Cherubini Lodoïska Mariella Devia Riccardo MutiLuigi Cherubini

CAST: Lodoïska: Mariella Devia, Lysinka: Francesca Pedaci, Floreski: Bernard Lombardo, Titzikan: Thomas Moser, Varbel: Alessandro Corbelli, Dourlinski: William Shimmell, Altamoras: Mario Luperi, Talma: Danilo Serraiocco, First herald: Pietro Spina, Second herald: Ernesto Panariello, Third herald: Enzo Capuano, First Tartar: Renato Cazzaniga, Second Tartar: Aldo Bramante

Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala
Chorus master: Roberto Gabbiani
Riccardo Muti, conductor

Sony, 1991

Lodoïska is an unjustly forgotten “rescue opera” written by the Italian composer Luigi Cherubini, who composed it in 1791 to a libretto by Claude-François Fillette-Loraux and achieved with it his first international success. It was based on an episode (Les amours du chevalier de Faublas) of the contemporary bestselling novel by Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Courvay and later influenced Beethoven, who got inspiration from Dourlinki for his evil Don Pizarro in Fidelio.

The Lodoïska conducted by Riccardo Muti at Teatro alla Scala in Milan in February 1991 is the most famous recording of this opera (one was recorded in the Sixties under the baton of Olivero De Fabritiis and two others were released later), especially because it features a wonderful primadonna, Mariella Devia, in the title role.

Lodoïska has unfortunately a short and not particularly virtuosic part, thus Devia appears only briefly at the end of the first act and remains in the shadows in the next two. This is indeed a good reason to complain when Devia is the appointed singer, but she has thought instead that the limits of the part would have permitted her to focus on the inner feelings of the character, which she stresses with unexpected strength.

Her entry at the end of the first act, for example, is characterized by a melancholic, angelic invocation to her lover (Floreski! Floreski!) and reveals immediately the sweet and noble nature of Lodoïska, which blossoms in the next act (Hélas! Dans si cruel asile). Moreover, Devia’s singing is always characterized by a perfect technique and by an enchanting phrasing, which always exalts her as an original and refined singer, even if her timbre is not very beautiful. She is indeed the best thing of this recording, alongside with Muti’s conduction.

Tenor Bernard Lombardo as Floreski is not bad at all, even if I would have preferred someone a little less impetuous for this role and able to express some sweetness at least in the aria Perdre ma belle. His voice is not completely homogenous and it seems that he reaches the limit in the high notes, while sometimes he is not perfectly in tune.

The other male singers are generally good or very good. I remember in particular Alessandro Corbelli, who never fails to portray comic characters as Varbel, and the beautiful, dark voice and outstanding presence of Thomas Moser as Titzikan.

Riccardo Muti conducts Lodoïska on the original score, reconstructed by Lorenzo Tozzi, and is here at his best. It is impossible to describe how many nuances he is able to give to this opera. The music reveals intelligence and reflection alongside with infinite resources of inspiration and inventiveness. It is a continue and nice surprise to listen how he depicts feelings and situations (sometimes without caring too much about the singers, if I have to tell the truth). The Overture is powerful and fluid and is a great introduction to an opera which offers moments of great intensity and pathos (listen for example to Non, non perdez cette espérance) and which fascinates the listener (as in the gorgeous duel scene in Act III). He creates thus an extensive work and determines the success of this production.