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A good month for lovers of verismo. Opera Rara has exhumed a delicious rarity, Leoncavallo’s Zazà from 1900, which enjoyed initial success before fading from view. It has an infectious charm, with the composer’s signature style, familiar from Pagliacci, blended with a lighter touch inspired by his time working amidst the café culture of Paris in the 1880s. Maurizio Benini’s conducting reflects this, alternating high drama with delicacy. Ermonela Jaho sings Zazà, a hugely demanding role, and she surmounts every challenge. She flits gracefully through the lighter vocal writing, and wrings as much pathos as possible from the more heightened moments of the score. In fact, I can’t think of another soprano today who suffers with such intensity. Riccardo Massi matches her well as the inevitable cad who ruins it all, his tenor rich and confident, and Stephen Gaertner uses his firm baritone to beautiful effect as Cascart. After this recording was made, Zazà was given in concert to reviews generally praising the performance and loving the music as a ‘guilty pleasure’. Well, critics, get over yourselves and give credit where it’s due – verismo might not be fashionable but it packs a punch, and Zazà is rather wonderful.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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