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Pierantonio Tasca is not a composer known to me, but his verismo opera A Santa Lucia is well worth a listen. Yes, Tasca had jumped on the bandwagon to be honest, and this 1892 piece isn’t a million miles away from Cavalleria rusticana, which preceded it by a couple of years. The main role was even written for the same soprano who had created Santuzza, Gemma Bellincioni, a singer capable of chewing the scenery from all accounts – just as well, because this is torrid stuff; the down-and-out Rosella vies with a rival for the tenor who gormlessly swallows the lie that she has gone off with his own father, at which point she kills herself. The main difference is that Tasca sets the opera in Naples, not the usual Sicily, and obviously enjoyed composing richly detailed choral numbers that reflect local life. The vocal writing is assured but misses a hit tune – otherwise you get your usual blend of religiosity, angst and the obligatory slanging match. The recording is live from Dessau. The casting is variable and made from house singers, but Rosella is sung by Iordanka Derilova who may not have the most liquid Italianate tone but knows what she’s doing with her vibrant soprano. Ray M Wade Jnr is a solid tenor. Markus L Frank conducts a suitably passionate reading, and I must say that I have only seen and heard the Anhaltische Philharmonie Dessau perform once and was hugely impressed, and this recording bears out my first impression.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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