[ Opera Rara / CD ]
Release Date: Wednesday 25 September 2019
Opera Rara's recording of Le Willis gives listeners the chance to hear Puccini's first opera as it has not been heard for more than 120 years. Making use of the new Ricordi edition, Sir Mark Elder conducts a star cast that brings the acclaimed soprano Ermonela Jaho back for her second recording with Opera Rara and introduces the thrilling Armenian tenor Arsen Soghomonyan. This recording includes the two celebrated arias that were added to the revised two-act version of Le Villi and showcases the young and prodigiously talented composer in his first exploration of operatic drama.
IN THE PRESS… about the live performance at the Royal festival Hall on 21 November 2018 that immediately followed the recording sessions
"The cast was exceptional. Ermonela Jaho is justifiably famous for her Puccini interpretations and superb vocalism. […] Arsen Soghomonyan's Roberto was equally assured. He has a lovely covered quality in his tone, is thrillingly secured above the stave, and he colours and phrases most musically and effectively. As Guglielmo, Brian Mulligan sang with resonance and bite in a role that tests the singer at both ends of a very wise range".
Alexander Campbell, Classical Source
"Elder is a dab hand at this genre of Italian opera and got splendid playing and singing from the LPO and the OR chorus."
Hugh Canning, the Sunday Times
"The performance by the LPO was energized with nuances of dynamics and colour carefully etched in the witches' dance music and the ardent love music […] Soghomonyan, formerly a baritone, boasts a velvety, ardent tone and sang the role with considerable sensitivity: he is surely a name to watch out for."
Alexandra Wilson, Opera
(About Arsen Soghomonyan) "He has a burly voice of burnished bronze and honeyed sweetness where necessary"
Jim Prichard, Seen and Heard
"Puccini's writing when all three characters sing together is particularly skilful, and here was brought to the full by Brian Mulligan's strong and assertive baritone as Guglielmo, Arsen Soghomonyan's dark but exceptionally versatile tenor as Roberto, and Ermonela Jaho's highly committed and emotional performance as Anna."
Sam Smith, Music OMH
"Opera Rara's splendid concert allowed us to hear this novelty in its original form for the first time in 134 years, and it proved a winner. […] [Ermonela Jaho] gave her all, drawing on vocal reserves belied by her ballerina figure. Arsen Soghomonyan revealed a warm, mellifluous tenor as the faithless"
Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph
Opera Rara's recording of Puccini's Le Willis is based on the new Ricordi critical edition, reconstructed by musicologist Martin Deasy. The original one-act version of Puccini's first opera was successfully premièred at Milan's Teatro Dal Verme but was never published and has not been heard since 1884. This marks Opera Rara's first venture into the musical world of Puccini and its second verismo project.
Based on the short story Les Willis by French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr - based in turn on the legend of the Vila who appear in the ballet Giselle - Le Willis was composed for a competition in 1883. While Puccini's work did not even earn an honourable mention, his supporters helped fund its first production the following year in Milan. This, in turn, won the 24-year-old composer - already hailed as Verdi's successor - a contract with Italy's leading publisher, Ricordi. At Ricordi's request, Puccini set about revising the work, creating a two-act version with additional arias for the soprano and tenor; and this is the form in which the work has been performed ever since.
Returning for her second collaboration with Opera Rara, Ermonela Jaho - the star of the company's revival of Leoncavallo's Zazà in 2015 - sings the role of Anna. Armenian tenor Arsen Soghomonyan will make his UK debut as her lover Roberto and Brian Mulligan sings the role of her father Guglielmo. Opera Rara's Artistic Director Sir Mark Elder conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra, marking the Orchestra's sixteenth collaboration with the company following Rossini's Aureliano in Palmira and Bellini's Il pirata.
"Even at the age of 25 [Puccini] was already a composer of considerable skill, able to come up with musical ideas of exceptional quality. As the abandoned Anna, Ermonela Jaho is right inside the role dramatically. Armenian tenor Arsen Soghomonyan gives an intelligent and idiomatic interpretation, delivered in generous, exciting tone…The chorus and orchestra are both impressive, while conductor Mark Elder delivers a lively and loving account of the score" BBC Music Award Finalist 2020
"The conductor's vigour carries through the whole recording, making the most of this edition's concision, and Elder powerfully shapes the two climaxes…Soghomonyan has an oaky, baritonal tenor, forceful and impassioned, but too similar in colour to actual baritone Brian Mulligan's sympathetic Guglielmo." Gramophone