Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945)
L’amico Fritz, commedia lirica in three acts (1891)
Suzel: Salome Jicia (soprano)
Fritz: Charles Castronovo (tenor)
Beppe: Teresa Iervolino (mezzo-soprano)
David: Massimo Cavalletti (baritone)
Orchestra e Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino/Riccardo Frizza, Rosetta Cucchi (stage direction)
rec. live, 1 & 3 March 2022, Sala Zubin Mehta, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Italy
Dynamic 57960 Blu-ray [103]

Mascagni’s second opera, L’amico Fritz, was intended to be as different as operatic genres permit from his first, Cavalleria rusticana. So, after a passionate and violent slice of verismo came a lyrical comedy. Fritz, an Alsatian landowner and confirmed bachelor, is manoeuvred towards marriage with young Suzel by his friend David, the local rabbi. This is a conventional romantic tale, but the score has enough allure to ensure a triumphant premiere, the admiration of Mahler, and its position as the second most-played of Mascagni’s operas. Still heard in Italy, it now seems to be a rarity elsewhere, if not as rare as Macagni’s remaining fifteen operas. Cavalleria rusticana remains one of the world’s most performed works. Mascagni observed late in life: “I was crowned before I was king”.

This production moves the setting from Alsace to later 20th-century America. The outer acts are set in a bar with large windows on to apartment blocks, reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks”. Fritz wears pink trousers and a checked jacket. Suzel has a Walkman and headphones, and first appears in denim dungarees and with a pigtail. Beppe, a trouser role, is a fiddler but otherwise not a clichéd Gypsy character. Rosetta Cucchi directs the interaction between characters, and stage movements generally, with flair, and evokes a lively set of friends.

Salome Jicia is quite effective as Suzel, all youthful innocence and spontaneity. She persuasively conveys romantic feeling as the plot progresses. Vocally she impresses increasingly towards the end, as in the touching Act 3 soliloquy Non mi resta che il pianto (Nothing is left to me but tears). Charles Castronovo, half Sicilian, is a regular at the Metropolitan Opera. He makes a charming Fritz, helped by the italianità in his voice, and he too relishes his big Act 3 solo. The two leads are delightful in the cherry duet of Act 2, the score’s one reasonably well-known number. Massimo Cavalletti’s David is a commanding stage presence. He moves the plot along with his machinations and vocal authority. Teresa Iervolino as Beppe looks and sounds well, completing a strong quartet of central roles.

Riccardo Frizza conducts with what appears to be clear understanding of the idiom. The Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino play very well for him, not least in the stirring Intermezzo between Acts 2 and 3. The production is well filmed by Matteo Ricchetti. The unfussy camera work supports the artists’ efforts on stage. The very good picture and sound is what one expect from Dynamic and from the Blu-ray format. There is a useful booklet with a detailed note and fully itemised track listing. As far as I am aware, this is the only filmed version of L’amico Fritz in the catalogue, though there is no claims of it being a premiere video recording.

Roy Westbrook

Previous review (CD): Göran Forsling (April 2023)

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Other personnel
Federico: Dave Monaco (tenor)
Hanezò: Francesco Samuele Venuti (bass)
Caterina: Caterina Meldolesi (soprano)
Set and costume designer: Gary McCann
Lighting designer: Daniele Naldi
Video director: Matteo Ricchetti
Assistant director: Davide Gasparro
Assistant set designer: Eleonora Peronetti
Assistant costume designer: Gabriella Ingram

Video details
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Audio Format: PCM STEREO 2.0 – DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio
Region code: 0 – All regions
Subtitles: Italian, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean
Booklet notes: Italian, English