Arsen Soghomonyan, Krassimira Stoyanova, Stephen Gaertner, Łukasz Goliński; Opera Rara Chorus; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Carlo Rizzi
Opera Rara 9293800612 58:83 mins
Having already introduced listeners to the fascinating Zazà (1900), Opera Rara follows up with this later Leoncavallo work (1911) in which he demonstrates the acquisition of further music-dramatic territory – in this case a piece set amongst the Roma people and derived from the identical poetic Pushkin source that lay behind Rachmaninov’s opera Aleko (1893) and which also – as musicologist Ditlev Rindom’s comprehensively excellent notes reveal – provided input into Bizet’s Carmen.
In this reconstructed version of the 1911 original, commissioned by and premiered at the London Hippodrome – then one of the UK capital’s leading music halls, with a surprisingly artistically ambitious artistic programme – Leoncavallo utilises a substantial chorus and orchestra with considerable flair. There’s a flamboyance to the result, but equally delicacy, skill and emotional immediacy for a dark tale conveyed in striking colours.
As expert an interpreter of Italian opera as one will find anywhere, conductor Carlo Rizzi seeks out the score’s full potential and his musical forces – the Opera Rara Chorus and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – respond with constant dynamism. Strong voices in the impassioned major roles offer the right set of colours for a score containing several moments of heightened lyricism.
Krassimira Stoyanova attacks independent-minded Roma woman Fleana with fearless tone and vocal subtlety. The troubled prince Radu, who throws in his lot with the Romani people, is ideally personified by Arsen Soghomonyan. Fleana’s original Roma lover is impressively realised by Stephen Gaertner, while the Roma elder who watches events with rising concern is convincingly portrayed by Łukasz Goliński.