Frock Opera

Giordano’s Fedora is a sort of apotheosis of the 19th century Italian opera.  It’s a melodramatic love story in an aristocratic Russian setting.  There is murder and suicide and plots and a dead mother and brother.  The music is dramatic, even bombastic, when the mood suits but finds time to give showpiece arias for the principals.  There is not an idea in libretto or score that give anyone an uncomfortable thought.  The Metropolitan Opera’s 1996 production by Beppe di Tomasi builds on this by playing it dead straight and setting it in a series of suitably opulent settings complete with extravagant frocks.  The cherry on the already rather rich cake is casting Placido Domingo as Loris Ipanoff and Mirella Freni as Fedora Romazoff.  I imagine it’s many people’s idea of the perfect night at the opera   In it’s way it’s the polar opposite of, say, Bieito’s Wozzeck

Although it isn’t entirely my thing I did thoroughly enjoy this disk,  The score is pretty decent if not exactly Puccini at his best.  The production is pretty and undistracting and the singing is glorious.  I suppose it could be said that Domingo and Freni by 1996 were a bit long in the tooth to be singing young lover roles but who cares when they sing as well as this?  The big arias all hit the spot and the Met audience reacts accordingly.  Actually one feels that Domingo and Freni could come on and sing Ten Green Bottles and the Met audience would go nuts but there we are.  The other roles are also very well sung; especially the De Siriex of Dwayne Crodt and the Olga Sukarew of Ainhoa Arteta.  The latter was particularly good.  She’s got a very pleasant bright soprano, is easy on the eye and did some real acting in a production that does tend a bit towards stock opera acting gestures.  Roberto Abbado conducts and gets an idiomatic performance out of all concerned.

The disk is not bad at all.  The video director is Brian Large and it’s typical of his work with lots of close ups.  That works quite well for what is in large measure a star vehicle.  The picture is average DVD quality 4:3.  The sound is very good DTS 5.1.  It’s detailed and spacious and suits the music well.  There are Dolby 5.1 and PCM stereo too.  There are no real bonuses but there are some trailers and stuff and the usual DGG documentation.  The subtitle options are Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Chinese.

 

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