Fabio Maria Capitanucci (De Siriex), Marina Comparato (Dimitri), Pedro Leandro
(Un piccolo savoiardo), Nicola Pamio (Désiré), Enrico Casari (Barone Rouvel),
Alex Esposito (Cirillo), Federico Longhi (Borov), Giuseppe Scorsin (Grech), Nabil Suliman (Lorek), Sang Jun Lee (Nicola), Bernard Villiers (Sergio), Bernard Giovani (Michele), Salvatore Percacciolo (Boleslao Lazinsky, pianist),
Orchestre Symphonique et Chœurs de la Monnaie / Alberto Veronesi.
Deutsche Grammophon 477 8367 (2 CDs)
“Verismo thriller” is DG’s apt
term for Giordano’s 1898 opera, though a stickler might say a verismo opera should be about common folk, not Russian aristocrats, and should avoid luxury settings, like those of Fedora, which move from St. Petersburg to Paris and Switzerland.
As with Tosca, which followed it by two years, Fedora is based on a play by Victorien Sardou in which the police figure prominently. But here the title heroine and the authorities have a commonality of interest, at least up to a point, since both are in pursuit of the murderer of Fedora’s fiancé. Having tracked down and secured a confession from Loris, Fedora denounces him to the police, only to learn soon thereafter of mitigating circumstances and fall in love with him. But her denunciation sets events in motion that result in innocent deaths and finally her own suicide.
Though cast in three acts, with little more than 90 minutes of music, Fedora has the terseness of a one-acter, notwithstanding a fair amount of diversionary filler to contrast with the core story of love, revenge, remorse and grief. Some good tunes help too, especially those of Loris’s familiar aria ‘Amor ti vieta’ and of the big Act 2 duet, both of which recur tellingly. It is no wonder that sopranos and tenors are drawn to it.
With her recent triumph in Adriana Lecouvreur at Covent Garden, Angela Gheorghiu stakes a compelling claim to the giovane scuola repertoire, which her performance here will strengthen. She is quite different from Magda Olivero in the studio recording from the Sixties, who invests seemingly every phrase with riveting intensity. Gheorghiu, singing with consistently appealing tone, is more emotionally balanced, which makes for a Fedora of greater feminine allure. There is an understandable coolness to her vow of eternal chastity in furtherance of her quest for revenge, and the Act 3 prayer is sung serenely. But Gheorghiu invests the love duet with ample vocal passion and gives
full vent to Fedora’s despair in the final scene, capped by a touching ‘Tutto tramonta… tutto dilegua’.
Plácido Domingo, 67 when the recording was made in 2008, must compete with his younger self, in particular DVDs of Metropolitan Opera and La Scala performances from the 1990s. He does so with honor. One’s thoughts are divided roughly evenly between awe that the voice sounds this good and recognition that at times the vocalism is not what it once was. ‘Amor ti vieta’ is ardent even if it is a touch shaky. Yet Domingo has the vocal resources to deal arrestingly with the emotional rollercoaster of the final scene, climaxing in the outburst, ‘Qui vicino a te’, a phrase that, again, rings out somewhat less gloriously than of yore.
Though some may find the voice a little tart, Nino Machaidze contributes an attractively perky portrayal of the flighty countess
Olga. Fedora lacks a baritone role of anything like Scarpia stature,
but Olga’s bicycling companion De Siriex has a couple of important moments, including a song in praise of Russian women – one of the score’s several attempts at local color – and Fabio Maria Capitanucci deals with them handsomely.
Alberto Veronesi, the Opera Orchestra of New York’s music
director designate, presides over a fluent, not overly emotive reading of the score.