Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Franchetti, Jerkunica, Ventre, Caproni, Bruck
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
Between Tosca and Butterfly
Joseph L. Ponessa | Glendive MT USA | 08/27/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Back on the 11th of March in 1902, a 34-year-old Arturo Toscanini conducted a 29-year-old Enrico Caruso creating the student Federico in the premiere of GERMANIA by the 41-year-old Alberto Franchetti at La Scala. The following month, Caruso included two pieces from the new work in his very first recording sessions for Fred Gaisberg, and in subsequent years he re-recorded both of them. So Toscanini and Caruso, two of the opera greats of the 20th Century, considered GERMANIA a worthy piece. It resembles such verismo works of the same period as Cilea's ADRIANA LECOUVREUR -- lots of recitative and some spoken parts, interspersed with orchestral flourishes and vocal showpieces.
Unfortunately the Capriccio DVD which I picked up in Vienna last year has technical limitations--a choice between Dolby Digital 2.0 (hardly worth considering) and 5.1 (not sounding much better). I also sent the sound to 7.1 through my own processor and couldn't milk any extra ambience out of it. So this is it. We have GERMANIA without Toscanini, without Caruso and without the best sound available today. Still, so little else survives to remind us of what the Italian opera world of a hundred years ago was doing between Puccini premieres. Between TOSCA and MADAMA BUTTERFLY, they had -- GERMANIA. They weren't terribly deprived, and thanks to this DVD we aren't deprived any more now, either."
From beyond the fringe
Richard | Minneapolis, Mongolia | 09/09/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a confirmed operaholic I was clueless about Germania. Even the Viking Book of Opera which contains practically everything in musical theater just gives it a mention. So it is a third tier work - not regular repertory or even fringe but a true rarity. It is verismo - a form neglected today except for Puccini (if he truly is verismo). There are no great tunes. Indeed a lot of it sounds like film music. But it is melodious (you just wont remember anything a couple minutes afterwards). A lot is sung full throttle and can be quite exciting but also somewhat wearying. On the other hand it is a lot eaasier to stomach than serial works. And it has all the ingredients for Italian opera - love duet, arias, ensembles.
But it is definitely a peculiar piece - an Italian opera based on German nationalism. I kept thinking that it was sung in German and had to bring myself back to realize it was Italian - what was Franchetti thinking? It takes place during Napolean's invastion of Germany. But the main plot is a love story that comes to a bad end naturally. I must admit it kept my interest if only wondering at the bizarre cultural crossover.
Unlike another reviewer I didn't notice any problem with the sound. What is lacking is any synopsis. Let's face it: where would we find one other than here? And today with regie theater we would be lucky to follow anything. And opera site has a regular contest to guess the opera behind the daft antics of the director. I don't think the director was too intrusive here (who can tell with no synopsis), but certain lines gave him away. One character mentions being in a cottage with an open window while we are in the middle of the woods. Figure? But it's not as bad as regie gets. The booklet has an essay on folk songs used in the work - what we needed was an introduction to such an obscure work. Finally the performers; this is a second tier cast - not awful but only competent. On the other hand no one is going to persuade a world class singer to learn this opera. Worthwhile for the curious. All in all I enjoyed it for the chance to hear what was being sung besides Puccini."
A re-revival attempt
A. Lupu | Rochester, MN USA | 10/26/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This is a pleasant opera composed by a once famous composer. It was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 1911 with a great cast. The music and plot are interesting considering it was composed and performed during Puccini's time, a hard competition to beat, and it doesn't. You can hear the influence of Puccini and Wagner in the music, while being very conservative. The plot is more difficult to grasp, in particular if you don't have any previous knowledge of it and its background. It took me some digging on the internet to understand what all was about.
The opera was written prior to World War I, so it is not so strange to have an Italian writing a patriotic German opera. A few years later, this opera would have been a politically un-correct one, and it may be one of the reasons it disappeared from the repertoire. The re-revival by the Deutsche Oper Berlin could have been influenced by the last re-unification of Germany. Being a revival (and a world premier recording) it desperately lacks a pamphlet with information of the plot, the historic background, and the composer.
I recommend this DVD only for those curious minds who want to listen and see a just nice opera that has little chance of being produced in the near future again.
F. FUNES | WHITE PLAINS,NEW YORK | 06/04/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In all honesty,Baron Alberto Franchetti,although wealthy and with all the time in the world at his disposal for composition was not one of the brightest stars of the para-verismo composers.I place him more as a lonely bird,maybe with the likes of Catalani,Wolf-Ferrari
and all that ilk.
After his noteworthy CRISTOFORO COLOMBO (which I really like very much),prior to which we had the mammothical wagnerian drama ASRAEL,came this GERMANIA in 1902.
By quoting folk songs and tunes by other composers and poets,including some as characters in the piece like Theodor Korner,Wilhelm Lutz and even Carl Maria von Weber he tried to convey
some local german color to his opera,but quite frankly I'm not quite sure what old Alberto
was trying to do here.He used the famous german folktune HOW MANY STARS THERE ARE which was
not composed until another ten years after the historical time in which the piece takes place,namely the napoleonic wars.A projection for the future maybe? Who knows,and I guess
we never will know exactly what his intentions were.
I must confess that I knew this opera some 12 years ago,from an audio in-house recording stemming from a New York performance in 1985.Upon my first watching of the DVD I was not that impressed.Both me and one of my buddies found the opera rather dull and boring.But over the years it has grown on me and watching it once again last night the experience was somewhat different and gratifying.The style is melodic,but with the exception of a few leitmotivs you won't remember much of it,in spite of the two tenor ariosos STUDENTI UDITE! in the Prologue and NON CHIUDER GLI OCCHI VAGHI from the first act.
Although a great hit in the days of Enrico Caruso the opera has not shared the bills over the
past 50 years with any other one,perhaps with the exception of the aforementioned NYC performance.Nowadays we have no Caruso(that is achingly clear!)but in this case we had a trio of singers who can be deemed as acceptable. Uruguayan tenor Carlo Ventre navigates
loosely through the tough role (Let's face it-The opera has been written for the tenor role)
of Federico Loewe without cracking one single note.But unfortunately the color of his voice
I find quite aggressive,uncouth,unpolished and unpleasant,that goes without not saying that he definitely can sing and has an acceptable tenor voice.I'm of the opinion that american
tenor Joseph Wolverton did a much better job in the New York version.
American soprano Lise Lindstrom runs along the same patterns,but her voice is obviously more pleasant than Ventre's.
Last but not least the baritone parts: Markus Bruck does a very good job in the short role of
Crisogono and that leaves us with irish baritone Bruno Caproni who sings the role of the unfortunate Carlo Worms.When asked about the role,stage director Kirsten Harms stated that it
requires a very strong dramatic baritone and that his is a very difficult part.I beg to differ.Carlo Worms sings quite enough in the prologue,but that's about it.He has a small arioso in the first act,and then he is totally absent during the epilogue.The second act he shares with Federico and with the other characters.Bottomline,this is a tenor opera.
It would have been ideal to have a trio of singers like Franco Corelli,Maria Callas and Ettore Bastianini for instance to perform the piece.Then I'm pretty sure the image of this opera would have been raised to the utmost levels of beauty,in spite of a not-that-inspired
score.Time will judge,but I guess we're not gonna hear from another performance of GERMANIA in the near future,but obviously I could be wrong....