Puccini: Edgar

COMPOSERS: Puccini
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Puccini
WORKS: Edgar
PERFORMER: Plácido Domingo, Adriana Damato, Marianne Cornetti, Juan Pons, Rafael Siwek; Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Chorus & Orchestra/Alberto Verenosi
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6102
Puccini’s second opera was premiered in 1889 and revised as late as 1905, when he affected to despise it (‘May God preserve you from this opera,’ he wrote on a score he presented to his English friend Sybil Seligman). He was probably aware of its faults. The high-flown melodrama of its plot was not

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really his thing, and his successive

revisions had removed important motivations from the narrative.

But despite weaknesses in the libretto, the score has a lot going for it, notably in its harmonic subtlety, orchestral imagination and characteristically forthright lyricism.

These qualities come over well in this admirably played and sensitively conducted account of what is an uneven but genuinely interesting piece, sung with distinction by a cast that includes Adriana Damato as the innocent Fidelia, Marianne Cornetti as the sexually rapacious Tigrana, with Juan Pons full-blooded as Edgar’s rival-turned-friend Frank and Rafael Siwek sonorous as Fidelia’s father, Gualtiero. Altogether remarkable is the performance by Plácido Domingo, 65 this year, in the title role, which he delivers with a combination of ardour and unimpeachable tone.

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It’s not a piece the companies have rushed to record. A recent live French radio version on Naïve (reviewed November 2003) is worth having for Julia Varady’s extraordinary Fidelia, while the other main contender, also live, is a 1977 recording conducted by Eve Queler, with Renata Scotto (Fidelia) and Carlo Bergonzi (Edgar) in the leads (Sony M2K 79213). It’s a close run thing, but the new set probably has the edge. George Hall