Giulietta Simionato, Giangiacomo Guelfi, Franco Corelli, Cavalleria Rusticana

Adam Sweeting

By Adam Sweeting

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A master tenor with stage fright takes on Mascagni’s lurid and blood-drenched Cavalleria Rusticana.

Luciano Pavarotti once remarked admiringly that Franco Corelli had “vocal cords of steel,” doubtless referring to Corelli's baritone-like lower register coupled with a set of high notes that resounded like high-tension cables. In addition, he had a commandingly physical stage presence, as well as a temperament which brought him to blows with fellow-singers onstage and prompted him to accost hecklers physically. Yet paradoxically he also suffered from debilitating stage fright, not that you'd know it, listening to him sing “Mamma, quel vino e generoso” from Mascagni's lurid and blood-drenched Cavalleria Rusticana. As the story of jealousy and infidelity in a Sicilian village nears its conclusion, and before Turiddu goes out to fight a duel with his love-rival, Alfio, he bids a chokingly heartfelt farewell to his mother. Corelli is able to wring out the full spectrum of emotions while never allowing his awesome technical control to slip.