Fifty years ago, a teacher gave me two tickets to see Renata Tebaldi and Franco Corelli in Francesco Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur.
I had never heard of this opera. I only knew it wasn't La Boheme or Aida. I paid five bucks a piece to see those productions the same week.
But even with free tickets, the lawn-mowing money was running low, and I still had to take the bus and subway into Boston on a school night.
Being young can be unfortunate. I missed the two greatest Italian-born singers of the mid-20th century. I missed a dramatic and tuneful opera set in 17th-century France, a combination of love, sex, politics, revenge and poisoned flowers.
Here's a preview:
Not every opera needs to be a masterpiece. Cilea (1866-1950) was a popular composer in his day. He had a long career as director of the Conservatory in Palermo. His operas were good enough for Enrico Caruso – not forgetting Tebaldi, Corelli and the full houses applauding them.
P.S. Last year I was at a dinner with some distinguished musicological types. I asked if there was any interest in early 20th-century Italian composers.
"Are there any?" asked one distinguished professor.
But as I was leaving, this gentleman whispered to me, "Don't tell, but I love Adriana."
In this edition of Opera Abbreviated, we hear Tebaldi (Adriana), Mario del Monaco (Maurizio) and Giulietta Simionato (Princess de Bouillon). Franco Capuana conducts.