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Mirella Freni and Cesare Siepi Live in Concert
02 Aug 2006

Mirella Freni and Cesare Siepi Live in Concert

In summer doldrums? Spend a delightful hour with two great artists in a rare joint appearance, as Fabula Classics has resurrected for DVD a 1985 Cesare Siepi and Mirelle Freni televised recital.

Mirella Freni and Cesare Siepi Live in Concert

Mirella Freni, Cesare Siepi, Orchestra della Radiotelevisione della Svizzera Italiana, Gruno Amaducci (cond.)

Fabula DVD 29909

$25.00   Click to buy

As with a recently reviewed Renato Bruson concert, this event took place in Lugano, Switzerland. Once again, Bruno Amaducci conducts the Swiss-Italian Radio orchestra. They do a decent run-through of Otto Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor curtain raiser, and later a dramatic Don Giovanni overture. Other than that, the focus is on two great singers; one somewhat late in his career, one in her prime, but both providing generous listening pleasure.

Siepi appears first, and just to watch his tall, gentlemanly figure take the stage prompts anticipation.With a modest nod to the audience, he begins with a tasty rare morsel, Jupiter's berceuse from Gounod's Philemon et Baucis. There can't be many bass arias as light and tuneful as this, and though Siepi's vocal production does give evidence of the length of his career, the handsomeness of his tone and the commanding technique more than compensate.

Freni follows with Margherita's prison solo from Boito's Mefistofele. The singer's innate sweetness and vulnerability make this an especially successful aria for her. The two Puccini selections ("Vissi d'arte" and "O mio babbino caro") are lovely enough but more generic in approach.

Siepi turns to Verdi's for Fiesco's "Il lacerato spirito" from Simon Boccanegra and the great Filippo II scene from Don Carlos. With his characteristic restraint and dignity, Siepi underplays the hurt of Filippo, which allows the aria to truly build in pathos. On the other hand, the Fiesco aria could have used a little more edge.

Freni took on the role of Don Carlos's Elisabetta around this time, and she manages the supremely challenging "Tu che le vanita" very well, but without quite the dramatic commitment to make the long selection (11 minutes) thoroughly captivating.

After the Don Giovanni overture, Siepi sings a playful catalog aria; to have this great Don take on Leporello might seem a bit odd to some, but his Don is not scanted. Soon Freni joins him as Zerlina, and their "La ci darem la mano" caps the concert beautifully, only leaving the wish that the program had included more duets.

The booklet has a short essay and the texts are in their original languages. No subtitles are provided.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

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