Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Guillaume Tell in Monaco

Peasants revolt in a sea of Maserati and Ferrari’s.

LA Opera Presents Figaro 90210

Figaro 90210 is Vid Guerrerio’s modern version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo DaPonte’s 1786 opera, The Marriage of Figaro.

Tristan und Isolde at the Wiener Staatsoper

David McVicar’s production of Wagner’s seminal music drama runs aground on the Cornish coast.

Songs of Night and Travel, Wigmore Hall

The coming of ‘Night’ brings darkness, shadows and mystery; sleep, dreams and nightmares; fancies, fantasies and passions.

Andrea Chénier, Royal Opera

Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, now at the Royal Opera House, is no more about history than Jesus Christ Superstar is about theology.

Yevgeny Onegin in Warsaw

Mariusz Treliński’s staging of Tchaikovsky’s operatic masterpiece is visually fascinating but psychologically confusing

Orfeo at the Roundhouse, Royal Opera

The regal trumpets and sackbuts sound their bold herald and, followed by admiring eyes, the powers of state and church begin their dignified procession along a sloping walkway to assume their lofty positions upon the central dais.

Idomeneo in Montpellier

Vestiges of a momentous era . . .

L’elisir d’amore in Marseille

There were hints that L’elisir is one of the great bel canto masterpieces.

Das Liebesverbot opens the new season at Teatro Verdi in Trieste

Aron Stiehl’s production of this rare early Wagner opera cheerfully brings commedia dell’arte to La Cage aux Folles.

Amsterdam: Lohengrin Lite

Stage director Pierre Audi is not one to be strictly representational in his story telling.

Fidelio, Manitoba Opera

For the first time in its 42-year history, Manitoba Opera presented Beethoven’s mighty ode to freedom, Fidelio, with an extraordinary production that resonated as loudly as tolling bells of freedom.

The Hilliard Ensemble: Farewell Concert at Wigmore Hall

Forty-one years is a long time for any partnership to be sustained and to flourish — be it musical, commercial or marital! And, given The Hilliard Ensemble’s ongoing reputation as one of the world’s finest a cappella groups, noted for their performances of works dating from the 11 th century to the present day, it must have been a tough decision to call an end to more than four decades of superlative music-making.

Fidelio opens new season at La Scala

Daniel Barenboim makes a triumphant departure as direttore musicale del Teatro alla Scala with Beethoven’s operatic masterpiece.

Mahler Songs: Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Star singer and star composer, a combination guaranteed to bring in the fans. Christian Gerhaher sang Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerold Huber. Gerhaher shot to fame when he sang Wolfram at the Royal Opera House Tannhäuser in 2010.

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House — a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Respighi: La Pentola
22 Jan 2010

Respighi — Works for solo voice and orchestra

While Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) is best known to modern audiences for his colorful programmatic works associated with Italian locations, his vocal music is also engaging.

Ottorino Respighi: La Pentola Magica, La Sensitiva, Aretusa.

Damiana Pinto, mezzo soprano, Orchestra Sinfonica del Teatro Massimo di Palermo, Marzio Conti, conductor.

CPO 777-071-2 [SACD]

$16.99  Click to buy

Among his works for solo voice and orchestra, are settings of texts by the English poet Shelley, Aretusa [“Arethusa”] (1910-11), and La Sensitiva [“The Sensitive Plant”] (1914). (Respighi composed a third piece with a text by Shelley, Il Tramonto [“The Sunset”], a work with string quartet, even though it is sometimes performed by string orchestra, but it is not included in this recording.)

This recording of La Sensitiva is an engaging piece because of the florid vocal line and the evocative accompaniment. The sonorities are reminiscent of some of his tone poems, with solo wind timbres and richly scored strings. As full as the orchestra can be, Respighi never allows the scoring to obscure the voice, and in this recording Damiana Pinti offers a fine reading of the text. Her voice is resonant and textured, as the singer uses various shadings to color the line. As clear as her middle and lower registers are, Pinti has a clear and even upper range, which serves the piece well. Moreover, in the sustained passages, Pinti’s tones have a fine shape, which underscores her carefully enunciated text. While Respighi is known for his instrumental piece, those familiar with his music may wish to hear this vocal setting, which serves Shelley’s text well, which is served well through its translation into Italian. Yet the accompaniment not only supports the voice in this piece, but reinforces the mood and sense of the text. If some aspects of Respighi’s programmatic music emerge in this work, it is not unwelcome, but certainly another means of appreciating this extended piece for solo voice and orchestra.

A similar piece, Aretusa, is equally colorful, as the orchestral accompaniment serves to reinforce the meaning of the text. These somewhat programmatic gestures offer some contrast to the relatively declamatory vocal line. Pinti offers as expressive a reading of Aretusa as she does in La Sensitiva. Here, here the sometimes rich and dark shadings are impressive, and Pinti is good to shape the line through her pacing and dynamics; likewise, Marzio Conti provides solid leadership of the orchestra. With music like this, where the accompaniment intersects the vocal line, the clean entrances and precise releases are crucial to executing the pieces well.

The other work on this disc is the ballet La Pentola Magica (1920), one of the composer’s five ballets, the best known being La Boutique Fantasque, (1918), which is based on music originally composed by Gioacchino Rossini. La Pentola Magica, translated as “The Magic Plot” is work in two parts, which conveys a fable about a Russian princess who longs for a handsome young prince to relieve her of her boredom. Despite attempts to entertain the princess, she is enchanted by the song of a Russian peasant. The peasant dances around a purportedly magic pot, and the princess wants it, since it appears to have supernatural properties. Ultimately the peasant will surrender the pot for kisses from the princess. The court astrologer shows the czar what is happening, and he throws a shoe at his daughter. Yet after she repulses the peasant, the peasant reveals himself as a handsome prince, and the work ends with the princess weeping for her loss.

La Pentola Magica contains some engaging music, not only in its evocation of the Russian court, but also in the entertainments for the princess, as found in the dance of the Armenian slave. Respighi used the opportunity to create some colorful episodes. While Respighi makes use of chromaticism, his harmonic structures remain solidly tonal; dissonances occur, sometimes to offer some color, but the music is never atonal.

All in all, the three pieces found in this recording offer a different side of Respighi than found in the more familiar tone poems about Italian subjects. While it is possible to find some contrast to those tone poems in the suites of Ancient Airs and Dances, the settings of poetry by Shelley are good examples of Respighi’s vocal writing. At the same time the ballet La Pentola Magica demonstrates yet another side of the composer’s musical imagination, which is given a convincing interpretation by Conti and the Orchestra Sinfonica del Teatro Massimo di Palermo. The sound on the CPO recording is clear and distinct, and this supports the colorful scoring that characterizes Respighi’s music.

James L. Zychowicz

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):