Marek Janowski and the Dresdner Philharmonie present a new recording of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, the verismo opera par excellence. Mascagni’s debut opera turned him into an overnight world star and continues to captivate listeners today.
Even if the depiction of simple village folk and the direct emotional appeal of Cavalleria Rusticana were initially greeted as a welcome alternative to the gods, intellectual pretenses and dense orchestral textures of Wagner, Mascagni’s score, in fact, has many more symphonic qualities than is usually acknowledged.
Marek Janowski, a champion of Wagnerian opera and German symphonic music is the ideal candidate to demonstrate those qualities. He does this together with the Dresdner Philharmonic, the MDR Leipzig Radio Choir and a cast of outstanding vocal soloists, including Melody Moore as Santuzza, Brian Jagde as Turridu and Lester Lynch in the role of Alfio. Marek Janowski is one of the most celebrated conductors of our times and enjoys a vast discography.
This recording is the first in a series with the Dresdner Philharmonie, where Janowski currently serves as chief conductor. Melody Moore and Lester Lynch both have been featured on several releases, including Verdi’s Othello (2017). Brian Jagde is one of today’s rising opera tenor stars and makes his Pentatone debut on this album.
On 4 February 1891, Cosima Wagner wrote to Houston Stewart Chamberlain from Berlin:”… what I experienced here – Cavalleria Rusticana – disgusted me.” How was she supposed to like what penetrated her own deepest wounds (in the 1860s, she had betrayed and eventually abandoned her husband, conductor, and pianist Hans vonBülow, through her love affair with Richard Wagner)?
On top of that, it was presented with a garish, downright overpowering directness that Frau Wagner had never experienced from her husband, who himself wasn’t frugal when it comes to expressing the torments of the soul? An expert who is as astute as he is eloquent explains:” Mascagni has once again honored aright and healthy attitude against the false, unhealthy principle of Wagner’s style: Mascagni has demonstrated that without melody there is no music and that without sung melody there is no opera.
Santuzza – Melody Moore, Soprano
Turiddu – Brian Jagde, Tenor
Lucia – Elisabetta Fiorillo, Contralto
Alfio – Lester Lynch, Baritone
Lola – Roxana Constantinescu, Mezzo-soprano
Donna I – Anna Rad-Markowska, Soprano
Donna II – Manja Raschka, Contralto
MDR Leipzig Radio Choir
Jörn Hinnerk Andresen, Chorus Master
Wolfgang Hentrich, Concertmaster
Andreas Henning, Assistant Conductor
Conducted by Marek Janowski
Total time: 01:05:48
Andreas Henning, Anna Rad-Markowska, Brian Jagde, Dresdner Philharmonie, Elisabetta Fiorillo, Jörn Hinnerk Andresen, Lester Lynch, Manja Raschka, Marek Janowski, MDR Leipzig Radio Choir, Melody Moore, Roxana Constantinescu, Wolfgang Hentrich
Frauke Roth (Dresdner Philharmonie) & Job Maarse (San Francisco Classical Recording Company)
|Italian Language Coach||
A San Francisco Classical Recording Company Production
|Original Recording Format|
Recorded Live at Kulturpalast Dresden, March 2019.
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||April 10, 2020|
BBC Music Magazine
This new version of Mascagni’s one-act wonder is everything that verismo should be: intense, passionate and heart stopping as it reaches its grisly climax.
Marek Janowski, working with his own orchestra, the Dresden Philharmonic transforms what is often a lumbering warhorse into a Wagnerian thoroughbred. As he unfolds the opening prelude, scales the climax of the Easter Hymn, or slips into the celebrated Intermezzo you wonder whether you’ve really heard this opera before. And his orchestra rewards him with some sumptuous playing – particularly the strings – and always a scrupulous attention to detail.
The youngish cast is on point too. Melody Moore’s Santuzza has a smoky quality in her lower register hinting at the incomparable Leontyne Price. It underscores her desperation in ‘Voi lo sapete’ when she confesses her history of abuse to Mamma Lucia. And both Santuzza and Brian Jagde’s Turridu ratchet up the drama in their scene outside the church. Remarkably, Jagde almost wins our sympathy when he begs his mother to care for Santuzza before setting off for his duel with Alfio
Lester Lynch is a perky Alfio in his cart, relishing the jaunty melody Mascagni gives him, but he seems to have aged a lifetime by the time that Turiddu bites his ear. Was Lola worth it? Roxana Constantinescu tosses off a flirty version of her aria that leaves you wondering.
When the end comes, there’s no shrieking, no melodrama. The chorus – the MDR Leipzig Radio Choir – who have sung their hearts out for Janowski simply intone their final line. Turiddu is dead: rustic honor is satisfied.
NativeDSD Senior Reviewer
2020 NativeDSD Album of the Year – Opera & Lieder
“Oh yeah, that’s that other opera they always put with Pagliacci on CD’s…”
Cavalleria Rusticana has never been first in line when people think of great opera. Finally, we have a recording that should bring real credit to this Opera.
Janowski conducts the Dresdner Philharmonie and some well-chosen soloists in a fine performance of Mascagni’s famous opera about love, betrayal, violence, and (of course) Mama! The opera was a huge hit when first performed in 1890, and this performance reminds us why!
This Pentatone recording of Cavalleria Rusticana is outstanding. Conducted by Polish-German maestro Marek Janowski, recognized as a great master of German music and now artistic director and chief conductor of the Dresden Philharmonie, this is to my mind one of the best renditions of Mascagni’s opera that I have ever heard.
American soprano, Melody Moore, sings Santuzza. She has a rich, velvety involving tone with impressive dramatic expression, excellent technique, and a powerful voice, which she seems to easily project above the orchestra. All Santuzza’s anguish, despair, jealousy as well as her vindictive vein come vigorously across. Moore is very moving in the beautiful Voi lo sapete, o mamma, displaying an exceptional arioso quality in her voice, soaring easily not just in the high notes but in the expression of her pain. Her duet with Turiddu, sung by American tenor Brian Jagde, is excruciatingly sad, contrasting with his indifference and irritation, as she doesn’t leave him alone. Jagde is in great form here; his captivating tenor sounds manly and very clear. His voice has also a terrific dramatic quality and he manages exceptionally well to express fake sincerity (when he denies to Santuzza that he is in love with Lola) and outrage at Santuzza’s doubts and almost obsessive jealousy.
Lola, performed by Romanian mezzo soprano Roxana Constantinescu, is also excellent. Her tone is clear and seductive, demonstrating the character’s sensual appeal. Her appearance when Santuzza and Turiddu are arguing is an effective contrast of her carelessness with the serious drama unfolding between the pair. American baritone Lester Lynch, better known as a dramatic Verdi baritone, does a particularly credible job as Alfio, the betrayed husband of adulterous Lola. His duet with Santuzza when she tells him the truth about Lola’s and Turiddu’s relationship is remarkable. His voice exuding drama, fury and desire for revenge convincingly throughout.
The MDR Leipzig Radio Choir is extraordinary throughout. The voices soar with power and beauty above the orchestra and there are moments where they get right under the skin, sending shivers down one’s spine. Marek Janowski leads the Dresdner Philharmonie in a superb account of Mascagni’s music, highlighting the drama and sustaining the voices with clarity, harmonising the power of the orchestra with that of the voices, allowing them to float above the instruments rather than overwhelm them. I should add at this point that the dramatic power of the piece was at its most impressive when I heard the digital streaming through my Plantronics headphones. The effect via the Bluetooth I have set up on my Hi-Fi system is also powerful but to a slightly less degree of impact.
This Pentatone recording of Cavalleria Rusticana is currently available as DSD (Direct Stream Digital), which is how I heard it. The recorded sound is marvelous in its clarity and energy. The booklet is stylish, appropriately with a stunning cover photo of Mount Etna during an eruption, spilling bright red lava against the Sicilian sky. It clearly symbolizes the emotional eruption of the drama and effectively marks the geographical location where it happens. The booklet notes, written by Steffen Georgi, make interesting reading and appear in English and German. There are no artists’ biographies, but the booklet contains the full libretto in the original Italian with the English and German translations side by side.
I enjoyed this recording of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana immensely. Pentatone made the wise decision, to my mind, of presenting this one act opera on its own rather than with the one that usually accompanies it on stage productions, meaning with Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci. In this way, it allows the listener to better concentrate on Mascagni’s work and therefore savor it more in all its detail and glory. This recording also compares favorably with previous recordings known to me. This is no mean feat and reflects exceptionally well on conductor Marek Janowski who manages a fresh take on a piece that is (almost!) too often staged and recorded.
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