Risurrezione, Opera by Franco Alfano
Franco Alfano is perhaps best known as the composer who put the final touches on Giacomo Puccini’s last, unfinished masterpiece Turandot. Such an important task would not be given to just anyone. Guests of Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence who catch Alfano’s paramount opera Risurrezione will immediately see how very worthy a choice he was.
Risurrezione (Italian for Resurrection) is based on the novel of the same name by Leo Tolstoy. While residing in Paris at the turn of the 20th century, Alfano saw a theatre adaptation of the epic work and felt compelled to turn it into an opera of grand proportions. He enlisted the help of librettist Cesare Hanau to transport Tolstoy’s literary grandeur to the operatic stage, and the results were truly fascinating.
In Risurrezione, we follow the tragic love between Katiusha, a young peasant girl, and Prince Dimitri. After a chance encounter and a night of passion, the two part ways, for the Prince has to go to war and quickly forgets about the fleeting romance. Meanwhile, Katiusha bears his illegitimate baby and society shuns her as a fallen woman. Entering a downward spiral, the young woman loses her child, turns to a life of debauchery and crime, and eventually gets sentenced for a murder she did not commit.
As Katiusha boards the train to be deported to Siberia, the remorseful Prince Dimitri runs to her with an offer to marry her and make her troubles go away. The young woman turns him down and chooses to face her punishment. Through her tragic journey, she will have her resurrection.
Alfano’s Risurrezione captures the emotionality and dramatism of Tolstoy’s original beautifully. Spread across four acts, the opera allows its main characters to come to life, and the composer goes to great lengths to show their motivations and feelings through music in the celebrated verismo style. The solo numbers paint vivid character portraits, such as the careless Prince Dimitri’s playful ‘Si, la ravviso la mia cara stanza’ or his innocent duet with Katiusha ‘Qualcun giù in giardino?... È Katiusha!’ and Katiusha’s transformative final duet with him ‘Ed ora, va… parti!... Son felice!!!’
Risurrezione was premiered at Teatro Vittorio Emanuele in Turin on 30 November 1904 and gave Alfano his first hit opera.