Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?  
Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Charles H Parsons
American Record Guide, February 2010

This not just a beautifully designed, staged, and sung production of Puccini’s second and least performed opera, but counts as an historical document as well. Preserved here is the first performance of the original four-act version since its world premiere (three performances only!) at La Scala in Milan on April 21, 1889.

While Puccini had composed his first opera (Le Villi) in just a few months, it took him almost two-and-a-half years to compose Edgar then another one-and-a-half years before its premiere. Edgar was a resounding failure. Puccini tinkered with all of his operas after their premieres, and Edgar needed a lot of tinkering. Puccini reduced the four acts to three by eliminating the entire fourth act—40 minutes of music. The music for that act existed only in a piano edition stored. For the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, American Puccini expert Linda B Fairtile began reconstructing the original orchestration. Before she could finish, the composer’s granddaughter, Simonetta Puccini, came up with the intact original score.

For the Turin revival the setting was transposed from 1302 to the political and social atmosphere of the Italian unification movement, the Risorgimento in the 19th Century. It worked very well with lovely, old-fashioned settings by Maurizio Baio and no-nonsense staging by Lorenzo Mariani. The singers are a well matched set with pride of place going to Cura’s dramatic Edgar.

Patrick O'Connor
Gramophone, December 2009

The first recording of the four-act version of Puccini’s Edgar

Puccini’s second opera, first performed at La Scala in 1889, was deemed a failure. The composer returned to it on several occasions, altering it, and ditching the final act. Although seldom performed, in its three-act version it has had several recordings, notably those conducted by Eve Queler with Carlo Bergonzi in the title-role (Sony, 1/78), Yoel Levi with Carl Tanner (Naïve), and Alberto Veronesi with Plácido Domingo (DG, 6/06). Until recently, the original fourth act was supposed to be lost, but then the American musicologist Linda B Fairtile started work to attempt a reconstruction, which led to Puccini’s granddaughter, Simonetta, finding the manuscript in the family’s archives.

The libretto of Edgar is taken from a story by Alfred de Musset. The attraction must have been the contrast between the hero’s infatuation for the exotic temptress Tigrana, and the pure village maiden Fidelia. The situation is not unlike Carmen, but then there are huge plot complications when Edgar pretends to have died in battle and stages his own funeral, in order to test the love of his rival girlfriends. As Puccini must have recognised, the fourth act comes as an anticlimax after this big confrontation, with Edgar disguised as a monk, declaiming from the pulpit.

In Lorenzo Mariani’s Turin production, the action is transposed from the 14th century to the time of the Risorgimento. Act 1 finds everyone dressed in white for a summer picnic. When Edgar and Tigrana have escaped to the city in Act 2, it looks like a production of Traviata, with all the men in top hats and the girls in red feathers. Act 3, though, goes with terrific zest, José Cura as Edgar in disguise, holding forth with burnished tone, and Amarilli Nizza singing “Addio, mio dolce arnor”—the one passage that has become fairly well known—with considerable feeling.

Act 4 turns out to have a sort of mad scene for Fidelia. No sooner has she been told that Edgar is in fact alive, than she is stabbed to death by Tigrana; Julia Gertseva makes the most of this ungrateful part. In the end, Edgar is left without either. One can sense Puccini grappling with all the diverse influences on his music, a bit of Wagner, a bit of Verdi, a touch of Donizetti—occasionally his own style seems to be forming, only to be swamped again. Yoram David controls the huge orchestra and chorus with impressive authority.

Joseph K. So
La Scena Musicale, November 2009

Edgar, Puccini’s second opera, was a failure at its La Scala premiere in 1889, lasting all of three performances. The composer reworked the score, cutting the last act. The revised three-act version had its premiere in 1905, but the opera’s fortunes did not improve, as Edgar remains, with Le Villi, two of the least performed of Puccini operas. This Teatro Regio Torino production, taped in 2008, has the distinction of being “complete”, made possible by Puccini’s granddaughter who came forward with the missing Act Four, previously thought to be lost.To be sure this is Puccini before his full maturity,yet one can see glimpses of his later glory. If the extended duet in the restored last act sounds familiar, it is because Puccini recycled it later for Tosca! The libretto, with its strange twists and turns, isn’t going to win any prizes for believability. The protagonist, Edgar, is torn between his love for the chaste Fidelia and his desire for the bad girl Tigrana. Despite its longueurs, this opera, when well performed, as it is here in a beautiful production, makes for an enjoyable evening at the theatre. The singing is good if flawed. Argentinean tenor Jose Cura is at his stentorian best, an approach that works well in this blood and guts piece, and he is in excellent voice. Marco Vratogna (Frank) has a powerful and rich baritone that he uses to advantage in his few moments in the sun. He is also a powerful actor. As Gualtiero, Carlo Cigni shows off an impressive bass-baritone. Too bad Amarilli Nizza is such a maddeningly uneven Fidelia, shrill and flat one moment, but rising to the occasion with a searingly effective aria and concertato in Act Three. Russian mezzo Julia Gertseva sings strongly as Tigrana. Her makeup and costume could easily have made her pass for Carmen, not inappropriate since the two characters bear a strong resemblance. Israeli conductor Yoram David shows a true grasp of the verismo style, drawing exciting sounds from the Torino forces. The unit set is beautiful, and the videography is superb. This is an important addition to the discography of early Puccini.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group