CD Choice – Cav & Pag from Graz Opera8:39, 2nd April 2020
Cavalleria rusticana/ Pagliacci
Oehms Classics OC987
Bogged down is initially what I thought of a new recording of Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, conducted by Oksana Lyniv, who is just about to leave her tenure as chief conductor at Graz Opera, from whence this live recording comes. If there is a slower Cav on record I have yet to hear it. At first I assumed that everything was just going to grind to a halt, but the more I listened the more I felt that it was a very strong decision to strip away a lot of the more overwrought verismo accretions of the opera and provide a clearer and cleaner reading. So, like restoring an oil painting, everything is the same but different. What started off as strange became almost hypnotic and I found myself hanging on every note. Somehow Lyniv manages to sustain the emotional theatricality of the opera without it sagging or collapsing, and keeps a musical tension through to the end. She certainly pushes her singers, who require massive reserves of breath to make it to the end of each phrase. And as with the more translucent orchestral weave, the solo voices are slightly lighter than the usual can belto performers. Aldo Di Toro is a fine Turiddu with a good ping to his tone, and Audun Iversen makes Alfio a far more elegant man than the thuggish bruiser we usually get. Ezgi Kutlu’s high and light mezzo is pushed to its limits by Lyniv’s tempi – I wouldn’t want to hear her sing anything bigger than this – but it’s a lovely voice and she really does sound like a young woman in love: the hurt and pain are engrained within her tone. Pag does move with a bit more pace and once again Lyniv provides a very strong dramatic framework. Di Toro is pushed slightly more as Canio – he doesn’t have the galvanic noise we are used to – but it’s a successful portrayal. Iversen again makes a difference as Tonio, more insinuating, more subtle. And Aurelia Florian is a delightful Nedda, negotiating the role with ease from its delicacy to its more dramatic outbursts. Orchestra and chorus are excellent – I’ll be heading to Graz for my holidays if this is anything to go by – and good to hear Cheryl Studer as Mamma Lucia, a juicy cameo.