L’amico Fritz (DVD)
Salome Jicia, Charles Castronovo, Teresa Iervolino; Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Riccardo Frizza; dir. Rosetta Cucchi (Florence 2022)
Dynamic DVD: 37960; Blu-ray: 57960 103 mins
Rosetta Cucchi abandons Alsace for a slice of American apple pie in her production of Mascagni’s successor to Cavalleria Rusticana. So, Fritz runs a bar that’s a cousin to that in Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks, while the countryside is American Gothic. Fritz is dressed in 1970s ‘Preppy’ slacks and jacket, and Suzel the love interest first appears in a tee-shirt and denim dungarees with a blonde pigtail.
Verdi thought the libretto ‘the worst he’d ever seen’, so perhaps we should be grateful that Fritz and Suzel’s love story has abandoned Europe – it certainly makes more sense for the baritone role of David the Rabbi matchmaker. What remains is the music, and in particular Mascagni’s ear for a good tune, relished by Riccardo Frizzi in the pit. The extended duet in Act II as the lovers eat a basket of cherries is sweet-toothed, and Salome Jicia demolishes Suzel’s tasty Act I Cavatina about the violets she has brought for Fritz with gusto.
Charles Castronovo is an admirable Fritz. His last-act aria has great style, and for a moment you can believe this is a man who has fallen in love but is terrified of marriage. Salome Jicia’s Suzel is at her best vocally when she and Fritz declare their love. Then Mascagni unleashes the orchestra – and in this production the whole cast – with the kind of full-blooded climax that he had composed for a Sicilian Easter tragedy. It seems a world away from this ambling bucolic tale.