Mascagni wrote Zanetto, a one-act opera he hoped would become a companion piece for Cavalleria Rusticana, in 1896. The opera never really took off, and based on this recording, it's understandable why it never found a place in the affections of the public. Part of it has to do with its dramatic viability. The opera, set in vaguely Renaissance times, is essentially a dialogue between an aging courtesan, longing for love, and a young minstrel who desires her, but whom she selflessly rejects in order to preserve his purity. The vocal music is generally a low-level arioso that rarely blooms into full-blown lyricism. The orchestral scoring is ponderous, but the Prelude is set for wordless chorus without orchestra, a nice touch. The performance here isn't likely to win advocates for the piece. The Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, conducted by Peter Tiboris, plays leadenly, with occasional intonation issues in the strings. Jennifer Larmore in the title role provides the sole bright spot in the recording; she sings with warmth and nuance, making a Zanetto a sympathetic character. Soprano Eilana Lappalainen as Sylvia has such a distressingly wide vibrato that the performance is almost unlistenable, and on certain sibilants, she produces a lisp. The recording seems too closely miked and the bass is too heavily emphasized. Only for the most desperate and forgiving Mascagni devotée.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
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