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8.550240 - OPERA INTERMEZZI AND PRELUDES
Opera Intermezzi and Preludes
Eugen d' Albert (1864 - 1932)
Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1857 - 1919)
Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876 - 1948)
Giacomo Puccini (1858 - 1924)
Pietro Mascagni (1863 - 1945)
Giacomo Puccini (1858 - 1924)
The opera Tiefland by the German composer Eugen d' Albert was first staged in Prague in 1903. The composer was the descendant of an Italian family, and this father, a pupil of the pianist Kalkbrenner, served as ballet-master at Covent Garden in London. Eugen d'Albert was born in Glasgow in 1864 and received his early musical training in London at a music school directed by Sir Arthur Sullivan. Under the influence of Liszt he became a concert pianist, writing music for the instrument, and gravitated towards Germany, where he felt more at home than in England or in Paris. It was in Germany that he established himself as a successful composer of popular opera, of which Tiefland remains the best known surviving example. The plot, drawn from the Catalan rural drama Terra Baixa by Angel Guimerà, deals realistically with themes of love, passion and murder, in which Martha, betrayed by her rich employer Sebastiano, is given to the shepherd Pedro, on condition that he leaves the hill-country and settles in the lowlands. She tells Pedro of her past and when Sebastiano tries to take her back Pedro kills him.
Leoncavallo achieved his only real success with the opera I Pagliacci, first staged in Milan in 1892 and based on a murder trial at which the composer's father had presided as judge. The actor Canio is provoked to justified jealousy of his wife Nedda, leading him to kill her on the stage in the course of the drama that forms the second ac t of the work. The Intermezzo makes principal use of two melodies from the Prologue, in which the author's intentions are explained: actors too have their feelings.
The Italian composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was the son of a painter of Bavarian origin and an Italian mother, whose maiden name was Ferrari. He was born in Venice in 1876 and trained as an ar1ist in Rome and in Munich, in Germany successfully turning his fuller attention to composition. The best known of his fifteen operas is Il segreto di Susanna (Susanna's Secret), first produced in a German version in Munich in 1909. Susanna's jealous husband smells tobacco in the house and suspects a lover, but his wife's secret is that she herself smokes.
I gioielli della Madonna (The Jewels of the Madonna) was first staged in Berlin in 1911 and denied performance in Italy, as a result of ecclesiastical disapproval, until 1953. Rafaele, leader of a band of Camorrists, a gang of criminals, promises to show his love for Maliella by stealing jewels from the statue of the Madonna. Gennaro anticipates his action and wins her love. Maliella tells Rafaele what has happened and drowns herself, and Gennaro, having returned the jewels, kills himself.
Puccini won his first great success with his opera Manon Lescaut, based on the novel by the eighteenth century writer, the Abbe Prevost, already used as an operatic subject by Massenet. Manon, intended for a convent, is induced to elope with the Chevalier Des Grieux. In the second act she deserts him for the rich Geronte, but her affection for Des Grieux revives, when they meet, and Geronte threatens that she will suffer for her perfidy. Delaying her escape in order to take her jewels, she is arrested, and in the third act, set in the port of Le Havre, is about to be transported. The final act brings her death in the arms of her lover, who has followed her to the wilderness of New Orleans. The Intermezzo precedes the third act, which finds Manon in prison in Le Havre, and Des Grieux and Manon's brother planning to help her escape.
Mascagni, a pupil of Ponchielli in Milan, won immediate fame with his verismo opera Cavalleria rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) in 1890, followed in 1891 by L'amico Fritz, based on a novel by Erckmann-Chatrian. The opera, set in Alsace, is a comedy concerning the rich bachelor Fritz, Suzel, the daughter of one of Fritz's tenants and the match-maker Rabbi David. Guglielmo Ratcliff, an earlier work, was first performed in Milan in 1895. It is based on Heine's drama William Ratcliff, set in the Scottish Highlands. Ratcliff, lover of Maria, daughter of Mac-Gregor, murders her two other betrothed in succession, but is wounded by her new husband, Douglas. He eventually kills Maria, her father and himself.
Cavalleria rusticana is another story of jealousy, in which Santuzza provokes Alfio into justifiable suspicion of her own former lover Turiddu, who has deserted her for Alfio's wife Lola. A duel between the two men ends in the death of Turiddu. At the end of the first scene Santuzza, having jealously told Alfio of Turiddu's attentions to Lola, immediately regrets w hat she has said, realising w hat may happen. The famous Intermezzo follows, the stage for the moment empty, before people begin to come out of the church, among them Turiddu and Lola.
Puccini's early opera Edgar, a version of Alfred de Musset's verse play La coupe et les levres, was politely received on its first performance in Milan in 1889 but won him no great ac claim. Later reduced from four to three acts, the opera contains two intermezzi, neither of them narrative in content. The drama concerns Edgar's love for Fidelia and for Tigrana, to the second of whom he yields, later changing his mind, upon which Tigrana stabs Fidelia in jealousy. The lurid plot leads, at the start of the third act, to a funeral procession for Edgar, apparently killed in battle, to the revelation of an empty coffin, and the appearance of Edgar himself, ready to declare his love for Fidelia, an action that brings about the final tragedy.
Le Villi makes use of the same legend as Adam's ballet Giselle, the spirits of the title the ghosts of girls abandoned by their lovers. It was first staged in Milan in 1884, when it was well received. La Tregenda (The Ghost), the second of the two Intermezzi, accompanies the ballet in which the spirits lure their betrayers to a dance of death.
For Naxos Lenard has recorded symphonies by Tchaikovsky and works by Glazunov, Johann Strauss II, Verdi and Rimsky-Korsakov.
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