Silvano Frontalini

Ponchielli: I Mori di Valenza

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Ponchielli began work on I Mori di Valenza (The Moors of Valenza) around the time he wrote La Gioconda, but he abandoned the opera and never finished it. Its current version was completed and orchestrated by his son Annibale Ponchielli and Arturo Cadore, and received its premiere in Monte Carlo in 1914. The CD notes offer no indication of how much of the opera is Ponchielli's and how much that of his son and Cadore. The orchestration is generally thinner than that of La Gioconda, but otherwise the music offers few clues as to the amount of music Ponchielli himself wrote. The convoluted plot seems not to have inspired him to write at the level of intensity he achieved in La Gioconda. The opera includes some fine moments, though, including the tenor aria "D'amor la rea parola," and the mezzo aria "Dio dà forza agli afflitti," but because of its unevenness, it's not hard to see why it hasn't secured a place in the repertoire. Unfortunately, this CD doesn't make a strong case for the opera; in a more solid and energetic performance it might have made a more compelling impression. The Orchestra Filarmonica Ucraina di Donetsk and the Coro "Ponchielli-Vertova" di Cremona perform somewhat raggedly under Silvano Frontalini, but their intonation and security improve as the performance progresses. The singers are nearly all provincial-sounding at best, with strained, wobbly voices. The exception is mezzo-soprano Caterina Novak, who sings securely and with naturalness and warmth.

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