Pacini: Saffo

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Pacini
LABELS: Marco Polo
WORKS: Saffo
PERFORMER: Francesca Pedaci, Carlo Ventre, Roberto de Candia, Mariana Pentcheva Wexford Festival Opera Chorus, National SO of Ireland/Maurizio Benini
CATALOGUE NO: 8.223883/4
A contemporary of Rossini and Meyerbeer, Giovanni Pacini (1796-1867) never achieved an international reputation and, until recently, his music was generally forgotten. His Saffo (1840) concerns the legend of the ancient Greek poet Sappho, whose unrequited love for the handsome Phaon drives her to fling herself from the Leucadian rock. It was considered Pacini’s masterpiece, and the present recording clearly shows why. Having established a reputation as a facile tunesmith, his style by 1840 had deepened beyond mere imitation of Rossini. Though bouncy tunes alternate with the long, elegiac lines that modern ears find more appropriate to drama, Pacini’s thematic invention runs high.

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Recorded live at the 1995 Wexford Festival, the performance is punctuated by stage noises and applause. Nevertheless, there is a pleasing balance between singers and orchestra, and the singing itself is competent and often artistic. Francesca Pedaci’s Saffo reveals a commanding soprano, dark, emotive and poignant. Mezzo-soprano Mariana Pentcheva is at her limit negotiating Pacini’s passagework at least at Benini’s tempi. His choices aren’t unreasonable though, and his sympathetic flexibility is welcome. Tenor Carlo Ventre displays a ringing voice if not a subtle approach, while Roberto de Candia often achieves fine baritonal warmth. The chorus is well rehearsed, the orchestra lively. Barrymore Laurence Scherer