PERFORMER: Denia Mazzola-Gavazzeni, Antonio Nagore, Vladimir Petrov, Laura Brioli; Latvian Radio Choir, Montpellier National Orchestra/Friedemann Layer
CATALOGUE NO: 472 818-2
Franco Alfano is chiefly remembered for completing Puccini’s Turandot, a fate that is unlikely to change despite the best efforts of the late Luciano Berio. But if his reputation were to rest on one of his own operas, it is hard to know which would bear the representative burden best: his style ranged widely and not one of the works is a real masterpiece. The early Risurrezione, premiered in Turin in 1904, might be a contender, for it is lyrical and compelling, if hard to distinguish from some of the other verismo works of the time. Surprisingly for the genre, the attractive score is short on local colour – Russian in this case, as the opera is based on Tolstoy’s Resurrection.
This novel has become a fertile source for unsuccessful operas, with the Slovakian Jan Cikker turning to it in 1962 and the American Todd Machover essaying his version in Houston in 1999, but it was new and all the rage when Alfano encountered it. Alfano’s librettist Cesare Hanau reduced Tolstoy’s complex social critique to a tear-jerker in four concise acts: the nobleman Dimitri follows Katiusha, a young girl he once seduced, to Siberia, where she is to serve a sentence for prostitution and where they eventually part reconciled.
This live recording from the 2001 Festival de Radio France et Montpellier makes a good case for the work, thanks to Friedemann Layer’s firm hand on the baton. The soprano Denia Mazzola-Gavazzeni may not be ideally fresh as Katiusha but she understands the idiom well, and the tenor Antonio Nagore makes an ardent Dimitri, showing strain only towards the end. Vladimir Petrov discloses a firm baritone as the idealist Simonson whom Katiusha meets in the prison camp. John Allison