Zandonai: Francesca da Rimini - Souliotis, Merighi, Guefli, Ricciardi; de Fabritiis. Catania, 1971
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Within the body of Italian opera, Francesca da Rimini exists outside of any classification. True, Zandonai's sense of melody was certainly out the tradition of Verdi and Bellini and his orchestration has all the invention of a Puccini opera. However, there is an element of modernism in this opera which went against the grain of the verismo movement. More than any other opera, it brought to mind Péleas et Mélisande with its symbolism and dream-like quality (can it be a coincidence that this opera also centers around brothers fighting over the same woman?) For this opera to work, one needs a soprano of the highest caliber and here Elena Souliotis meets all the marks. The relaxed tessitura suits her shop-worn voice and allows her a chance to sing with an ease of tone which was a hallmark of her early years not to mention allowing her dramatic flair to be unfettered by technical considerations. Giorgio Merighi's attractive masculine voice is an excellent pairing with Souliotis' making the character's nickname in the opera, "il bello" seem quite apt. Piero Guelfi is imposing as Gianciotti. Oliviero de Fabritiis brings out the mastery of orchestration from the Catanians. The sound is very good.