Tuesday July 9th, 7:30 p.m.
THE SUNKEN BELL (La Campana Sommersa)
An Opera in Four Acts
by Ottorino Respighi (1879 – 1936)
based on Gerhart Hauptmann's 1924 symbolist drama
Die versunkene Glocke
Premièred in Hamburg on 18 November 1927
A 2015 production from the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari
Direction by Pier Francesco Maestrini
Set and Projection Design by Christian Fenouillat
Costume Design by Marco Nateri
Lighting Design by Pascal Mérat
Orchestra of the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari
Conducted by Donato Renzetti
The skilled bell-maker Enrico strays by chance into fairy territory, where his finest bell is caused by magic to tumble into a lake.
He is brought home wounded; but the elf Rautendelein, who has fallen in love with him, decides to enter the mortal world in order to follow him home. In vain, Ondino endeavours to dissuade her.
When Rautendelein kisses his eyes, Enrico has a vision that abruptly eclipses his home life: deserting his wife Magda, he withdraws into a magic workshop on the mountain, where his work rises to supremely inspired heights.
Enrico determines to found a new religion, for which he is designing a temple. The Priest tries in vain to dissuade him, with Enrico replying, "It more likely that my sunken bell should ring". But the lost sunken bell does indeed toll as news reaches him that Magda has killed herself. Filled with remorse, he rejects Rautendelein, who returns to her own kind and marries Ondino.
Enrico finds he cannot live without Rautendelein. An old witch grants his wish to see her once again, and she appears to him "white as the Angel of Death". She is allowed to comfort him as he dies.
Valentina Farcas as Rautendelein
with the sunken bell
Click here for a video excerpt (subtitled)
from this production
A minor masterpiece
I would call this work a minor masterpiece, and, as an opera in a post-Romantic idiom, one that is well worth your attention. It may never enter the standard repertory, but it stands a chance of gaining at least a little currency. Respighi’s opera is a deserving work and its past neglect should not signal its ultimate doom.
Of the composer’s ten completed operas, only a handful have achieved any significant recorded attention over the years, and few have gotten live performances in recent times. This new Naxos video recording might just be the most lavish production of a Respighi opera ever put on record in any format. It features excellent picture quality and fine camera work, as well as vivid and well balanced sound reproduction. Even if a new recording of this opera comes along, one would not expect it to surpass or even equal this excellent effort.
This opera gains in strength as it proceeds: in many ways it takes wing in the Second Act and continues to maintain a high level of intensity in the next two acts. The First Act, while not weak, is mostly light and sometimes seems to be setting up what lies ahead. Still, it is dramatically effective and musically appealing.
The singing in this production is excellent. Romanian soprano Valentina Farcas as Rautendelein has a strong, attractive voice and fine dramatic skills. Her somewhat white sound is perfect for the role, serving well the ethereal and mystical quality of her character. Italian tenor Angelo Villari is utterly splendid as Enrico. When these two leads meet in the final act, it is one of the most powerful and memorable moments in the opera. The orchestra plays with spirit and accuracy under Donato Renzetti, a conductor whose judicious tempo choices and imaginative phrasing suggest he has a complete understanding of Respighi’s musical persona.
- Robert Cummings on MusicWeb
NEXT MEETING: Tuesday August 20
The celebrated aria 'Amor ti vieta'. has added poignancy in this production, sung by Fabio Armiliato, real life partner of Daniela Dessi who plays Fedora - she died at the age of 59 just one year after this performance.