Among the true musical giants of the Twentieth century, Ottorino Respighi is probably the most underrated: he's either grotesquely dismissed as an anti-modernist whose work is better left forgotten or wanly praised as the composer of a few famous, facile tunes -- I Pini di Roma, etc etc, whatevs.
Of course, he was instead a composer greatly admired by conductors such as Serge Koussevitsky, Tullio Serafin, Willem Mengelberg, Oswald Kabasta, Karajan (and, in recent years, Yuri Temirkanov, Riccardo Muti -- a great Respighi fan -- Antonio Pappano and the young Gianandrea Noseda).
A more respectful -- and careful -- analysis of his prodigious output -- Metamorphoseon, the astonishingly inventive variations commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Serge Koussevitsky for the BSO's 50th anniversary in 1930, the intricately woven and deeply moving Impressioni Brasiliane, a work exalted by Oswald Kabasta's interpretation in a rare recording left by the great maestro, the Adagio con Variazioni so memorably given life by, among others, Yuri Temirkanov -- leads one to reevaluate Respighi. Not just as the greatest of the great Italian composer of the century -- more accessible than Donatoni, blessed with a genius of orchestration as great as Puccini, and less dogmatic than that other underrated, misunderstood giant Mascagni -- but as one of the giants of the twentieth century's classical music, period.
(And by the way, everything you ever wanted to know about Respighi, Italian musicologist Potito Pedarra knows; and shares with a generosity quite rare in the music business -- all for the love of Respighi scholarship).
Therefore, much praise to Deutsche Oper Berlin for their brave, beautiful decision to stage the other night -- for just the second time ever, the world premiere happened in Rome only 5 years ago -- a lost work of Ottorino Respighi's "Marie Victoire", written in 1913 and for an incredible series of circumastances never staged until 2004, in Rome, under Gianluigi Gelmetti's baton.
Now it's the turn of Michail Jurowski (Vlad's dad) to conduct Marie Victoire, a work -- Opera Chic can speak of Gelmetti's version, a recording dear to her heart -- that weaves around Edmond Guiraud's libretto (the action takes place during the French revolution) a whirlwind of invention -- beautiful ever-changing colors, a style that always remains personal and fresh despite the quite superficial similarities to Poulenc and Massenet.
It's also refreshing that the American soprano Takesha Meshé Kizart has been cast as the lead, as Marie de Lanjallay: Opera Chic is a longtime fan of Takesha's and can only say, she hopes this is the beginning of a major, major career -- she deserves it.
O hai! It's Nicole Piccolomini as La Marquise de Langlade, rawking a fierce 'do. We wish we could have been there, frankly.