Rachmaninov: Francesca da Rimini

Gustav Dore - Paolo and Francesca da Rimini

Dante's Inferno has inspired many generations of artists and musicians over the past 700 years.  Rachmaninov's one act opera, first performed on this day in 1904 at the Bolshoi conducted by the composer himself, is one of my favourite creative interpretations of the Canto V.

It is marvelously visual in it's depiction of the 5th Circle of Hell as envisioned by Dante, and the adulterous pair of lovers given a rapturous love duet which forms the central core of this hour long work.

Dante and Virgil appear too, mostly as observers and the entire thing has a rather spectral feel, much like the composer's very own Isle of the Dead, listen to the wordless, shadelike chorus to hear what I mean.

Here are the final moments of the opera which will give you an inkling of the power of this most evocative score.  I hope you enjoy it and seek out this beautiful, dark gem in it's entirety.