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 1 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 cruely.
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.
“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