Of Rachmaninov's three one-act operas, Francesca da Rimini is in many ways the most problematic, and possibly also the weakest. A large part of the problem is the libretto, which is undistinguished, to put it mildly. Still, there are some very striking things here - the sensuous love duet is remarkably effective despite the banality of the libretto, and the wordless wailings of the chorus of the damned makes a real impact - at least the first couple of times around. It is in any case good to have this interesting if flawed work in performances as strong as these.
Maria Gulegina is again impressively steady and full of character, and although not always beautiful in the classical sense, her singing is full of drama - and that is surely even more important in a work like this. Ilya Levinsky manages to be both lyrical and dramatically intense at the same time and delivers a thoroughly impressive performance, whereas Leiferkus is as good as always in Rachmaninov.
The orchestra is as impressive here as in the other two releases in the series, with the appropriate level and ranges of color and drama, and Järvi has the measure of the work in the sense of being able to pace the drama and climaxes very effectively as well as drawing out the appropriate colors. The sound is again very good, if slightly reverberant. A firmly recommended version of a flawed but interesting work, then.