PERFORMER: Angela Gheorghiu, Plácido Domingo, Nino Machaidze, Fabio Maria Capitanucci, Marina Comparato; Monnaie Symphony Chorus and Orchestra/Alberto Veronesi
CATALOGUE NO: DG 477 8367
Like Puccini’s Tosca (1900), his contemporary Giordano’s Fedora (1898) is based on a once-famous play written by the French dramatist Sardou for the great actress Sarah Bernhardt. The melodramatic action plays against a background of political instability and espionage.
Russian Princess Fedora seeks revenge upon Loris, the man who murdered her fiancé, only to learn that he is no revolutionary but avenging his own marital betrayal; but her discovery comes too late to prevent the devastating consequences of her reports to the secret police.
The work’s limitation is that, unlike Puccini, Giordano cannot make the stretches of the piece detailing ordinary activity sound extraordinary, or even interesting.
A few highlights and nice scene-painting apart, the result often feels like an upmarket film-score. In a good performance, however, and especially with the title role played by a soprano of outstanding dramatic gifts, the piece can still prove enjoyable on its own terms.
Magda Olivero proves as much on her 1969 recording under Lamberto Gardelli, though it’s currently unavailable; on DVD Mirella Freni, seconded by Plácido Domingo live at La Scala in 1993 shows similar mettle.
Here Angela Gheorghiu lacks Olivero’s range and insights, while singing appealingly if on a smaller emotional scale. Domingo is simply phenomenal, given that he turned 67 the month the recording was made, sounding ardent if sometimes, not surprisingly, vocally pressed.
There are fine performances in secondary roles by Nino Machaidze (Olga) and Fabio Maria Capitanucci (De Siriex), and impressively idiomatic conducting by Alberto Veronesi. George Hall