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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Minnie and Dick - a love story


I'm going out on a limb by announcing this, but right now I happen to think that 'The Girl' might just be my favourite opera by Puccini.

For some reason I find this somewhat sentimental 'Western' totally appealing.  Here you will find Puccini at his most atmospheric, harmonic best.  While his Golden Heroine has always been overshadowed by the composer's more famous ladies such as Mimi, Tosca and Cio-Cio San, there is plenty to admire here including a happy ending...rare for opera, as the two lovers ride into the Californian sunset.

Tacky it may sound but Puccini paints a spellbindingly romantic picture of what surely must be the precursor to many a Hollywood Western.  That said the opera's sense of melancholy and nostalgia make a perfect mix if you will, and Minnie herself seems to somehow be a combination of the composer's heroines into one - one moment tough and unflinching, the next moment so completely vulnerable and sad.  

Combine that with one of his most beautifully crafted extended love duets to finish Act 1, a heart-stoppingly dramatic card duel as finale of Act 2 and the riding off into the sunset finale of Act 3 and we have one of Puccini's more evocative scores. 

This beloved recording, with Tebaldi and Del Monaco as Minnie and Dick respectively, ranks among my favourite recordings of anything ever.

Tebaldi offers one of her richest portrayals on disc and as a contrast Mario Del Monaco gives us some of his most delicate, sensitive singing and as a romantic hero he is hard to resist. There is so much beauty, melancholy and machismo in this recording to keep me happy for many a repeated listen.

So for some musical samples I've chosen not the Act 1 love duet, in all it's extended beauty, but the brief moment in Act 2 when the lovers share their first kiss, and the enchanting finale.  Trust me you will enjoy these tidbits and hopefully seek out the complete recording, it's totally worth it as a shining example of early stereo and how good the Decca technicians really were.  Here is a review from the Gramophone Magazine you might also enjoy.



#Puccini #Verismo #Opera #RenataTebaldi #MarioDelMonaco #LaFanciullaDelWest

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