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No libretto either for two short operas by Busoni, premiered together in 1917. Turandot may not pose such a problem if you know Puccini’s later version, as the story is not dissimilar. But for the very wordy Arlecchino a libretto is essential. Turandot is interesting, not just for the obvious comparison but in its own right. Busoni’s music is fluent, and he sticks closer to the original tale by Gozzi. Turandot is a soprano, Kalaf a tenor; however, Altoum is a bass, taken here by an impressive René Pape. Josef Protschka is a warm-toned hero, and Linda Plech an excellent Turandot: her voice has warmth and resonance in its lower reaches and real blade at the top, an ideal combination.

Arlecchino is less successful. On disc, its combination of the sung and spoken word is awkward, and bewildering with no text to follow. The story follows the mercurial commedia dell’arte character through four guises, each with its own short act. The cast works hard, but frankly I would rather listen to the music without the vocals… The scoring is witty and inventive. On the other hand, the performers are good and tenor Robert Wörle and the late actor Peter Matić share the title role to strong effect. Conductor Gerd Albrecht demonstrates mastery of both scores.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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