In November 2022, Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria rusticana” was performed in concert at the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden in the original version intended by the composer. Initiated and performed by Thomas Hengelbrock and his Balthasar Neumann Choir and Orchestra, this famed opera has now been reissued as a world premiere recording on Prospero: abridged passages have been reinserted and some of the singers’ parts have been restored to their original vocal register. As a result of extensive research, the Bärenreiter Verlag edition was also published this autumn.
The exciting story of the creation of what is probably the most famous verismo one-act opera goes back to the year 1888 when the young Pietro Mascagni submitted his “Cavalleria rusticana” to the Milanese publisher Edoardo Sonzogno as part of a competition for opera one-acts, in which it successfully made it to the final round. However, during the process of rehearsing for the final concert, he was advised to make changes and cuts. These affected both the parts of Santuzza and Turiddu, which were transposed to a lower register, as well as impacting the chorus as various passages also fell victim to cuts. Although Mascagni won the competition with this redacted version and the piece subsequently became a worldwide success within a few years, the cuts disrupted the overall disposition of the opera. In addition, many of the most challenging choral parts, which were very attractive in their contrapuntal interlocking and chromaticism, were omitted.
With this concert performance and the world premiere recording now available, “Cavalleria rusticana” is cast in a new light: the famous church scene, now unabridged and a whole tone higher, unfolds organically and can now truly shine in the heavenly splendor of A major (instead of G major). Santuzza may again hurl her “Ah! L’amor!” toward the choir’s “Alleluia.” And in “Brindisi”, the great drinking song shortly before the end of the opera, 89 bars (of 203) which were initially cut by Mascagni from the chorus, are now restored and can be now heard again. The voices intertwine in a highly demanding and virtuosic manner and build up to a real bacchanal – a vocal dance on the volcano, which is realized by the Balthasar Neumann Choir in a rousing manner and with impressive precision.
The role of Santuzza was performed in Baden-Baden and on this world premiere recording by the soprano Carolina López Moreno, who has been hailed without exception as a “real discovery” (Süddeutsche Zeitung). Hailing from Stuttgart, the young soprano can currently be heard in major roles in both Italy and Belgium. Her counterpart is the Italian tenor Giorgio Berrugi as the unfaithful Turiddu, who can also be seen regularly in specialist roles on the great stages of Europe.
Like their namesake, the great Baroque architect Balthasar Neumann, the Balthasar Neumann Choir and the Balthasar Neumann Orchestra (founded by Thomas Hengelbrock) stand for innovative, holistic and epoch-spanning music-making. In 2013, the first historically informed performance of “Parsifal” at the Konzerthaus Dortmund caused an international sensation. Thomas Hengelbrock and his orchestra give guest performances in the most renowned concert halls throughout Europe such as the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris, the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona and the Konzerthaus Dortmund. They are regularly involved in opera productions at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, the Festival Aix-en-Provence, the Salzburg Festival, the Teatro Real in Madrid and currently with Rossini’s “Cenerentola” at the Théâtre des Champs Elysees. Next stop in Germany is once again the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, where Massenet’s “Werther”, with Jonathan Tetelman in the title role, can be experienced at the Festival “La Grande Gare”.
Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana – original version
Label: Proscero ⏐ PROSP0088