Following up her touching remarks (not included on video) at his memorial, Aprile Millo mentioned a memorable encounter with James Jorden after her Teatro Grattacielo performance of Zazà. Chris’s Cache offers a live recording of that special Leoncavallo revival, a rare audio document that preserves of one of the diva’s most recent local successes. As a companion, another more familiar Leoncavallo—Pagliacci—is included in a 1983 Paris performance with Carol Vaness (Nedda, after Donna Anna and Armida in her recent CC Triple Crown), Jon Vickers, Juan Pons, and Gino Quilico.

In the early 1920s Geraldine Farrar created the title role of Zazà at the Met and performed it twenty-three times, the only soprano to have sung Leoncavallo’s opera there. It was the opera she chose for her Met farewell in 1923.

Since then, Zazà has been only rarely revived. Among those who’ve performed the title role include Mafalda Favero, Clara Petrella, and Lynne Strow Piccolo.

During the mid-1980s I missed out on the Cincinnati Opera’s revivals of several rare verismo operas including Alfano’s Risurrezione with Nancy Shade. In 1985 Patricia Craig starred in the company’s Zazà; a year later Silvia Mosca led a revival in Newark.

Christof Loy produced the opera at the Theater an der Wien in 2020 with Svetlana Aksenova in the title role. That version is available on DVD/BluRay. Opera Rara which usually focuses on bel canto recently released a studio recording of Zazà starring Ermonela Jaho.

In a recent interview with Fred Plotkin, Vaness talks about performing her very first Nedda in Pagliacci with Vickers (around one hour in):

Leoncavallo: Zazà

Zazà: Aprile Millo
Anaide: Eugenie Grunewald
Floriana: Megan Monaghan
Natalia: Jayoung Yoon
Mme. Dufresne/Simona: Aida Baligh
Claretta: Kimiko Hata
Milio Dufresne: Gerard Powers
Cascart: Stephen Gaertner
Michelin: Daniel Lee
Bussy: Mark Womack
Malardot: Anthony Pulgram
Courtis: Young-Bok Kim
Duclou: Stephen Kirchgraber
Augusto/Marco/Un Singore: Luis Emilio Cabrera

Conductor: Alfredo Silipigni
Cantori New York Chorus
Teatro Grattacielo Orchestra
Alice Tully Hall
12 November 2005
In-house recording

Leoncavallo: Pagliacci

Nedda: Carol Vaness
Canio: Jon Vickers
Tonio: Juan Pons
Silvio: Gino Quilico
Beppe: José Tordaro

Conductor: Elgar Howarth
Paris Opéra
4 April 1983
In-house recording

Zazà and Pagliacci can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a cloud with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

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