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The Sunday Opera: Giordano Double Feature: "Fedora" & "Madame Sans-Gene"

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Umberto Giordano is mostly likely best known for his fourth opera, “Andrea Chenier,” but on this week’s Sunday Opera (4/3 3:00 p.m.), we’ll be looking at two of his other operas that, although not unknown, aren’t produced nearly as often, “Fedora” and “Madame Sans-Gene.” Giordano was the youngest entrant in a one-act opera contest which marked the beginning of verismo opera with Mascagni’s “Cavaleria Rusticana,” and even though he placed sixth, his opera was thought to be good enough to be produced.

“Fedora” is Giordano’s fifth opera, and it premiered in Milan in 1898. It’s based on a play of the same name by Victorien Sardou. Fedora’s fiancé is murdered shortly before they are to be married, and she pledges her life to take revenge upon his murderer, Loris Ipanov. Fedora follows Ipanov to Paris, and from there, writes a letter to the authorities in Russia disclosing his whereabouts. However, Ipanov tells her that he did shoot Fedora’s finace, but he did so in self-defense after the fiancé fired upon Ipanov after being discovered with Ipanov’s wife. Fedora realizes that Ipanov saved her from a tragic marriage, and the two fall in love.

Sadly, the results of Fedora’s letter set in motion a tragic ending for all. Our cast includes Eva Marton as Fedora and Jose Carreras as Ipanov. They’re joined by Veronika Kincses, Janos Martin, Jozef Nemeth and Jozsef Gregor. Giuseppe Patane conducts.

Our second Giordano opera is perhaps lesser-known but had its premier in 1915 at the Metropolitan Opera. “Madam Sans-Gene” (often translated as “Lady Carefree”), is the tenth of Giordano’s fifteen operas and centers on a country laundress named Caterina who saves a young, wounded soldier named Lefebvre, and they eventually marry.

Lefebvre proves himself and advances in his career until he becomes the Marshal of France. However, Caterina has never grown out of her country ways which infuriates the court until she is called to the Emperor, Napoleon, who, along with many others, wants her to divorce Lefebvre so that he can marry a woman who is less of an embarrassment (which Lefebvre does not wish to do.)

However, when Napoleon sees who Caterina is and recognizes her as the laundress who took such good care of him and cared for him when he was a young soldier, he happily embraces Caterina’s less than worldly ways.

Of course, there’s more, but you’ll have to tune in to hear the rest.

Caterina is Orianna Santunione, Lefebvre is Franco Tagliavini, Napoleon is Mario Zanasi, and the cast also includes Renato Capecchi, Alvino Misciano, Nicola Tagger, Limbania Leoni, and Jolanda Gardino. Gianandrea Gavazeni is the conductor on this recording.

The plots, both based on plays by Sardou, may be thin, but the music is glorious, so tune in for a pleasant afternoon of listening.

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
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