Montemezzi L'amore dei tre re

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Montemezzi L'amore dei tre re

  • (L') Amore dei tre Re

There is certainly room for a new recording of L’amore dei tre Re, but this is not it. Completed for its Milan premiere in 1913, the opera is written for Italian or Italianate voices, and, collectively, the Bregenz cast has not the authentic timbre. The Fiora, Denia Mazzola-Gavazzeni, has it, especially in the warmly dramatic low register; the American tenor, Marcus Haddock, has a vibrancy which, with his ardent delivery, comes close. But so much depends on the bass, the blind king Archibaldo, and Kurt Rydl is far too Germanic. It is a colossal voice, and one can well imagine that he made a strong impression on stage, but even in his vocal prime the tone would have been alien, and he has now an obtrusive unevenness of production, sometimes afflicted with hoarseness on the higher notes of his part. Whatever merits may be found elsewhere, you can’t have a viable recording of L’amore dei tre Re with this kind of Archibaldo.
Moreover, those other merits hardly sway the balance. Vladimir Fedoseyev conducts a thoughtful reading of the score, possibly more sympathetic to the composer’s intentions than the more dynamic treatment associated with it – Montemezzi was said to have reacted with horror when told how it had been conducted by Toscanini, who introduced the opera with such decisive success to the Metropolitan in New York. By comparison, Nello Santi in the only other version currently on the Gramophone Database, has more urgency but less refinement. Yet, duly noting the Pelleas element in its constitution, a certain tension and feeling for momentum are lacking. The live recording also brings limited advantages, together with some tiresome outbursts of coughing in the quietly effective choral passages in Act 3.
The soloists of Santi’s 1976 recording, now in RCA’s Opera Treasury Series, are far preferable (Moffo, Domingo, Pablo Elvira and Siepi), but anybody seriously interested in the singing needs to look further and seek out a version from the old Met in 1941 (Eclipse, 4/93 – nla), when the composer himself conducted and Ezio Pinza sang his magnificent Archibaldo. Others in that cast are Grace Moore, Charles Kullman and Richard Bonelli, whose fine performance puts both of the later baritones in the shade. As for the opera itself, it may never regain the place it had in the 30 or so years following its American premiere, but it seems not to cheapen with time. Almost every discussion involves the word ‘derivative’, and it is true that Wagner, Debussy, fragments of Otello and even (but is this possible?) of Boris Godunov come to mind. Yet the whole thing, ingredients and all, is itself and nothing else: a curious work in its time and place, yet essentially Italian and early 1900s in inspiration – and it is inspired.'

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