Giordano: Siberia

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

LABELS: Dynamic
WORKS: Siberia
PERFORMER: Francesca Scaini, Jeong-Won Lee, Vittorio Vitelli, Eufemia Tufano, Annalisa Carbonara; Bratislava Chamber Choir, Italian International Orchestra/Manlio Benzi
Giordano’s Siberia had its premiere at La Scala in 1903, but despite doing the international rounds failed to secure itself the place in the repertoire won by its predecessors Andrea Chénier and Fedora. These days it is rarely revived, even in Italy, where this performance was recorded live at the 2003 Martina Franca Festival. It’s an uneven achievement. At times it shows more sophistication than Giordano’s previous successes, but the big dramatic moments are handled with far less know- how than their equivalents in Puccini, and there are commonplace passages, especially in the last act. Giordano’s depiction of the miseries of a Siberian prison camp fall well short of their context, and the piece’s failure at this point sinks it. A shame, because earlier on he does worthwhile things. A serious problem with this recording is the booming sound: every step taken on stage registers as a great clump. It flatters none of the singers, of whom Vittorio Vitelli’s cynical pimp Gleby offers the best characterisation. Jeong-Won Lee sounds stressed as the romantic lead Vassili and Francesca Scaini is cloudy and underpowered as the redeemed kept-woman Stefana. Manlio Benzi conducts with theatrical intent but his players are untidy. George Hall