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Thread: OTF: L’Amico Fritz

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    Senior Member Involved Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    Cool OTF: L’Amico Fritz

    Though regarded by casual opera followers as a one-work composer, Pietro Mascagni wrote other operas of interest and quality. Aside from Cavalleria Rusticana, the wrenchingly dramatic Iris, and the winsomely comic L'amico Fritz are other worthy efforts from the pen of this composer. Still, Mascagni's first opera was so successful that subsequent efforts simply could not equal that initial triumph.

    Having launched the verismo school with Cav, with L’Amico Fritz Mascagni made a complete stylistic about-face, at least in part because of the commission Mascagni received asked the composer to deliver an opera on a light, entertaining subject. First performed on October 31, 1891, at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, L'amico Fritz is Mascagni's second most popular opera and is still staged with some frequency in Italy.

    After some searching, Mascagni chose a French comedy by Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian, L'Ami Fritz, which had been published in 1864 and adapted for the stage in 1872. The story is about Fritz Kobus, a wealthy, confirmed bachelor and the Rabbi David (changed to a physician during Italy's Mussolini years), a persistent matchmaker who is determined to get Fritz to marry. Partly through David's plotting, Fritz falls in love with Suzel, the daughter of his steward, and asks her to marry him.

    So, absent is Cavelleria's stark realism, charged eroticism, and blistering, brief, and frenetic segments of music. Instead, L'amico Fritz offers a subdued, idyllic atmosphere that makes it irresistible and charming. The first performance was a triumph; several numbers were repeated and there were innumerable curtain calls. Within a year of the premiere, L'amico Fritz played across Europe.

    Although fans expected another Cav, and initially expressed their disappointment at not receiving one, the qualities of L'amico Fritz eventually won over its potential detractors. Some, including Gustav Mahler, who gave a performance of the opera in Hamburg in 1892, considered L'amico Fritz superior to Cavalleria in many ways.


    From a Gramophone review in 1987:

    At the point in their careers when Freni sang Suzel and Pavarotti Fritz, they were ideally suited to these roles. From her opening solo, through her ballad, the inspired Cherry Duet to her Third Act solo of sorrow, Freni sings with such warmth of tone and expression as to melt any heart doubting the worth of the music. She sounds at once vulnerable and wistful throughout. Pavarotti strikes just the right note of eager ardour as he gradually falls in Love with Suzel after averring that he is impervious to the emotion. He shades his part with elegiac accent and winning pianissimos. These Modenese neighbours obviously enjoyed singing together, and their contributions, not least their Third Act duet where they fall into each other's arms, alone make the recording worthwhile. But there are also Vincenzo Sardinero's firm, vibrant tones to turn the role of the matchmaking rabbi David into something positive and Gavazzeni's affectionate way with the orchestra to indicate Mascagni's care over instrumentation.
    As I have done before, this performance is edited from one of Sean Bianco’s fine At The Opera podcasts, and I have included his spoken introductions.

    Pietro MASCAFNI (1863 –1945)
    L'amico Fritz (1891)
    Opera in three acts, Italian libretto by P. Suardon (Nicola Daspuro), with additions by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti, after L'ami Fritz by Émile Erckmann and Pierre-Alexandre Chatrian

    Luciano Pavarotti, Fritz
    Mirella Freni, Suzel
    Laura Didier Gambardella, Beppe
    Vicente Sardinero, David

    Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
    Gianandrea Gavazzeni, conducting
    Venue: EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London, England, 1968

    Performance Link:

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  3. #2
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    Although I am big fan of Freni and Pavarotti and specilal together. (Butterfly and Boheme)
    Except from the flower duet it is dull and boring.
    I couldn't care less if I never had to listing to this opera again.

  4. #3
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    The "Cherry Duet" is ethereal. While the words are often silly in today's world, the music is (IMHO) Mascagni's best.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    L'Amico Fritz in my opinion is good enough, with the beautiful Cherry Duet, the violin solo, some fine orchestral moments, and other good arias/scenes like Non mi resta che il pianto; Son pochi fiori; Facea si vecchio abramo; and the final love duet O amore, o bella luce del core. It's a lighthearted piece of modest proportions (run time about 90 minutes), undoubtedly pleasant, in spite of its weak libretto (actually, intentionally so; Mascagni was unhappy that some critics had said that Cavalleria Rusticana was successful thanks more to the libretto than to his music, and wanted a simple libretto in order to let people focus on his music) - Verdi actually said that the libretto for L'Amico Fritz was the worst he had ever seen.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  8. #5
    Senior Member Involved Member Floria's Avatar
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    I saw this thread yesterday and decided to listen to it, since I haven't played it in while. I like the music. The version I have is with Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alanga.

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  10. #6
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    I am not a huge Pavarotti fan but for his eight high C's in La Fille Du Regiment. Freni is not my favorite either, her voice in this production seeming somewhat darker or heavy. I like the Angela Gheorghiu recording from listening to clips. Another that tempts me is Freni sans Pavarotti and six years younger (and in her late 20s) in a live performance, but not top sound quality, though quite listenable:


    BTW, I am hyped up on this opera and listened to the Freni/Pavarotti CD 12 times this weekend. I do have it on DVD with Theodossiou and Bros--a very nice production.
    There are no long Wagner operas. Only short attention spans.

  11. #7
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    My L'amico Fritz collection has grown to this (the last one being a live performance):

    There are no long Wagner operas. Only short attention spans.

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