Source: Live performance, recorded at Turin in September 1975.
Sound: Opera d'Oro recordings are always a crap shoot with regard to sound quality. This is one of their better efforts. The audience is quite small and extremely disciplined. There are no stage noises. I presume, therefore, that this is a performance recorded for broadcast.
Text: The five act structure of Edmond Rostand's long and stately verse play (322 pages for Brian Hooker's famous English translation) has been trimmed to four acts, three of them quite brief, in a paraphrase by Henri Cain.
Format: Disc 1, Acts 1 and 2, 17 tracks, 71:10. Disc 2, Acts 3 and 4, 12 tracks, 51:49.
Documentation: No libretto. Short essay on the opera. Brief synopsis of plot by act, unkeyed to the track list. The track list shows timings but offers no indications about who is singing. The cover illustration depicts a gentleman of authorial bearing and a appropriately soaring shnozz:"Tis a rock--a crag--a cape. A cape? say rather a peninsula." However, unless I am sadly mistaken, he is not the 17th Century literary swordsman, Hercule-Savinien De Cyrano de Bergerac, but rather the 16th Century humanist, Erasmus. This is not the most misleading thing in Od'O's documentation.
Franco Alfano's "Cyrano" had its premiere in Rome in January 1936 under the baton of Tullio Serafin.
This recording presents the work of an Italian composer, one famously identified with Puccini. It was recorded in Italy with an Italian orchestra and an Italian conductor. It's cast is largely Italian, and among them no obviously French name appears. Silly me, I assumed that the opera would be sung in Italian. It turned out to be in French, using the text that opened in Paris one week after the premiere in Rome. This is all the more surprising, as the individual recorded tracks are identified in Italian.
Alfano's "Cyrano," Korngold's "Die Tote Stadt" and Barber's "Vanessa," are three great 20th Century operas that have never quite managed to claw their way into the ranks of the standard repertory. Of these, "Cyrano" may be the most accessible. It's story is well-known and straight-forward. It's music is largely, indeed, resolutely diatonic. It's scoring is lush--and then some! The short Fourth Act has been criticized for being too much of a dying fall, for not catching the final triumph snatched out of lifelong tragedy: "My . . . white . . . plume." For my part, I would like to have a stronger ending (as with "Turandot"), but I can live with what we are given. The one significant failing of all the three highly admirable operas is their collective failure to provide a simple, grinder organ tune that seizes the hearts and minds of the audience, forcing them to whistle it even as they belly up to the bar during the intermission, the sort of thing that was so prodigally provided by Puccini or Verdi, time after time.
The singers on this recording are competent and intelligent. I think Olivia Stapp as Roxane (or Rossana, as she is Italianized here) is a little too hard-edged, but that is a matter of personal taste. On the whole, the performances of the singers are admirable, without being truly memorable. They are good enough to make me wonder what singers with the stature of Bergonzi, say, or Tebaldi might have achieved with Cyrano and Roxane.
This is a good performance of a very good opera-good enough to make me want to search out a copy of Alfano's earlier and, it is said, even more lush, "Risurrezione".
Well worth five stars.