Anita Rachvelishvili, Piero Pretti, Ronnita Miller, Luca Salsi, Sasha Cooke, Alessandro Visconti; Chicago Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Riccardo Muti
CSO Resound CSOR 901 2201 76:54 mins
A fine performance of Mascagni’s one-act wonder can singe your soul, but when it fails to ignite, as it does in this 2020 recording, the libretto seems detached from the score. The repetition of the melodies is dramatically less effective and the orchestration, even in the celebrated Intermezzo, sounds borrowed and at a tangent to this story of jealousy and revenge.
In this concert performance from 2020 by Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra you rarely share Santuzza’s anguish at being jilted by Turiddu, nor his acceptance that the price of a liaison with Lola is death in an orchard on an Easter evening, nor even Mama Lucia’s stoicism in the face of a Sicilian tragedy.
The singers are not to blame. The Georgian mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili banishes any thought that the role is better taken by a dramatic soprano. She brings a desperate warmth to ‘Voi lo sapete, o mamma’, and struggles to ride the crest of the wave that is the Easter Hymn. Her Turiddu, Piero Pretti, sounds youthful and confident and for once Mama Lucia is not an ancient mezzo rescued from an agent’s back catalogue but full of vocal purpose.
No, the problem is Riccardo Muti. The overture lingers with a lack of purpose and the brass after the Siciliana is strident. Orchestral climaxes seem arbitrary and pianissimos from the strings almost mannered. Just once Muti and his singers convince when Santuzza spills the beans in her duet with Alfio. But one hot day doesn’t make a blazing operatic summer.