Composed by Claude Debussy and Italo Montemezzi. Classical. CD. Naxos #GB2498/99-2. Published by Naxos (NX.GB2498-99-2).
On 9 October 1943, NBC Radio in New York broadcast the world premiere of a one-act opera by Italo Montemezzi (1875-1952), L'incantesimo, (The Spell), with Italian libretto by playwright Sem Benelli (1877-1949). The broadcast was a belated form of recognition, because by that time Montemezzi was widely famous in the United States. Conducted by Arturo Toscanini, this opera ran in New York for 25 seasons - an extraordinarily long-lived success, with such major names as Serafin, Stokowsky, De Sabata and Bruno Walter conducting quality editions of the work to widespread critical approval. In the New York Times, the respected critic Olin Downs echoed the general enthusiasm, praising the music, action and style as eminently suited to performance on the radio, adding that the work's lyricism was as strong as in L'Amore dei tre re, although perhaps less immediate than Puccini's. Montemezzi's moderately modern music follows a middle path between a freely declamatory approach for the main characters and more markedly melodic passages for tenor and soprano which might easily pass for short concert pieces or in the great narrative scene of the description of the hunt. Nonetheless, Montemezzi's real capacity for invention lies in his orchestral writing which evokes Wagnerian "infinite melody" and, in certain sections, the imaginative symphonic approach of Richard Strauss with its variety, wealth of color, modulation, rhythmic phrasing, and solo instrumental gesture.