Regular readers of this blog would probably expect that, faced with a Zeffirelli production of Il Trovatore from the Verona Arena, I would run screaming for the hills. The 2019 recording though piqued my interest. The geek in me wanted to see how much difference 4K ultra HD made, having only so far been able to get my paws on a couple of such recordings. I was also aware that it’s quite some time since I’ve heard Anna Netrebko and here she heads up a very appealing looking cast. So I succumbed.
I’ve often wondered what happened to Italian opera after Puccini because nothing much has ever come my way. That is until today when I got my hands on a DVD of Pizzetti’s 1958 piece, Assassinio nella Cattedrale which is closely based on the Eliot play. Murder in the Cathedral is, when one thinks about it and how Eliot uses the chorus, a really good basis for an opera libretto. The libretto sticks pretty close to the play and Pizzetti provides a tense, dramatic score which brings out the underlying fear and tension in the Eliot. Just occasionally, and very effectively, he becomes more openly lyrical, as in Becket’s acceptance of his impending martyrdom, but mostly it’s pretty high energy. That said, Pizzetti seems to be quite a conservative composer and the music is essentially tonal and easy to grasp. One curiosity I noted is that in the lead up to Becket’s death he interweaves the men’s chorus singing the Dies Irae with the forebodings of the women’s chorus and the setting of the Dies Irae he uses is the same as in Bergman’s Seventh Seal which came out the year before.