Notes and Editorial Reviews
Bruno Aprea, cond; José Cura (
); Nanà Gordaze (
); Stefano Antonucci (
); Bratislava CCh; Italian Internatl O
223305 (68:43) Live: Valle d’Itria 1994
Puccini’s first opera,
done reasonably well on records, though the two big-label versions are not currently available on CD. Those include a RCA recording with Adriana Maliponte and Barry Morell, and perhaps the work’s finest recorded performance, a CBS LP with Renata Scotto, Plácido Domingo, and Leo Nucci, conducted by Lorin Maazel (and with Tito Gobbi in the important narrator’s role). I searched every site I knew on the Internet for a currently available version of this, and all I found were private copies for sale on Amazon starting at $89.94 (for one disc!). I guess that proves that it is a genuinely desirable item.
I have the CBS version in its original LP incarnation, and have always found it to be a thrilling performance. Maazel brings drama and energy to his conducting, and tenderness where appropriate, and Scotto, Domingo, and Nucci are all in great form. As for that central narration—which links the opera’s two acts (and fills in serious holes that would otherwise exist in the libretto), no one reads it with the conviction and intensity of Gobbi.
Having said that, this 1994 performance on Nuova Era is very successful. This is a re-issue, Nuova Era having released this performance before, but the box is more elegant this time, and the booklet is a bit more elegant, too (though the old one actually provided a more detailed essay). Neither edition, sadly, provides an English text—only an Italian libretto. (The earlier version was Nuova Era 7218.)
27:6, George Jellinek reviewed another excellent recording of
, on Naïve 4958, and it must be said that that recording offers the advantage of an English text. But I have to admit that there is something special about the singing of both Cura and Gordaze here, particularly the latter. Gordaze’s soprano glows and shines with warmth, never turning harsh or edgy. Her singing of her big first act aria is a highlight. Cura does from time to time turn a bit hard, but for the most part this is dramatic tenor singing at its finest—reminiscent of Del Monaco at his best. Cura sings with sweep, innately intelligent phrasing, and abandon. Antonucci’s baritone is more than adequate for the role of Guglielmo, and Massimo Foschi reads the connective narration almost as convincingly as Gobbi.
The conducting of Bruno Aprea doesn’t get in the way. He has neither the flair nor imagination of Maazel, and there are a few moments when the score could use a bit more of a push, but on the whole he supports his singers well and lets the music build to its natural climaxes.
is no masterpiece, but neither does it deserve its obscurity. Anyone who loves Puccini’s mature works will probably enjoy
, and if you can put up with the lack of an English libretto, this would be the recommended version. The booklet does provide a good synopsis and much background.
FANFARE: Henry Fogel
Works on This Recording
Le Villi by Giacomo Puccini
Nanà Gordaze (Soprano),
José Cura (Tenor),
Stefano Antonucci (Baritone),
Massimo Foschi (Spoken Vocals)
Slovak Chamber Choir Sl'uk,
Italian International Orchestra
Written: 1884; Italy
Be the first to review this title