Gianandrea Noseda

Rachmaninoff: Francesca da Rimini

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The story of the tragic love affair of Francesca da Rimini, taken from Dante's "Inferno," has inspired numerous musical works, including operas by Ambroise Thomas, Riccardo Zandonai, and Hermann Goetz, but the only enduring piece on the subject is Tchaikovsky's 1876 symphonic fantasy. He had originally planned an opera on the story, but was discouraged by this brother Modeste, who ironically provided the libretto for Rachmaninoff's one-act opera, which received its premiere in 1906 and has failed to find a place in the repertoire. It contains some lovely moments, but due at least in part to its flawed libretto, it lacks dramatic urgency, and large sections sound more like lyrical or tempestuous meandering rather than theatrically purposeful musical development. Though the writing may seldom rise to the level of inspiration of which Rachmaninoff was capable, it's never less than skillfully or inventively executed. The performance by the BBC Singers and Orchestra, led by Gianandrea Noseda, makes a strong case for the opera -- the playing and singing are consistently passionate and elegant. The fine cast of Russian soloists brings life to the score, singing with ardor, a strong sense of drama, and warm, full tone. This fine performance of the obscure work should be of interest to fans of late Romantic opera. Chandos' sound is clean and spacious, with good balance.

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