Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Mascagni
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Cavalleria rusticana
PERFORMER: Julia Varady, Luciano Pavarotti, Ida Bormida, Piero Cappuccilli, Carmen Gonzales; National PO/Gianandrea Gavazzeni
CATALOGUE NO: 444 391-2 ADD Reissue
Recorded in the mid-Seventies, these performances still sound fine, their London choral and orchestral forces conducted tautly by Gianandrea Gavazzeni, who is precise yet not lacking in lyricism (Cav), and fervently by Giuseppe Patanè (Pag). In Cavalleria rusticana, Julia Varady brings sumptuous tone to Nedda’s music, which she phrases more intelligently than many of her rivals on disc, and projects the character with absolute conviction. Her ‘Voi lo sapete, o mamma’ is both moving and highly dramatic. Piero Cappuccilli is a somewhat restrained Alfio.

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In Pagliacci, Mirella Freni’s Nedda has been caught on disc when that most delightful of sopranos was at the peak of her form. She offers a strong characterisation and sings with great beauty of tone throughout. The baritone villain, Tonio, is Ingvar Wixell, a forceful singing-actor, and the smaller roles are all convincingly cast.

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The villager whose brief joking comment sparks off Canio’s threatening aria ‘Un tal gioco’ is sung by one Fernando Pavarotti, whose son, Luciano, is the leading tenor in both operas. Pavarotti junior is unvaryingly loud as Turiddu. He is much more impressive as Canio, a role to which his forthright style is well suited. In both operas, one is grateful not only for his fine Italianate timbre, but also for his authentic style and his superb diction. Charles Osborne