As a distraction from the dire event taking place in Washington, DC today, “Trove Thursday” offers a sparkling performance of Rossini’s La Cenerentola from our nation’s capital featuring the scintillating conducting of Claudio Abbado and Lucia Valentini-Terrani in the title role. 

America’s bicentennial was commemorated by memorable visits to the US by the Paris Opera and La Scala: the former performed fully staged operas at both the Met and the Kennedy Center, the latter just at Kennedy Center. I vividly remember listening to (and taping) this live broadcast on September 18, 1976 from NPR’s “World of Opera”—the first time I had ever heard what instantly became my favorite Rossini comic opera. Not knowing the piece, I had no idea the first act would run so long, and I flipped when my 90-minute reel of tape ran out near the end of that glorious finale. Happily I was able to replace my blemished recording with the complete, uninterrupted copy which is featured today.

Though the production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle premiered in San Francisco in 1969, it was at La Scala under Abbado where it achieved its greatest fame and later formed the basis for a film that starred Frederica von Stade.

Valentini-Terrani’s lush contralto is a marked contrast to the brilliant mezzo of Teresa Berganza who sang both the SF and Scala premieres; however, Berganza had pretty much dropped Rossini heroines from her repertoire by the time of this tour. By ’76 Luigi Alva sounds pretty threadbare but stylish as ever and the ripely comic triumvirate of Paolo Montarsolo, Enzo Dara and Claudio Desderi are hard to beat–although all the men aspirate the coloratura like craz). For me, however, the definitive performance is Margherita Guglielmi’s waspish Clorinda, her pungent soprano easily soaring over every ensemble.

But it’s Abbado who makes this performance truly special. One has gotten so used to routiniers who routinely conduct comic Rossini that it may be a revelation to experience the precision, speed and sheer pizzazz that Abbado and his orchestra bring to this marvelous score—clearly also the result of having done so many performances together. For me, this sparkling live performance much surpasses either his earlier DG recording or the Ponnelle film.

Many thanks to those who pointed out my error in last week’s Pêcheurs posting. I should have noted that Alain Vanzo never sang with the Met rather than at the Met. I had some inkling that he had appeared as Faust on that Paris Opera tour to the US but somehow thought that he had only sung it in DC. I was pleased to learn that indeed he performed it so memorably at Lincoln Center.

Rossini: La Cenerentola
La Scala on tour at the Kennedy Center
Washington, DC
September 18, 1976 Broadcast

Lucia Valentini-Terrani – Cenerentola
Margherita Guglielmi – Clorinda
Laura Zannini – Tisbe
Luigi Alva – Ramiro
Enzo Dara – Dandini
Paolo Montarsolo — Don Magnifico
Claudio Desderi – Alidoro

Claudio Abbado – conductor

A reminder that “Trove Thursday” offerings can be downloaded via the audio-player. Just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

In addition, this Rossini performance, last week’s Bizet and all previous fare remain available from iTunes or via any RSS reader.