Mascagni Cavalleria Rustiacana Norman Giacomini HvorostovskyPietro Mascagni
Cavalleria rusticana

CAST: Santuzza: Jessye Norman, Turiddu: Giuseppe Giacomini, Lucia: Rosa Larghezza, Alfio: Dmitry Hvorostovsky, Lola: Marta Senn

Chœur de l’Orchestre de Paris
Chorus master: Arthur Oldham
Orchestre de Paris
Semyon Bychkov, conductor

Philips, 1991

It is unusual to find a recording of Cavalleria rusticana by Pietro Mascagni that is not accompanied by Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, but this time the most famous diptych of Verismo has broken up to give free space to Mascagni’s opera, which was staged for the first time in 1890 and was inspired by the homonymous novel by Giovanni Verga.

The real reason why we will continue to talk about this Cavalleria rusticana is Jessye Norman. The Santuzza sung by the American soprano shows her character from the very first beat and accentuates her psychology thanks to the carefully considered expressions (as in the duet with Mamma Lucia: «Non posso entrare in casa vostra» or «Io son dannata!»). Norman’s singing is an unrestrainable descent into despair, guided by a sure dramatic intuition that makes intense and compelling her performance.

Giuseppe Giacomini is an acceptable but not outstanding Turiddu, who fades next to Norman’s Santuzza. His voice has not the most attractive colour and the only positive quality is that it is not lacking in a certain thickness. His execution is generally correct, although in the duet with Santuzza he can never really stand out and he does not show any joy in the toast except in a few words (“spumeggiante”, “scintillante”…), even if these little flashes of light will disappear soon. The tenor is not at all remarkable even in Mamma, quel vino è generoso. In general, one gets the impression that Giacomini is never at ease.

Alfio is a young Dmitri Hvorostovsky. This is his first recording of a complete opera and so it is understandable that he does not distinguish himself for the charism that he will show later, even if it is perceptible already. In Il cavallo scalpita he seems to take courage little by little, after a beginning rather shy (it is really unusual to talk about the Siberian baritone’s shyness!), but after a while he takes pleasure in repeating «schiocca la frusta» and concludes in a good way. The few sentences he utters after the toast deserve to be remembered because all of them are espressed in most treacherous way, anticipating his caustic Germont.

The performances of Rosa Larghezza, who is the voice of a heartfelt and apprehensive Mamma Lucia, and Martha Senn in Lola’s shoes are also good.

As for the conduction, Semyon Bychkov has been able to markedly differentiate the moments of lyricism from the most agonizing and desperate ones, accentuating the contrast between the one and the other in a natural way. His may be not the best direction ever, but it is certainly interesting and more than good.

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