Commedia in tre atti su libretto di P. Suardon dal romanzo omonimo di Emile Erkmann e Pierre-Alexandre Chatrian
CEL Teatro di Livorno (Stagione Lirica 2002)
Live recorded November 2002
Edizioni Casa Musicale Sonzogno di Piero Ostali, Milano
Fritz Kobus Jose Bros Tenore
Suzel Dimitra Theodossiou Soprano
Bcppe Sandra Pacheco-Quintero Mezzosoprano
David Alessandro Paliaga Baritono
Federico Emanuele Giannino Tenore
Hanezo Antonio Taschini Basso
Caterina Corinna Justian Schmidt Soprano
Director SIMONA MARCHIN1 Orchestra e Coro CittaLirica Conductor ROBERTO TOLOMELLI
Chorus Conductor Marco Bargagna
Scene and Costume designer IVAN STEFANUTTI
Light designer Massimo Corsi
The DVD is featured by original recording of the opera and NOT digitally re-mastered
Music FOR "GOOD HEARTS": THE INTIMISTIC
VERISMO OF PlETRO MASCAGNI
Introduction to L'Amico Fritz. By Alberto Paloscia, Artistic Director of CEL Teatro di Livorno
Fritz gives me hope in the future, and I work with a will. What fresh and simple music flows from my heart in these moments! Sometimes I fear that this music of mine is too simple, too ingenuous! What will the critics and the know-it-alls say? But so what: That's just the way I think and write. Mv music is for people of good heart. /.../ Pietro Mascagni to Edoardo Sonzogno, 13 February 1891
L'Amico Fritz, second entry in the catalog of the composer, marks the sudden turn towards comedy and the idyllic that followed by a year the premiere of Cavalleria Rusticana and in the same Teatro Costanzi in Roma where the verist one act melodrama had triumphed opening the way for the new naturalistic trend of Italian opera of the late 1800's and for the so-called "Giovine Scuola". A new course change for the elusive composer: after having given up the gestation of what should have been his "opera prima", Guglielmo Ralcliff, in favor of Cavalleria, composed in great haste for the Concorso Sonzogno, he immediately applied himself to a completely different subject and dramaturgical type, starting off on the most atypical, tortuous and contradictory course in (he history of 19th and 20th century opera: with the experience of Fritz, Mascagni, putting modest bourgeois sentiments to music, eloquently narrated by the duo Erckmann-Chatrian, opens the doors of the naturalist school to a new genre, the "lyric comedy". We are in the presence of a new challenge, which led Mascagni to test new territories, before they could be explored by Verdi with Falstaffi 1893) and Puccini with La Boheme (1896).
According to many Mascagni biographers and experts, the course change of L'Amico Fritz towards an intimism of domestic flavor is to be ascribed, beyond the will of Mascagni to abandon momentarily the path of Mediterranean naturalism, already tread in his first opera, to a desire for familial tranquillity which characterizes this period of Mascagni's biography. Already accustomed to the laurels and joys of celebrity with the triumph of Cavalleria Rusticana, he is consequently more disposed to enjoy the peace of home and family (he became a father for the second time during the period he was composing L'Amico Fritz). This predisposition to serenity and optimism urges the composer towards the rural peace and the affections of friends and family life which characterize the libretto of Erckmann and Chatrian and divert his attention from the troubled and dreamlike atmosphere of the romantic and dissolute Ratcliff.
Mascagni sought a "simple libretto where the action is tenuous and inconsistent". He found it in the successful comedy which the two Alsatian authors had drawn from their famous novel, L'ami Fritz., published in 1864 (Mascagni probably read the play in the Italian translation of Vittorio Bersezio): It is the somewhat insipid story of a young well-to-do bachelor, Fritz Kobus, who lives somewhere in the Alsatian countryside surrounded by a group of misogynous and playful friends. There is also a curious personage, the Rabbi David, who dabbles in matchmaking. He will, in the end, overcome the fractious nature of Fritz, who, after repulsing proposal after proposal, will finally succumb to the charms of the young Suzel, the farmer's daughter. All of this is immersed in saccharine and cloying passages, made even more so by the presence of a gypsy minstrel, Beppe (whose role Mascagni will assign to a mezzosoprano en travesti, following anoperistic custom of the early 19th century), who moves the gentle souls of the protagonists to tears with his melancholy songs of love. Various librettists worked on the manuscript; from Angelo Zanardini to the tried and tested tandem Targioni-Tozzetti Menasci, from Mascagni himself to Nicola Daspuro, who signs with a curious pseudonym (P. Suardon) what Verdi defined one of the most silly, action-less and characterless libretti in the history of our melodrama.
The opera premiered on 31 October 1891 at the Costanzi under the direction of Rodolfo Ferrari with Emma Calve' and Fernando De Lucia in the lead roles. It was a great public success. The reactions on the part of the critics were varied: some complained about the libretto, some expressed reservations about the music, attributing excessive emphasis to it as well as rythmic and harmonic extravagance. Finally, there was D'Annunzio who, not yel aware of his future association with the music of Mascagni, speaks of "a coarse opera", blaming the plebean art of a composer whom the Roman audience, just a few months before, had raised to the stars.
The critical comeback was destined to happen abroad, especially in central Europe; the opinions of Eduard Hanslick and above all the praise of Gustav Mahler, who directed memorable editions of L' Amico Fritz in Budapest and Hamburg and considered the language of this opera much finer and more advanced than that of Cavalleria Rusticana. The reason is easily deduced: the experience of L'Amico Fritz brings Mascagni closer to a type of musical dramaturgy, the comedy of genre and the rustic sketch, which, besides modelling itself upon the Italian opera of the 18th and 19th centuries not only the comical and slightly sentimental farces such as Elisir and Don Pasquale, already recognized by Bastianelli, but also that semiserious opera of the 18th century in which the comic realism and the psychological typing as bourgeois comedy blend with the pathetic and tearful effusions of the amorous vicissitudes and with the arcadian themes and the recurrent pastoral settings reveal the interest of the composer for certain operistic types cultivated outside Italy and assimilated by him with voracity: by the picturesque taste and the local color of the French comic opera of such composers as Auber, Adam and Herold, to the Germanic plot of the opera Biedermeier emphasizing domestic ties (the perfect example is that of Friedrich von Flotow's Martha (Vienna, 1847), authentic model of the operatic idyll to which Mascagni was certainly not indifferent) and, above all, to return to the French area, to that production related to the genre of the lyric opera which takes its inspiration from the rustic sketch, dialectal and countrified of the Provence and which sees in the iidyllic scenes inspired to Mistral of Gounod's Mireille (1864) one of the most suggestive expressions of the musical theater of regionalist influence.
Concerning the musical substance, it must be emphasized how, beyond the apparent stylistic disengagement with which one usually liquidates Fritz, this work is characterized in reality by a much more complex and meditated construction than Cavalleria. In the rustic drama a construction by large blocks prevails. The tragic and relentless pacing pushes the action inexorably toward the final catastrophe, making the role of Santuzza the hub of all dramatico-musical action; in the Alsatian comedy but situated in an autobiographical Alsace, where the Livornese vernacular and the Tuscan macchiaiolo flavor boldly assert themselves the element of irony presents itself for the first time in Mascagni's work a profligate irony, inherited from the pages of a Dossi and a Faldella, which becomes an alienating element and determines the "bipolar" conception, divided, ambiguous, of the musical dramaturgy of L'Amico Fritz.