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Herkku
September 16th, 2012, 11:06 AM
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After many years I acquired and listened to Ottorino Respighi's opera La Fiamma (The Flame) by Hungarian forces for the second time. Respighi may not belong to the greatest opera composers, but this one is certainly interesting, a kind of mixture of Puccini and Richard Strauss with a twist. The twist is the endless tortuous sensuality of the vocal line, for the female voices at least, if not with any memorable melodies. Respighi also knows how to build up tension and maintain it white-hot for extended periods. The singers, led by Ilona Tokody, Klára Takács, Peter Kélen and Sándor Sólyom-Nagy, give their best, even if they are relatively unknown. I like the women. Everything is handsomely conducted by Lamberto Gardelli.

The plot, set in the Byzantine Italy, is actually based on a story of a Norvegian woman, accused of witchcraft and burnt at stake. Suffice it to say that it's about illicit love.

The Hungaroton recording isn't easy to come by. After some fishing around I found that there is a live recording with Nelly Miricioiu, which costs an arm and a leg, but could be interesting.

Ann Lander (sospiro)
September 16th, 2012, 11:48 AM
I've got this recording. I saw it in a sale in the ROH shop & had never heard of it before & was curious. I really like it & concur with Herkku's review.

I've picked up other Hungaroton recordings in the ROH shop but not seen them anywhere else.

Herkku
September 17th, 2012, 05:46 AM
Inspired by your message I listened Maria Egiziaca yesterday, but I still feel that La Fiamma is much more exciting: pure undiluted, unadulterated (now there might be some controversy!) ecstacy! Of course, Maria could be described as a semi-religious tableau, whereas La Fiamma is more like a full-blown opera.

Schigolch
September 17th, 2012, 10:23 AM
Yes, Maria Egiziaca it could also be defined as an 'oratorio'. I find particularly appealing how Respighi manages to blend what it's almost a tone poem, with some dramatic and interesting vocal lines, and the conscious archaism of the libretto and some of the music. But, of course, some other Respighi's operas can be more interesting for other people.

Maria Egiziaca is complete in youtube:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfVeVMXixEU

On the same subject, there is another opera written by John Tavener back in the 1990s, Mary of Egypt. I personally found it also interesting, though perhaps a little bit less than Respighi's.

Herkku
September 28th, 2012, 06:21 PM
987

I think I have been bitten by the Respighi bug! Now I'm listening to Semirama, an early work, but a full-length opera. It's kind of refreshing to find something that isn't available on YouTube. At least I couldn't find anything from it. Respighi's style is already there, much more so than in Richard Strauss' early Guntram, which sounds very Wagnerisch (but I liked that, too), but by the time Semirama was premiered, Salome had already been performed in Italy, and it must have given some ideas to young Italian composers. Semirama is none other than the Semiramide we know of the opera by Rossini. The recording is by Hungaroton, as was La Fiamma, which rekindled my enthusiasm for the composer. Lamberto Gardelli is at the podium again. Eva Marton - not exactly my favourite singer, but capable enough and occasionally showing some more warmth in her voice than I am used to - sings the title role. Then there is Veronika Kincses - for whose voice I have a special affection especially in Goldmark's Die Königin von Saba - as Susiana. Both are interested in Merodach, a victorious general - sung rather "can belto" -like by Lando Bartolini. The singers are recorded very much in the frontstage. I guess we miss some orchestral details. After all, in addition to Richard Strauss, Respighi was influenced by Debussy and Rimsky-Korsakov, and is usually known by his orchestral music (although I have never liked The Roman Trilogy).

I may have lost my mind completely, but I dare to recommend a peek into the sensuous operatic world of Ottorino Respighi! It's always invigorating to find something new, especially if it turns out to be more than just "interesting". La bella dormente nel bosco, Belfagor and Lucrezia are already waiting on the shelves and I even ordered La campana sommersa, although the tenor is said to be atrocious... Then there are Respighi's other vocal works, La Sensitiva, Il Tramonto, Aretusa and La Primavera - all recorded by my beloved Dame Janet Baker! And Lauda per la Nativitŕ del Signore for three soloists. Now, is this normal behaviour or am I hovering over the fringes of madness? :happydance.2:

Ann Lander (sospiro)
September 28th, 2012, 06:57 PM
I think I have been bitten by the Respighi bug! Now I'm listening to Semirama, an early work, but a full-length opera ...

Interesting - have put that on my list to buy next.



... Now, is this normal behaviour or am I hovering over the fringes of madness? :happydance.2:

Madness is normal for opera fanatics.

Herkku
September 28th, 2012, 07:18 PM
Thanks for the quick response! It's always reassuring to know that you aren't alone. I'm already listening to Belfagor with Sylvia Sass, who gave a little longer interview for OperaLively than Anna... In this opera a devil is sent to Earth to find out if marriage is the reason for the fact that so many men end up in Hell. Go, figure! At least Respighi must have had some sense of humour.

Ann Lander (sospiro)
September 28th, 2012, 07:57 PM
Thanks for the quick response! It's always reassuring to know that you aren't alone. I'm already listening to Belfagor with Sylvia Sass, who gave a little longer interview for OperaLively than Anna... In this opera a devil is sent to Earth to find out if marriage is the reason for the fact that so many men end up in Hell. Go, figure! At least Respighi must have had some sense of humour.

Even if it didn't come with your recommendation, Gardelli is usually enough for me to be interested. I really love his interpretation.

Bit expensive at the moment (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Belfagor-Respighi/dp/B00000306S/ref=reg_hu-rd_add_1_dp) but I'm sure there'll be a cheaper one before long.

Herkku
September 29th, 2012, 03:35 AM
Well, that certainly is too much for Belfagor, which doesn't rise to the same level as La Fiamma and Semirama and Maria Egiziaca. Now I'm listening to La bella dormente nel bosco (The Sleeping Beauty) and losing partly my infatuation. It seems that Respighi wasn't so inspired by comical subjects and fairytales. He needed sex, violence and/or religion to be interesting. But with those he really can impress! :ambivalence:

Herkku
September 29th, 2012, 05:08 AM
Would you believe that there is a character called Mr. Dollar in La bella dormente nel bosco? And a cakewalk and a foxtrot. All of these coming in the end, out of the blue! Everything having been fairly Italianate.

It seems that the work - being a fairytale and all - was actually targeted for children, which must have been quite rare in the twenties, and commendable as such. It was also one of the most performed works of Respighi at the time! That kind of gives you a new perspective, but still doesn't change the fact that the opera isn't very interesting. It's Tchaikovsky for The Sleeping Beauty, although I'm not too keen on that, either.

Mr. Dollar:

Oh! Yes! Poverina!
Essere molto dolorata,
mio piccolo (the spelling is not mine) duchessina!
Ma potere consolare
mio piccolo dolorata
Quanto costa? Io comprare
questa Bella addormentata!

There wasn't Mr. Dollar in the tale I read as a child, but let me console you: he doesn't get her!

HarpsichordConcerto
September 29th, 2012, 08:13 AM
This is a recording from a performance in Milan, the year 1955:



Recorded in mono, it appears. I did some research just now. (I just realised I don't have a single opera by Respighi).

Herkku
September 29th, 2012, 04:12 PM
My Respighi-fever having cooled down a little I would recommend La Fiamma. I liked it 20 years ago (an old flame, one might say, and the pun is intended), when it appeared as the Hungaroton recording, and I still do. I did buy the newer one with Nelly Miricioiu (costing an arm and a leg) and my initial opinion was that Gardelli is more exciting in the beginning, but when the things really get going, I'm not so sure anymore. Someone could easily prefer Gelmetti while I cherish the older recording for the old times' sake. Semirama would be my second recommendation. I'm listening to Lucrezia just now: Respighi's last opera, left unfinished and completed by his widow and a pupil. It's another short one that fits on a single CD. If I understand correctly, the story is the same as in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia. It's also worth considering and may be the most easily available and the cheapest way to approach Respighi's operas. If you hate it, you won't like the rest.

Schigolch
October 30th, 2012, 10:07 AM
Member Loge has published a post on "La Fiamma" in our Spanish area:

http://operalively.com/forums/showthread.php/1085-Verismo-Giovane-Scuola/page7

Bardamu
July 17th, 2013, 12:11 AM
La Fiamma never really picked up my interest during the few listening I gave to it until today when i listened to the liceu recording.
Oh boy, I was wrong...