Notes & Reviews:
By the time of his sudden death in Brazil while conducting his most successful opera, the 1934-premiered Cecilia by Don Licinio Refice (1883-1954) had seen more than one thousand performances. With the death of the composer, the work's "sacred theme" marginalized the work in an increasingly secular Italy. Rather than utilizing vocal "slotting", he adopted a recurring thematic style and "infinite melody" set into the symphonic tissue, teetering between post-Wagner and Debussy. This 2013 live performance presents the public with this refined yet dramatic work's First Complete Recording.
American Record Guide, July/August 2015
Mainly engaged in the composition of church music, oratorios, "Biblical scenes", and "mysteries", Refice channeled his dramatic propensities into two operas: Cecilia (Rome, February 15, 1934) and Margherita di Cortona (Milan, La Scala, January 1, 1938). Both were a success. Cecilia spread through the world's opera houses. In fact, Refice died while conducted a performance of it in Rio de Janeiro. It was the era of post-verismo opera. Mascagni, Leoncavallo, and Giordano were well past their early successes; and Pizzetti and Malipiero were engaged on innovative opera theater. Refice's music is quite accessible, with much romantic beauty. He combined the dramatic and the religious, mysticism and passion in his texts (all by Emidio Mucci) and Gregorian chant, Medieval style and Renaissance polyphony with 20th Century harmonies, all with expert orchestration. It's a Puccini-haze without the big tunes. In relating the traditional legend of Cecilia's martyrdom (c.230) the opera's first episode closely parallels the first act of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, complete with bridal procession and love duet.
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