by Labo's first appearance. This set cured me of that impression while the choruses and brilliant orchestration (even somewhat too showy to prove Cilea had mastered his craft after Adriana where the violins are mostly doubling the vocal line) are now crystal clear and one quickly recognizes the inspired melodious ideas of the maestro.
Of course Cilea had moved on after the initial impact of Adriana which strangely enough disappeared after two years of initial successes on the boards only to re-emerge in the twenties, this time to stay forever. He too suffered under the attacks that he could only write a few tunes which he then consequently repeated endlessly. Therefore in Gloria he went for the uninterrupted flow of the music Puccini would use three years later in his Fanciulla. Nevertheless though the arias and duets are well hidden by orchestral postludes they still are clearly discernable and though they don't fall so easily on one's ears like " Poveri fiore " or " La dolcissima " they are still memorable after a few hearings; the final duet being especially worthwhile.
The recording has two exceptional singers in the title role. The American soprano Margherita Roberti shone ten years in dramatic coloratura roles in Italy and she is here caught at her very best : a supple rich sound which easily overcomes the many vocal hurdles. Labo (" probably one of the biggest voices in one of the smallest frames I ever saw ", was the definition a friend gave me who heard him frequently at the Met) is one of the tenors who are often talked about on opera forums with the epitaph " if he would be singing now etc ". This may be nostalgia but it nevertheless is true: the voice with the fine burnished sound is big, easily recognizable and even from bottom to the easy high notes. Maybe Villazon's sound comes nearest though the Mexican tenor has not quite the splendid top Labo had His role is not overlong (indeed the whole opera only lasts less than an hour and twenty minutes) but heavy with a lot of difficult intervals which he makes sound so easy. Baritone Lorenzo Testi is not completely in the same class as the two title main singers but he still brings with him a good and gruff voice well suited to the villain of the piece. Ferruccio Mazzoli on the other hand sings with splendid richness his few lines. In short this cast has nothing to fear from comparison with the 1907-creators Zenatello, Amato and Kruszelnicka; none of whom ever recorded a single note from this opera.
Personally I'd dearly wish to see a production of this opera (one of the many offspring's of the Romeo and Julia-theme, this time set in medieval Siena) but I fear neither the singers nor the right spirit to revive Gloria are available at this time. The bonus is an interesting one: some Cilea's songs sung by tenor Leonardo De Lisi (nice timbre; too much thickening of the tone above the staff) and soprano Anastasia Tomaszewska Schepis (a little too shrill under pressure). The songs are not particularly distinguished and sound a little bit too laboured; Francesco Tosti obviously had nothing to fear from Cilea who reserved his best tunes for his operas So I cannot say these songs are a warm recommendation for the CD with the complete chamber songs by these same artists (GB 2336-2) Still, the set is a must in every collector's cupboard.