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Zandonai: Francesca Da Rimini / Dessi, Barbacini

Zandonai / Dessi / Armiliato / Nicotra / Barbacini
Release Date: 03/31/2009 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 101363  
Composer:  Riccardo Zandonai
Performer:  Roberta CanzianDaniela DessiFabio ArmiliatoGiuseppe Altomare,   ... 
Conductor:  Maurizio Barbacini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Marchigiana Philharmonic OrchestraMarchigiana Vincenzo Bellini Lyric Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Riccardo Zandonai

Francesca – Daniela Dessì
Paolo – Fabio Armiliato
Samaritana – Giacinta Nicotra
Giovanni – Alberto Mastromarino
Ostasio – Giuseppe Altomare
Garsenda – Rosella Bevacqua
Adonella – Sabrina Modena
Altichiara – Francesca Rinaldi
Biancofiore – Roberta Canzian
La schiava Smaragdi – Angela Masi
Malatestino Dall'Occhio – L'udovít Ludha
Ser Toldo Berardengo – Francesco Zingariello
Il giullare – Domenico Colaianni
Il balestriere – Alessandro Pucci
Un prigioniero – Michelangelo Brecciaroli

Coro Lirico Marchigiano 'V. Bellini'
Marchigiana Philharmonic
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Maurizio Barbacini, conductor

Massimo Gasparon, stage director, set design, costumes and lighting design

Recorded live from the Sferisterio Opera Festival, Macerata 2004.

Picture format: NTSC 4:3 letterbox
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Menu language: English
Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish
Running time: 137 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)


Riccardo Zandonai's hothouse opera Francesca da Rimini is a series of lush-beyond-belief tableaux and love duets interrupted by scenes of battle, chaos, and violence. It manages to be at once veristic and a reaction against verismo; if it were a painting, it probably would be pre-Raphaelite. We can admire its decadence, its luxuriant orchestration, and its intelligent use of motifs, and we can bask in its embarrassment of over-emotionalism--but when all is said and done, you barely recall a long melodic line from either Francesca or Paolo that defines them as characters. Though at times lovely, the scenes with Francesca and her ladies-in-waiting linger and you wonder at their point. In fact, each scene goes on a bit too long, there is too much conversation and detail, and the perfume the music gives off begins to cloy. Zandonai lacks Puccini's capacity to touch the heart or Verdi's aggressive melodic strain.

Still, done well, Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini is a guilty, highly caloric pleasure, and this performance satisfies enough--and the third-act love duet can make you forgive a great deal of filler. Recorded at the Sferisterio Festival, Macerata, in 2004, the production boasts all-of-a-piece sets, costumes, lighting, and direction by Massimo Gasparon. Wisely, no attempt has been made to turn this into anything other than what it is. We get lots of formal posturing--swirling of capes and bowing--on a set that consists of a golden-domed, Byzantine gazebo-like structure with all-purpose balconies. When it opens up there are red marble pillars and gold accoutrements, not to mention a magisterial staircase, which is both useful and attractive. The costumes use acres of orange, green, and gold brocade. We get the point: everything here is monumental, including the emotions.

Daniela Dessi is precisely ripe enough for the role of Francesca. She has nobility, passion, power, and the high notes--and there are tons of them. You wish for more shaded dynamics, however. Her real-life partner, tenor Fabio Armiliato, is the Paolo, and he is better here than I've heard him in quite a while. While he also lacks subtlety (save for those few moments, such as the whispered "Francesca!" at the end of Act 3, where he underlines the subtlety so specifically that it draws attention to itself), his ardency never is in doubt and he always sings on key. He looks even more pre-Raphaelite than he has to, by the way, with curly black locks falling around his head.

As Francesca's cruel, lame husband, Giancotto, baritone Alberto Mastromarino yells his head off impressively; this is one Barbarian you don't want to mess with. Mastromarino copes well with the wickedly high tessitura and acts up a storm, to boot. As the third brother, the sneaky, one-eyed Malatestino, Ludovit Ludha is superb, his bright, shiny--if not particularly attractive--tenor most welcome, and his attention to the text intelligent.

The ladies-in-waiting, Francesca's sister Samaritana and the slave Smaragdi, are mostly lovely but can turn a bit squally; at any rate, they look ravishing and "Marzo e giunto", a song they sing to Francesca in Act 3, is stunning.

Conductor Maurizio Barbacini understands this score perfectly and he brings out all of Zandonai's exquisite, over-the-top colors. He holds the brutal scenes in Act 2 together and handles the love duets--more than 40 minutes' worth, by the way--with sensuality and warmth. The picture and camera work are superb, as is the sound, and subtitles are available in all major European languages and Japanese.

-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Francesca da Rimini by Riccardo Zandonai
Performer:  Roberta Canzian (Soprano), Daniela Dessi (Soprano), Fabio Armiliato (Tenor),
Giuseppe Altomare (Bass Baritone), Giacinta Nicotra (Soprano), Rossella Bevacqua (Soprano),
Francesca Rinaldi (Soprano), Sabrina Modena (Soprano), Alberto Mastromarino (Baritone)
Conductor:  Maurizio Barbacini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Marchigiana Philharmonic Orchestra,  Marchigiana Vincenzo Bellini Lyric Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; Turin, Italy 
Date of Recording: 2004 
Venue:  Sferisterio Opera Festival, Macerata 

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