World Premiere Recording of this Mascagni gem! One Copy only!
This is a recording with a very fresh sounding Placido Domingo and good supporting cast, including Ileana Tokody as a lush, though hardly 15, Iris.
The music is gorgeous, evocative, and colorful. There is a lot of Hymn to the Sun stuff and Japanese local color, all of which is unable to cover up the fact that there is very little actual plot.
In a nutshell: Iris is a young teenage girl who is the only support of her blind father. A rich young man from the city is lustfully attracted to her, so he hires a local brothel owner to kidnap her. In exchange, they leave a note for the old man, and a bit of money.
Back in the city, the rich young man is unable to interest Iris in the joys of love, since she is too young, so he rejects her. The brothel owner then decides to dress her up and put her on display for other customers. Just then, her blind father reappears. He is horrified, rejects Iris, and throws mud on her. In dismay, she runs and falls headlong into a benjo ditch.
As the innocent Iris dies wallowing in the ditch, she hears hallucinations of the three selfish men: the father complaining he has no one to look after him, the lover complaining about the inconstancy of women, and the brothel owner bemoaning the loss of his investment. Iris finally dies during an Apotheosis to the Sun. This whole thing is clothed in gorgeous music, but is essentially an operatic Amber Alert in the making.
The libretto was written by Luigi Illica, an overly ripe Italian poet, playwright and author of the late 19th century. Among other things, he is responsible for the libretto to Puccini's Tosca.
In this case, he was reacting to the late 19th century European craze for things Japanese, which was a result of the opening of Japan to the West by Admiral Perry. ~ Ed Flaspoehler