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Leoncavallo: La Boheme / Molinari-pradelli, Antonioli, Bastianini, Monachesi, Noli, Et Al

Release Date: 01/27/2009 
Label:  Myto Records   Catalog #: 169   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ruggero Leoncavallo
Performer:  Ettore BastianiniPiero de PalmaMafalda MasiniWalter Monachesi,   ... 
Conductor:  Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Naples Teatro San Carlo ChorusNaples Teatro San Carlo Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LEONCAVALLO La bohème Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, cond; Ettore Bastianini ( Rodolfo ); Doro Antonioli ( Marcello ); Walter Monachesi ( Schaunard ); Curzio Flemi ( Colline ); Piero de Palma ( Gaudenzio, Durand ); Antonio Sacchetti ( Barbemuche ); Read more Mafalda Masini ( Musetta ); Rosetta Noli ( Mimi ); Anna di Stasio ( Eufemia ); Giuseppe Forgione ( Visconte Paolo ); Napoli Teatro San Carlo O & Ch MYTO 169 (2 CDs: 130:25) Broadcast: Naples 11/15/1958

This performance was first issued on LP by EJS. That edition gives what is actually the correct date, 3/8/1958. It was broadcast in celebration of Leoncavello’s 100th birth date, and was reviewed in Opera magazine in the 1958 May issue.

In February 1893, two Milan newspapers announced that two operas were to be composed on the subject of La bohème, one by Leoncavallo and one by Puccini. Although Leoncavallo first considered composing the opera, he offered a libretto that he had written to Puccini, who refused because he supposedly was considering another subject. Puccini then employed Giacosa and Illica to provide him with their version, which reached the stage in 1896, while Leoncavallo’s version debuted in the following year. Although Leoncavallo’s version was well received at its premiere, it shortly was totally eclipsed by Puccini’s work.

In this version, Marcello is a role for the tenor, and Musetta is a mezzo-soprano. The role of Rodolfo is for a baritone and Mimi for a high soprano. In contrast to Puccini’s version, Marcello and Musetta are the principal characters. Act I is set on Christmas Eve in a room of the Café Momus. The proprietor of the Café, Gaudenzio, complains of the noise made by the Bohemians. Schaunard, in a short aria, answers the complaints and promises that the Bohemians will not cause trouble in the future. The Bohemians enter, and Leoncavallo’s music parodies Meyerbeer when Marcello greets Musetta. Mimi sings a little song about Musetta, and then Musetta sings a song about Mimi. The Bohemians find they cannot pay their bill, and Barbemuche offers to do so. They all agree that the result of a billiard game between Schaunard and Barbemuche will seal acceptance of the offer. Marcello and Musetta are left behind and sing a duet. The Bohemians return, exulting at Schaunard’s victory, and with cries of “Natale!” the act ends.

Act II is set in the courtyard of Musetta’s house. Her furniture is piled up on the stage because she is being evicted. When Marcello enters with Musetta, he realizes what is happening and sings one of the more familiar arias, “Io non ho che una povera stanzetta.” The other Bohemians arrive, and there is fast and furious horseplay. In the confusion, Mimi’s lover, the Viscount Paolo, arrives and he and Mimi sing a duet. He persuades her to come live with him. Musetta then sings a waltz of love, after which Schaunard sings a parody of a Rossini song. The act ends with Rodolfo’s revelation that Mimi has gone away, and the Bohemians cry vengeance.

Act III opens in Marcello’s attic room. Musetta has decided to leave him, and she writes a letter of explanation while singing the aria “Marcello mio, non stare ad aspettarmi.” Mimi enters and sings a duet with Musetta. Marcello enters with the letter in his hand; he turns on Musetta, accusing her of being unfaithful. Rodolfo then enters, refuses Mimi’s approaches, and leaves, slamming the door in her face. Musetta leaves and accidentally drops her bonnet. Marcello presses the bonnet to his chest as he sings the aria “Tesata adorato.”

The last act is set in Rodolfo’s attic. It is again Christmas Eve and a storm is raging outside. Rodolfo has an aria before Marcello and Schaunard enter, bringing potatoes and fish. Schaunard sings an ironical “Requiescat in pace” over the fish. Marcello and Rodolfo talk of their frustrated loves. Unexpectedly Mimi arrives. She tells of being in a hospital, but says she is cured. Rodolfo greets her. Musetta arrives, but does not notice Mimi and sings again her song about Mimi from act I. When she realizes Mimi is present, Musetta gives Mimi her bracelet and ring to sell for medicine. The finale is Mimi’s dying monologue.

I am familiar with only two other recordings of this opera. The first one was issued on LP by Cetra with a cast of little known singers. In 1982, Orfeo issued an LP starring Franco Bonisolli, Bernd Weikl, Alan Titus, Alexandrina Milcheva, and Lucia Popp, which was subsequently issued on CD.

In his review of this live performance in Opera magazine William Weaver said: “After more than half a century of oblivion this opera proved to be a charming, light, and successful work—not a real rival to the Puccini version, but nevertheless a piece well deserving this revival. The cast is a good one, Doro Antonioli is a sweet voiced tenor, Ettore Bastianini an excellent Rodolfo. Rosetta Noli is a fine Mimi, and Mafalda Masini a satisfactory Musetta. Walter Monachesi is a good Schaunard. Molinari-Pradelli conducts well.”

In an extensive review of the rival version that was released first on LP by Orfeo, Anthony Coggi in Fanfare 6:6 said, “Comparisons are odious, but in this case inevitable. Puccini’s is a well-integrated musico-dramatic whole, its comic and serious elements cannily intertwined to set each other off. Leoncavallo splits his opera down the middle, with the first half all fun and games before matters turn grim, and finally tragic in the third and fourth acts.” It is interesting that in this version Schaunard is the most prominent character. In his later review of the CD issue, Coggi states, “I think the rough and ready Cetra set featuring Antonio Annaloro and Nedda Cassei comes closer to what this opera should sound like.”

Since neither the Cetra nor the Orfeo recordings are easily available, this version is recommendable to those who are fans of Italian opera. The sound is good for its time. The booklet contains only a listing of the tracks, which is a shame, for a libretto is certainly necessary for such an obscure work. That is why I have given a detailed plot summary.

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Works on This Recording

La Bohème by Ruggero Leoncavallo
Performer:  Ettore Bastianini (Baritone), Piero de Palma (Tenor), Mafalda Masini (Mezzo Soprano),
Walter Monachesi (Baritone), Rosetta Noli (Soprano), Antonio Sacchetti (Bass),
Giuseppe Forgione (Bass), Curzio Flemi (Baritone), Doro Antonioli (Tenor),
Anna di Stasio (Mezzo Soprano), Piergiovanni Filippi (Bass Baritone)
Conductor:  Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Naples Teatro San Carlo Chorus,  Naples Teatro San Carlo Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1897; Italy 

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