RISURREZIONE – a resurrection of a neglected gem

In a perfect world Franco Alfano’s RISURREZIONE would be resurrected by opera companies with more frequency. But the world of Opera being as imperfect as we all know it and its repertory can be, we luckily have a DYNAMIC video recording of a January 2020 production by the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino at our disposal any time we want to hear and see this opera. For one, I plan to do that again so as to enjoy the many beauties this recording offers.

First things first: Franco Alfano, is best known for having completed Turandot in 1924, after Puccini had died two years earlier. Even though he was much more prolific than many of his peers Alfano’s operas, including Risurrezione, fell into obscurity after his death in 1954. Now, more than sixty years later, Ireland’s Wexford Festival gave Alfano’s work a worthy production which was later shared this year by the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

Alfano’s music for Risurrezione is unabashedly Romantic, lushly orchestrated, and singer-friendly. The Florence production does not stint in the vocal department, having as its two leads the French soprano Anne Sophie Duprels and the American tenor Matthew Vickers.

Duprels is a petite, big-voiced lady with enormous gifts as a singer and as an actress. As Katerina Mihailova (Katyusha) she is at first fragile and pretty as a young servant in an aristocratic household. The French soprano’s dramatic progression from youthful innocence to homeless pregnant unmarried woman to half-crazed inmate in the company of criminals and prostitutes in a woman’s jail to a lifer in a Siberian camp for men and women, where she ministers to the needy among her fellow prisoners, is simply extraordinary.

Beyond her acting ability Anne Sophie Duprels can sing. Oh and how she can sing well and sing on!  Alfano’s score is through-composed, which means no stops and starts. Most of the music for the soprano is emotionally-charged, with a good number of show-stopping moments that do not allow for anything to stop.  The opera’s first act is structured as a long duet for the soprano and the tenor, once the comprimario singers leave. Ditto for a second act which is essentially a soprano solo with a few brief interjections by more supporting-role singers, The third act is a tour de force for the soprano, whose character’s mind and life are unraveling into madness. By the fourth act, Katyusha achieves a state of spiritual enlightenment in which she makes peace with those who wronged her, embracing a sad and uncertain future as her lot in life. Throughout Duprels is non pareil, delivering extraordinary singing and acting

In order to accomplish this dramatic feat Duprels has Rosetta Cucchi, a wonderful director to guide her trough these challenges. And, importantly, she has the excellent tenor Matthew Vickers as a perfect acting and singing partner. With hardly a moment in which he is not partnering Duprels in extended duets, Vickers still shines vocally with a lovely lyric voice that can deliver heft when heft is needed. And he is an honest actor, utterly convincing as Prince Dimitri Ivanovich Nehlyudov.

The production is sterling, with a poetic set by Tiziano Santi, period-perfect costumes by Claudia Pernigotti, and chiaroscuro lighting by  Ginevra Lombardo. Rosetta Cucchi masterfully moves around her principals and cast never allowing for operatic posturing to take the place of life-like behavior, and she creates with the help of her designers some truly stunning stage pictures.

Other than the excellent baritone Leon Kim, who impresses in a brief appearance as a fellow prisoner in the final act, the remainder of the cast has small roles to fill. They and the chorus and orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino under the world class direction of maestro Francesco  Lanzillotta and chorus master Lorenzo Fratini would do any opera company proud.

Rafael de Acha      ALL ABOUT THE ARTS