Teatro Lirico di Cagliari resurrects Respighi’s ‘La campana sommersa’

Sometimes the importance of a release is so staggering that it doesn’t really matter what the performance is like. Such is the case with Respighi’s La campana sommersa. But please don’t think the singers are bad, far from it, but only Valentina Farkas really stands out. With her silvery high notes and perfect colouratures, the Romanian soprano is a dream Rautendelein. She also acts the role in a very convincing way. But Filippo Adami (Faun) and Agostina Smimmero (the witch) are undoubtedly excellent also.

Angelo Villari is a decent Enrico but as soon as things get more intense he forces himself and his voice becomes unpleasant. Something that also harms the singing of Maria Luigia Borsi (Magda). Quite a pity because otherwise she manages to fill her role very impressively.

The libretto of this totally unknown opera is based on Die versunkene Glocke, an 1896 play by Gerhart Hauptmann. The bored water nymph Rautendelein falls in love with the church bell-maker Enrico. For her, he leaves his wife and children, starts a ‘slave business’ in order to forge the perfect church bell and only comes to his senses when his wife commits suicide.

The opera is very similar to Rusalka but Marschner’s Hans Heiling also comes to mind. And, in case you had not already noticed, Wagner is not absent either, and Alberich’s slavery pretty much gets reincarnated in Enrico’s ‘clock forge’. Rautendelein herself, a long-haired enigmatic woman, is strongly reminiscent of Melisande and she certainly reflects a lot of Maeterlinck’s symbolism.

Fairy-tale world meets symbolism and Italian verismo. The beautiful, at times magical, production is very realistic and closely follows the libretto. Still: occasionally I wished for a little less imagery, a little less naturalism, because I love to use my own imagination.

The textbook contains almost everything, although the most important thing: the synopsis, is missing!  A major omission for a totally unknown opera!

Below trailer of the production:

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