Episode 25. Freni on the Fringe (Mirella In Memoriam II)

Episode 25. Freni on the Fringe (Mirella in Memoriam I)



Today’s episode continues last week’s homage to the late, great Mirella Freni. This time around, I explore some her performances of operas and works which she performed only rarely, or to which she turned later in her career. Featured works include excerpts from Handel’s Serse, Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (in which Freni sings the Countess rather than her usual Susanna), the title role in Gounod’s Mireille, Tatyana in Yevgeny Onegin, and Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder. The Finnish baritone Jorma Hynninen, one of my favorite singers, is heard as Onegin. Conductors include Claudio Abbado, Bruno Bartoletti, Michel Plasson, and Václav Smetáček. The episode concludes with a relatively obscure 1977 studio recording of Freni singing “Signore, ascolta” from Turandot which represents the absolute pinnacle of her vocal art.


Mirella Freni as Romilda in Serse, La Scala 1962

George Frideric Handel: Va godendo (Serse). Mirella Freni (Romilda); Piero Bellugi, conductor (La Scala, 19 January 1962)

Freni as Romilda in Serse, La Scana 1962

George Frideric Handel: Nemmen coll’ombre d’infedeltà (Serse). Mirella Freni (Romilda); Piero Bellugi, conductor (La Scala, 19 January 1962)

Mirella Freni and Ezio Frigerio backstage at Simon Boccanegra, La Scala 1973

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Dove sono (Le nozze di Figaro). Mirella Freni (Contessa); Claudio Abbado, conductor (La Scala, 22 April 1974)

Charles Gounod: Voici la vaste plaine (Mireille). Mirella Freni (Mireille); Michel Plasson conducting the Orchestre et Chœur du Capitole de Toulouse. EMI/Le Voix de son Maître SZCX-3905 /v 2C 167-73021 / 3 (1980)

Mirella and Maria

Vincenzo Bellini: Ah! se un’urna è a me concesso (Beatrice di Tenda). Mirella Freni (Beatrice); Maurizio Arena, conductor (Bologna, 1976)

Mirella Freni and Renato Bruson in Ernani, La Scala 1982.

Giuseppe Verdi: Mercè, dilette amiche (I vespri siciliani). Mirella Freni (Elena); unknown pianist, venue, and date.

A screenshot from the Onegin telecast, Chicago 1985.

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky: Tatyana’s Letter Scene (Yevgeny Onegin). Mirella Freni (Tatyana); Bruno Bartoletti, conductor (Lyric Opera of Chicago, 1985). Here is the link to the video, which you absolutely must watch!

Jorma Hynninen

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky: Final Scene (Yevgeny Onegin). Mirella Freni (Tatyana); Jorma Hynninen (Onegin); James Levine, conductor (Metropolitan Opera, 25 March 1989)

Václav Smetáček

Richard Strauss: Beim Schlafengehen (Vier letzte Lieder). Mirella Freni, soprano; Václav Smetáček conducting the Orchestra Filarmonica di Bologna (1973). Here is the YouTube link to all four of the songs.

Butterfly’s Entrance, from the 1973 Ponnelle film (link below).

Giacomo Puccini: Dormi, amor mio (Madama Butterfly). Mirella Freni (Butterfly); Wendy White (Suzuki); James Levine, conductor (Metropolitan Opera, 24 March 1991). Here is the link to the Jean-Pierre Ponnelle-directed film (1973) starring Mirella Freni which I command you to watch!

Mirella helping Birgit with her Turandot-length Lee press-on nails. Met 1966.

Giacomo Puccini: Signore, ascolta (Turandot). Mirella Freni (Liù). Leone Magiera, conducting the Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg. Acanta ‎DC 29.384 (1974)

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