Saturday, December 12, 2009


Radio New Zealand Concert network 
Sunday 30th of September 2012 

RACHMANINOV: Francesca da Rimini,
an opera in a prologue, two tableaux and an epilogue
Ghost of Virgil……….Vladimir Baykov
Dante Alighieri……… Ladislav Elgr
Lanciotto Malatesta…. Dmitry Beloselsky
Francesca Malatesta…. Olga Mykytenko
Paolo Malatesta……… Saimir Pirgu
Arnold Schoenberg Chorus, ORF Vienna Radio SO/Vassily Sinaisky
 (recorded in the Vienna Opera House by Austrian Radio)

Radio New Zealand Concert network 
Sunday 13th of December 2009 at 3 -5.30 pm


Francesca da Rimini, an opera in one act
with prologue and epilogue
Shade of Virgil.............. Gennady Bezzubenkov
Dante............................ Evgeny Akimov
Lanceotto...................... Sergey Murzaev
Francesca..................... Svetla Vassileva
Paolo............................ Misha Didyk
BBC Phil/Gianandrea Noseda (Chandos CHAN 10442)

We know Tchaikovsky's tone-poem of this story, and here is an opera (set to a libretto by his brother Modest). Beautiful music of Rachmaninoff, with the longest kiss ever represented in orchestral sounds. There are other Rimini operas, by Ambroise Thomas, for example, and I have the one by ZANDONAI, last one in the vast collection in my record-closet, with Placido Domingo as Paolo.

Notice that there are two excerpts from the opera: the finale and a solo by Anna Netrebko (at the same spot there are numerous offerings of her singing, including a snippet from PARSIFAL with Placido Domingo; but she is not Kundry, simply a flower maiden).

This was Sergei's 3rd opera (opus 25, 1905), composed at the same time as his Miserly Knight (opus 24).

Here is an extract from my account of Dante's INFERNO, the section where he meets Francesca and Paolo:
[5] Second circle. Minos, judge of Hell (Aeneid 6.432).
An intriguing question: Does Dante make the penalty suit the offence (‘let the punishment fit the crime’)?

The lustful are tossed eternally on a howling wind. These include Tristan (and Isolde), Paris and Helen (“on whose account so much evil time revolved”), “lecherous” Cleopatra, Dido, and lastly Francesca and Paolo, two lovers known to Dante.

Francesca da Rimini (5.73-142) tells of her sinful love for Paolo da Rimini, brother of her husband, who killed them when he found them together. There are about two dozen operas based on this story, notably Francesca da Rimini by Riccardo Zandonai, and Tchaikovsky composed a tone-poem on this subject.
It is worth noting that sexual sins with love and mutuality are judged to be the least of the deadly sins, but the torments of the transgressors are grievous and they have no hope of passing on to a higher realm. The fault of these "carnal sinners" is that they "subject reason to lust" (talento, meaning pleasure and will as well as talent).
Francesca tells Dante about her undying passionate love for Paolo, and Dante weeps in sympathy with her , and in the end he swoons as if in death.
"If you have such a great yearning to know the first root of our love, I will tell as one who weeps while telling. One day, for our delight, we were reading about Lancelot, how love [for Queen Guinevere] constrained him. We were alone, with no apprehension. Many times that reading brought our eyes together and changed the colour in our faces, but it was one point alone which overpowered us: as we were reading about the desired smile being kissed by so great a lover, he who never shall be parted from me, all trembling, kissed my mouth.... That day we went no further in reading the book."

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