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Opera Rara continues its pursuit of the unknown and unloved with Le Willis, Puccini’s first opera. It was composed for a competition, disqualified in a bit of seeming skullduggery, and snapped up by the publisher Ricordi who knew a good thing when he heard it. This recording follows on from a concert performance of the opera in London last year, and is a reconstruction of the original work in one act: Puccini later reworked it as Le Villi in two acts. Mark Elder’s conducting brings out the lush harmonies and rhythmic vitality of the score, which to me still sounds more like Mascagni than Puccini, who hadn’t quite yet found his particular voice. A radiant Ermonela Jaho brings her soft- grained yet tensile soprano to bear upon the role of Anna, the girl who is abandoned and turns into a Willi, or spirit, and forces her cad of an ex to dance himself to death. Tenor Arsen Soghomonyan has both squillo and a tender turn of phrase, and baritone Brian Mulligan makes the most of the small role of Guglielmo, Anna’s father. As a bonus, soprano and tenor sing their arias from the revised version.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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