Mirella Freni and Cesare Siepi Live in Concert

As with a
recently reviewed Renato Bruson concert, this event took place in
Lugano, Switzerland. Once again, Bruno Amaducci conducts the
Swiss-Italian Radio orchestra. They do a decent run-through of Otto
Nicolai’s Merry Wives of Windsor curtain raiser, and later a dramatic Don Giovanni
overture. Other than that, the focus is on two great singers; one
somewhat late in his career, one in her prime, but both providing
generous listening pleasure.

Siepi appears first, and just to watch his tall, gentlemanly figure
take the stage prompts anticipation.With a modest nod to the audience,
he begins with a tasty rare morsel, Jupiter’s berceuse from Gounod’s Philemon et Baucis. There
can’t be many bass arias as light and tuneful as this, and though
Siepi’s vocal production does give evidence of the length of his
career, the handsomeness of his tone and the commanding technique
more than compensate.

Freni follows with Margherita’s prison solo from Boito’s Mefistofele.
The singer’s innate sweetness and vulnerability make this an especially
successful aria for her. The two Puccini selections (“Vissi d’arte” and
“O mio babbino caro”) are lovely enough but more generic in approach.

Siepi turns to Verdi’s for Fiesco’s “Il lacerato spirito” from Simon Boccanegra and the great Filippo II scene from Don Carlos. With
his characteristic restraint and dignity, Siepi underplays the hurt of
Filippo, which allows the aria to truly build in pathos. On the other
hand, the Fiesco aria could have used a little more edge.

Freni took on the role of Don Carlos’s
Elisabetta around this time, and she manages the supremely challenging
“Tu che le vanita” very well, but without quite the dramatic commitment
to make the long selection (11 minutes) thoroughly captivating.

After the Don Giovanni overture,
Siepi sings a playful catalog aria; to have this great Don take on
Leporello might seem a bit odd to some, but his Don is not scanted.
Soon Freni joins him as Zerlina, and their “La ci darem la mano” caps
the concert beautifully, only leaving the wish that the program had
included more duets.

The booklet has a short essay and the texts are in their original languages. No subtitles are provided.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

image_description=Mirella Freni and Cesare Siepi Live in Concert
product_title=Mirella Freni and Cesare Siepi Live in Concert
product_by=Mirella Freni, Cesare Siepi, Orchestra della Radiotelevisione della Svizzera Italiana, Gruno Amaducci (cond.)
product_id=Fabula DVD 29909