Turin production of original, four-act Edgar not a satisfying Puccini opera experience
Here is my opera DVD review of the week, which didn't make it into today's Star:
** (out of 4)
Even the greatest talents can get a blast of the sophomore curse.
Giacomo Puccini wrote his first opera for a competition, while he was still a conservatory student in Milan. Le Villi was a success, opening doors for him at La Scala. But the premiere of Edgar, his second opera, written in 1889 with the same librettist (Ferdinando Fontana), was a disaster.
The four-act melodrama about a man torn between a pure village maiden and a rowdy gypsy who appears to have raced right off the set of Carmen is loaded with mood and scene changes that go nowhere. There are few memorable arias -- and none have made it into the standard solo repertoire. All we have is Puccini’s typically luxuriant and emotionally evocative musical accompaniment.
The composer chopped down the opera to three acts and tinkered with it several times over nearly 10 years before giving up. So why would anyone want to revive the original version?
This 2008 Turin production, although a treat to the eyes and ears, proves that some works of art are best left at the bottom of a pile of dusty archives (where Puccini’s original score had been found the year before). The plot lurches around with such abandon that no director can smooth over its progress. It’s a waste of fine tenor José Cura in the title role.
There are no extras – which is too bad in the case of a historically (if not aesthetically) significant production.
Here's a satisfying aria from Edgar, thanks to the legendary Leontyne Price: "Addio, mio dolce amor," from a 1971 recording: