Respighi: Lucrezia

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Respighi
LABELS: Marco Polo
WORKS: Lucrezia
PERFORMER: Stefania Kaluza, Michela Remor, Adriana Kohútková; Slovak RSO (Bratislava)/Adriano
CATALOGUE NO: 8.223717 DDD
Neither of these operas is much known outside Respighi’s native Italy. Both are good performances, in a very acceptable acoustic.

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La bella dormente nel bosco (Sleeping Beauty) is a Twenties extravaganza (fairy-tale opera, later revised) designed initially for a puppet-theatre production – a noble art, of which much of Europe has lost sight. The former Czechoslovakia is one of the few places where one can be held agog by such an experience today.

Marco Polo’s much-used Slovak forces are fast increasing in range, clarity and confidence. Most of the singing (despite the odd intrusive Slavism) is high quality, from Cuckoo plus Cat to ranting King and sinister Green Fairy. Respighi’s operatic idiom brushes that of the early 20th-century stage Burleska (also mined by Szymanowski, Stravinsky and Ravel), and his canny, imaginative characterisation is well caught here.

Even committed devotees of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia may be impressed at the way Respighi’s Lucrezia (virtually a deathbed work) stands up. A fascinating meld of styles: part Monteverdian recitative, part searing Strauss or Hindemith (compare von Schillings’s Mona Lisa, recently released on CPO) and with an equally convincing, taut libretto by Claudio Guastalla, who ably condenses into an hour Obey’s modern, four-act stage reworking of the legend.

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There’s an occasional (though neither prolonged nor damaging) thinness to the strings, mainly on the first disc; otherwise the orchestral accompaniment is admirable. An appealing Lucrezia (from Italian-born Michela Remor), plus numerous good solo voices (few are household names here). Voice-recording, in the main, is well up to the mark. The conductor, Swiss-born Adriano, holds things together well. Roderic Dunnett