‘Il prigioniero’ (The Prisoner), an opera in a prologue and one act with both music and libretto written by Luigi Dallapiccola, was first broadcast by the Italian radio station RAI on 1st December 1949. The work is based on the short story ‘La torture par l’espérance’ (“Torture by Hope”) by the French writer Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam and from ‘La Légende d’Ulenspiegel et de Lamme Goedzak’ by Charles de Coster. Dallapiccola based some of the musical material on his earlier choral work on a similar theme, ‘Canti di prigionia’ (1938). Dallapiccola composed’ Il prigioniero’ in the period of 1944–1948. ‘Il Prigioniero’ is scored for a large orchestra with choruses, organ and a group of brass and bells behind the scenes; but this orchestra is used economically. There are many passages which are assigned to solo instruments, arranged so as to give the impression of a chamber ensemble, particularly in places where the words are especially important. Set in Spain during the Inquisition, ‘Il prigioniero’ clearly has bearing on modern totalitarian methods of police cruelty.
Antal Dorati’s pioneering performance of this work, recorded in 1974 as part of Decca’s pioneering ‘Headline’ series, was the opera’s first studio recording and here receives its first release on CD.
The Prisoner: Maurizio Mazzieri
The Mother: Giulia Barrera
The Jailer/The Grand inquisitor: Romano Emili
Two Priests: Gabor Carelli & Ray Harrell
University of Maryland Chorus (Director: Paul Traver)
National Symphony Orchestra, Washington D.C.
FIRST RELEASE ON CD
Recording Producer: James Mallinson
Balance Engineers: Kenneth Wilkinson, Colin Moorfoot, Michael Mailes
Recording Location: Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C., USA, April 1974
‘Maurizio Mazzieri sings the title role persuasively. This valuable record of an important opera is chiefly worthwhile thanks to the powerful interpretation of the conductor, Antal Dorati who conveys its incidental moods within the total context of persecution. The Decca recording is spacious and savoury but not too rich’ Gramophone