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See latest reviews of other albums..., September 2016

Incredibly, Cyrano is [Domingo’s] 121st role. And it suits him splendidly…Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky was luminous as Roxane, her passionate outbursts showing off her powerful upper register to good effect. © 2016 Read complete review

Christie Grimstad, July 2011

When one hears the name Franco Alfano, one thinks of the man who had the unerring distinction of completing Puccini’s unfinished Turandot back in 1926. This single association, unfortunately, detracts from focusing on Alfano’s other memorable works created for stage and orchestra. In this case, we have one of Edmond Rostand’s most famous stories come to life by way of Alfano’s opera Cyrano de Bergerac (1936).

Plácido Domingo’s name alone is worth its weight in gold, deserving much of the credit for bringing obscure operas (such as Wolf-Ferrari’s Sly, Verdi’s Stiffelio, Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride and Handel’s Tamerlano) to stage in recent years. Landing his 121st role (at the time of this DVD recording), the masterful tenor tackles the title role as the acerbic, loathsome, though tender-hearted poet, opportunistically assisting an inarticulate Gascon soldier (Christian) in attaining the woman (Roxane) they both love, at the expense of Cyrano’s unsightly nasal protuberance.

As a personal attestation, musically, Franco Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac has redolent tendencies to Alexander Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg (1922) with its luscious, ethereal scoring that, at times, pops with flickering abruptness (similar in style to Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande and Puccini influences), delivering pleasant satisfaction alongside a dabble of alarming discomfiture. If one gleans unfavorable first impressions of Alfano’s score, give it another chance for many marvelous musical passages bring the feelings of vicissitude, power, delicacy and sincerity to the forefront.

Domingo’s tessitura falls nicely within Cyrano’s range, thereby deeply connecting with the poet’s ebb and flow of emotions. Sondra Radvanovsky, known for her emphasized Verdi connection, is a perfect Roxane, demonstrating a seamless passaggio and understated whimsical gesticulations. The Balcony Scene (Act II Part II) is one of the pinnacle moments in Cyrano de Bergerac that builds to momentous climax featuring a crushed Cyrano, a rapturous Roxane and a contented Christian, sung by Arturo Chacón Cruz who sings with a jeweled brilliancy; Rod Gilfry’s performance as the sardonic De Guiche is solid.

Under the direction of Michal Znaniecki, the production is taut and nicely paced, complimented by Patrick Fournillier’s conducting. The costuming, designed by Isabelle Comte, draws upon a tasteful palette of coordinated colors which allows the exquisite details in the dress to be magnified. In fact, Acts I and II are so pleasantly cohesive that it’s rather difficult to delineate the second tier of cast members (i.e. Ragueneau, De Valvert, Carbon, Le Bret, Lignière and The Musketeer.) The period appropriate clothing is reminiscent of d’Artagnan’s Les Trois Mousquetaires.

Znaniecki’s Spartan phlegmatic set design is timeless in nature, yet nowhere close to the opera’s original timeline set in the 1640s (in contrast to Peter Davis’ lavish 2005 Metropolitan Opera production.) The semicircular cement wall in Act II is dull; however, the props used in Ragueneau’s bakery are splendid. The trees and vegetation in the Balcony Scene are blatantly faux plastic, hampering the overall dramatic poignancy of this pivotal scene. Cyrano’s writings subtly bleed onto the back scrim just as he takes over the dialogue for Christian that electrifies the moment (a technique used in Los Angeles Opera’s recent staging of Catán’s Il postino.)

The video editing tries a bit too hard to create the recording as a work of art unto itself. Toward the close of each act, a montage of clips are seen as a remindful summary, set against the “real time” action unfolding on the stage. This detracts from the wonderful punctuated musical endings found in each act. The audio quality is a bit inconsistent. The volume during the opening credits is soft and muffled, but it continues to improve. Nowhere do titles appear prior to each act, making a lot of assumptions with regard to the viewing audience.

Most importantly, this Cyrano de Bergerac harvests a bounteous crop of vocal artistry and brings Franco Alfano’s oft forgotten four act opera to life. If, however, other elements had a bit more substance, the synergy would make this a first class production.

John Holland
A-R Editions, Inc., September 2010

Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac has been getting a lot of attention in recent years, thanks to the efforts of Plácido Domingo. It has been staged for him in numerous opera houses around the world, and this production was presented at the Palau de les Arts “Reina Sofia,” Valencia’s new opera house. The score is well crafted, but Alfano did not have Puccini’s, or even Giordano’s, natural gift for melody. The early scenes of the opera are rather dull, but Alfano hits his stride in time for the balcony scene in which Cyrano woos Roxane for the incompetent Christian, and the result is moving, beautiful, and dramatically effective. The battle scenes and Cyrano’s death are equally well handled.

Plácido Domingo has distinguished his career with smart repertory decisions, and this is one of them. The title role suits his voice perfectly, which is in fine shape here, and as the character is an older man, it works well dramatically. He is coupled with Sondra Radvanovksy as Roxane, a role which likewise suits her sometimes overly heavy voice. Here she sings with great sensitivity and beauty. As Christian, the youthful tenor, Arturo Chacón Cruz[‘s’]…performance does not lower the high standard set by them and the rest of the large cast. The production by Michal Znaniecki is simple and effective, and the orchestra under Patrick Fournillier seems to relish the exquisite, almost Ravel-like, orchestrations. Amazingly, this is the second production of Cyrano de Bergerac to be released on DVD—a production from Montpellier ([Ham - burg]: Deutsche Grammophon, 2005. B0004407–09) is generally very fine, but Roberto Alagna’s too youthful Cyrano must yield to Domingo’s more age-appropriate and sensitive performance.

Ralph V Lucano
American Record Guide, May 2010

Franco Alfano is best known as the (unfairly maligned) composer who completed Puccini’s Turandot. As an opera composer in his own right, he has been pretty much ignored. (An old recording of his Risurrezione, with Olivero and Del Monaco, has had a long life on the market, and a few of its arias, notably ‘Dio Pietoso’, have popped up on recital discs.) Cyrano de Bergerac was written in French but first performed in Italian, in Rome in 1936, with Maria Caniglia and the Corsican tenor Jose Luccioni. It came to the Opera-Comique, in French, a few months later, then reverted to Italian the next year in Buenos Aires. A couple of revivals followed: La Scala in 1954 with Ramon Vinay; Turin in 1975 with William Johns.

In the past decade, two renowned tenors have taken up its cause: Roberto Alagna (like Luccioni, a Corsican fluent in both Italian and French), who took part in a 2003 performance filmed but not staged (because of strikes) in Montpellier (S/O 2005); and Placido Domingo, who sang it in a production shared by the Met and Covent Garden in 2005 and 2006. This video brings us Domingo in a 2007 Valencia staging directed and designed by Michal Znaniecki. The sets are simple but faithful to the libretto, and the lavish period costumes are perfect. Some of the bit players move stiffly, and it’s especially noticeable when you see how fully and smoothly Domingo has worked himself into his part, but the opera would surely have been new to them.

Cyrano is not a neglected masterpiece, but it’s still strangely appealing. The characters and story are familiar and sympathetic, and Alfano and his librettist Henri Cain treated Rostand’s play with respect. The problem is that there isn’t enough good music in the opera to sustain its two-hour, four-act length, though the best passages are compelling. Cyrano’s paean to Paris at the end of Act 1 doesn’t quite rise to rapturous heights, but the great love scene in Act 2 does, and so does the scene between Roxane and Christian in Act 3 just before he goes off to his death—especially her almost-aria ‘Je Lisais’. The military music is pedestrian, but the opera’s conclusion is a real tear-jerker. Much of the rest is uneventful, the long monologs and conversations little more than heightened speech. You won’t come away from Cyrano humming any of the tunes, and your patience may be taxed by all the shapeless note-spinning, but it’s a painless experience and quite affecting in its best moments.

Domingo has made the title role very much his own. He looks just right and sings opulently. Arturo Chacon Cruz, in the second tenor part of Christian, is suitably handsome and callow and sounds a little like a young, lightweight Jose Carreras. Gilfry, slightly dry of voice, is fine as the pompous, self-serving De Guiche. Roxane probably has the best music; and Radvanovsky sings her high, arching phrases thrillingly, with lustrous, steady tone and Verdian richness. She’s a fine actress as well, and you really pity her when she finally learns the truth and has to lose a lover a second time. No complaints about conductor or orchestra, and the sound and picture are excellent; the camera keeps itself at a sensible distance. Very much worth investigating.

John Terauds
Toronto Star, March 2010

Toronto-based dramatic soprano Sondra Radvanovsky positively glows as Roxane next to tenor Placido Domingo’s turn as Cyrano. This musically and visually satisfying 2007 production from the Queen Sofia arts centre in Valencia, Spain, is also a compelling showcase for the talents of Italian opera composer Franco Alfano, best remembered as the man who completed Puccini’s Turandot in 1926. The 1936, four-act Cyrano de Bergerac is a faithful adaptation by librettist Henri Cain of Edmond Rostand’s famous 1897 play. Alfano’s musical style underpins recitative-style singing with a lush orchestral score. There are no arias, per se, so the bursts of emotion are conveyed by the orchestra, well shaped by conductor Patrick Fournillier.

The entire vocal cast is above average and the staging is effective…

Neil Crory
Opera Canada, March 2010

Since his 1957 debut, he has performed nearly 130 roles, and next fall adds another—that of poet Pablo Neruda, in a newly commissioned opera based on the popular 1994 Italian film, Il Postino, for LA Opera. Another recent addition to his repertoire has been the title role in Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac, which he sang for the first time at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005. It’s based on Edmond Rostand’s 1897 verse drama about a real-life French soldier, swordsman poet and satirist who was blessed with an extremely large nose. In the opera, the young Roxanne and Christian are strongly attracted by one another’s beauty. Since the inarticulate young cadet is inexperienced in the words of love, he begs his comrade Cyrano to help woo Roxanne, unaware that Cyrano is also hopelessly in love with her. Cyrano agrees, and writes a series of passionate love letters ostensibly from Christian. Only as Cyrano lies dying at the end of the opera does Roxanne discover the truth.

Barry Brenesal
Fanfare, March 2010

Domingo is inimitable…The warmth of Domingo’s youth is gone, but the lyricism that comes from his exceptional phrasing well remains, allied to strength and vibrancy. Radvanovsky’s dusky, fine-grained soprano is a real asset, especially when treated with the sensitivity to light and shade that she provides. Similarly, Rod Gilfry—a new name for me—sang de Guiche with a dark, focused bass that could command one second and caress the next. These three performers are gifts to any production

Robert J Farr
MusicWeb International, March 2010

Alfano? I hear you ask, yet with a slight wrinkle of the brow as if somewhere in the distant memory bank there is a file. Rightly so, at least for any opera enthusiast. Alfano is mainly remembered as the man eventually chosen by the publisher, Ricordi, and Toscanini, the resident conductor at La Scala, to complete Puccini’s Turandot. It will be remembered that at the composer’s death part of the last act remained unscored.

Born near Naples, Alfano completed his first opera, still unpublished, in 1896. He had difficulty in getting later works performed in Italy, finding more success abroad. Ricordi supported his opera Risurrezione, based on Tolstoy; it was successful in Turin in 1905. It was very much in the Puccinian style and reached over one thousand performances. Later operas were only modestly received. He took up teaching at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna becoming director in 1916. It was from the Liceo that he presented his successful Sakuntala. This was an opera in a completely different idiom the orientalism of which must have been influential in Ricordi’s decision that Alfano was the man to complete Turandot. The completed Turandot, was presented at La Scala in April 1926. Alfano’s completion was abbreviated by Toscanini and in its shortened form involves around fifteen minutes of music.

Alfano wrote several orchestral works. His opera Madonna Imperia reached the Metropolitan Opera, New York in 1928, a year after its premiere. By this time his work was more influenced by the likes of Richard Strauss and Debussy rather than having its own particular distinctive patina.

Alfano took up the story of Cyrano de Bergerac as the basis for an opera in 1933. Founded on the novel by Edmond Rostand the opera was premiered in Rome in January 1936 under the baton of Tulio Serafin. It was performed in Paris in May that year in the French translation that is used in this performance. Like other artists in Italy in that inter-war period, Alfano was forced to become associated with the Fascist regime. This has tended to sully his reputation somewhat.

Cyrano de Bergerac tells the story of the proboscally challenged Cyrano. He is infatuated with Roxanne, who is also loved by Christian. Cyrano has the heroic skills as a swordsman and fighter denied to his rival. More importantly, he is also a skilful poet, well able to express his love for a woman. After various battles and duels Cyrano meets Roxanne only to discover she is in love with the young and handsome Christian. Resigned to the fact that his own disfigurement makes him unacceptable to Roxanne, Cyrano realises his own inspirational eloquence and poetry are what Christian needs and determines to help him become Roxanne’s perfect suitor. He reads with ardour his own poetry below her balcony as Christian stands by, giving the impression that it is his. Cyrano agonizes as she declares her love for the young man who climbs to the balcony and embraces her (Chs. 13–15).

Unbeknown to Christian, Cyrano writes other ardent letters in his name that are smuggled across the lines during the battle of Arras where Christian is killed. For many years Cyrano keeps this information secret so as not to sully Christian’s name. He then meets Roxanne, now in a convent. Cyrano has been mortally wounded as Roxanne asks him to read what she believes to be Christian’s last letter. Cyrano does so and she at last realises the truth. Cyrano dies as Roxanne declared her love for him despite his nose (Ch. 26).

After languishing in neglect for many years, Alfano’s Cyrano was seen in a production at Montpellier in 2003 with Roberto Alagna in the title role. This has appeared on DVD. Plàcido Domingo took up the role, as his one hundred and twenty first, and a production was mounted at the Metropolitan Opera, New York in May 2005, by Francesca Zambello with designs by Peter J Davidson. This production has since transferred to Covent Garden where it was seen in May 2006 and onwards to La Scala. It should have been the basis of these performances celebrating the new theatre Reina Sofia, in Valencia whose impressive, futuristic, exterior is seen in the introduction (Ch. 1). It seems there were problems with a collapse of part of the theatre stage-machinery required for the sets. The upshot was a new, simpler but affective staging by Michail Zananiecki. Its main focus is a central rotunda with steps and openings through which entrances and activities take place. His staging may not be as spectacular as reports of the Zambello production indicate, but like his direction, aided by drapes and lighting, it is effective. My only question is as to the relevance of what appear to be acrobats descending on ropes and drapes from time to time. The costumes are in period.

Above anything else what Cyrano de Bergerac needs beyond even an accomplished production and sets, are two committed and affecting singing actors in the title role and that of Roxanne. As far as the eponymous role is concerned it has an outstanding protagonist in Plàcido Domingo. His acting is fully integrated into his singing to add a further histrionic portrayal to his many others. The tessitura of the music suits his now baritonal tenor perfectly, with no demanding high Cs or the like and plenty of opportunity for dramatic involvement. His portrayal of the death of Cyrano, after hearing Roxanne’s true thoughts (Ch. 26), is as powerfully sung as his well known reading of the death of Otello in act four of Verdi’s opera. In this histrionic tour de force Domingo is aided, as in the Verdi, by the composer’s music. This ending, in the manner of its portrayal and its poignancy, reminded me also of the death of Boris in Mussorgsky’s opera. As Roxanne, Sondra Radvanovsky matches Domingo in dramatic involvement—no mean feat. Her lustrous soprano is warm and vibrant and allied to her vocal and dramatic capacity it is an instrument to savour. Radvanovsky lacks some clarity of diction to convince me that she is a major force in the operatic firmament. Her outburst of love to Christian (Ch. 20) is delivered via powerful and committed singing of a high order…

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2009

The reputation of Franco Alfano never fully recovered after the fiasco surrounding his completion of Puccini’s opera, Turandot, when the great conductor, Arturo Toscanini, walked out of the orchestra pit the moment his completion began. To that point he had enjoyed a good career as pianist, teacher and composer, and there was yet to come the 1936 opera, Cyrano de Bergerac, a work that marked the final years of the great Italian opera tradition. It was based on the famous love story of Cyrano, a man so disfigured by his large nose that he was unable to offer his love to Roxane. He achieved this by his written and spoken words he gives to, and which supposably come from, the handsome Christian with whom Roxane eventually falls in love. She learns the truth too late, when Christian has died on the battlefield and Cyrano fatally wounded, and it brings the opera to a poignant conclusion. Arias were becoming old-fashioned by the time of composition, but Alfano does give a marvelously dramatic moment to Roxane in the third act, and devises a tear-jerking fourth act. Sadly he failed to find that big and unforgettable melody for the balcony scene that would have come from Puccini or Cilea, for with that in place, I guess the work would have found a place in the repertoire. Even without it, the work deserves to be more regularly performed, and tenors should snap it up. The production is as spectacular as the new Palau de les Arts in Valencia. The sets are large, the costumes magnificent, and Michal Znaniecki’s direction is ‘traditional’ in best sense of the word. But it is the presence of Plácido Domingo in the name role that gives it extra importance. His voice is in remarkably good shape, and, as always, he sings with passion and total involvement, bringing the opera to a close without histrionics. One of the most exciting new sopranos, Sondra Radvanovsky, is a memorable Roxane, her high notes so totally secure and free. Arturo Chacon Cruz is a likeable Christian, with the many lesser parts well cast. Fine filming, very good audio balance between the orchestra pit and the stage, and the presentation includes the usual English subtitles and a good accompanying booklet. A rarity and one I much recommend to you.

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