PERFORMER: José Cura, Amarilli Nizza, Julia Gertseva, Marco Vratogna; Theatro Regio Torino Chorus & Orchestra/Yoram David; dir. Lorenzo Mariani (Turin, 2008)
CATALOGUE NO: 101 377 (NTSC system; DD 5:1; 16:9 picture format)
Like Puccini’s first opera, Le villi (1884), his second, Edgar (1889), has never entered the repertoire. Both have a libretto by Ferdinando Fontana. The two facts are related, because it is the text, drawn from a verse play by Alfred de Musset, which sinks the piece.
Much of the action is obscure or implausible, the two female roles are stereotypes and the central character is an impulsive idiot.
Puccini revised the work more than once, up to 1905. At an early stage he dropped the final Act entirely (some of it ended up in the duet in Tosca’s last Act), and this 2008 Turin production represents its first performance in more than a century.
While the reclaimed music, like much of the rest of the score, is worthwhile, it lengthens an already long piece without improving it. Puccini fans may want to hear this as they will have few chances to experience it live.
Musically, this is a perfectly respectable performance, with José Cura committed in the title role, Julia Gertseva gutsy as the man-eating Tigrana, and Amarilli Nizza fresh-looking if not always vocally clean as virginal Fidelia.
Marco Vratogna is highly effective as Frank, Edgar’s rival turned friend. Conductor Yoram David gets a perfectly good performance out of the workmanlike Turin players.
Lorenzo Mariani’s production is encumbered by architect Maurizio Balò’s sets and his own limited ability to direct his principals. But even a great production could not save the piece. George Hall