What more appropriate venue for Ildebrando Pizzetti's operatic masterwork
of 1958 "Assassinio nella Cattedrale" than the austere, Romanic Basilica di
San Nicola in the southern Italian port city of Bari. A striking
coincidence: the action of T. S. Eliot's stage play "Murder in the
Cathedral", on which the opera is based, takes place in December 1170; the
Basilica di San Nicola also dates from the 12th century and was consecrated
Pizzetti, one of Italy's leading lyrical composers of the first half of the
20th century, composed several operas, of which "Assassinio nella
Cattedrale" is one of his most famous. It unites all the elements of his
lyrical style, such as a supple arioso treatment of the text that bears
echoes of Debussy's "Pelléas et Mélisande" as well as of Monteverdi and
the Florentine monodists; and powerful, surging choral movements that are
even more breathtaking when performed in a church.
Pizzetti's religiosity also manifests itself in his choice of T.S. Eliot's
modern-day miracle play about St. Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of
Canterbury, who returns from a seven-year-exile only to be confronted by
various torments, including Four Temptations; he succumbs to the fourth,
the temptation of martyrdom...
Internationally acclaimed bass-baritone Ruggero Raimondi, at home on all of
the world's major stages and unforgotten as Don Giovanni in Joseph Losey's
celebrated 1979 film, brings the firmness and authority of his vocal
artistry to this role, elevating it to one of the most passionate and
intriguing portrayals of a 20th-century operatic hero.