Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Pietro il Grande
13 Sep 2005

DONIZETTI: Pietro il Grande

Pietro il Grande ossia Il falegname di Livonia was premiered to open the 1819-20 Carnival season at the Teatro San Samuele in Venice, a city that saw the birth of many of the light operas of the decade, including quite a few by Rossini. The premiere took place on Dec. 26, 1819.

Gaetano Donizetti: Pietro il Grande

Rosa Sorice sop. (Annetta); Rosa Anna Peraino (Madama Fritz); Eufemia Tafuro mez. (Caterina); Alessandro Codeluppi ten. (Carlo)); Giulio Mastrototaro bar. (Ser Cuccupis); Vito Priante bar. (Pietro il Grande); Claudio Sgura bar. (Firman-Trombesi); Vittorio Bari ten. (Hondeski). Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia; Coro da Camera di Bratislava. Marco Berdondini, conductor

Dynamic CDS 473-1/2 [2CDs]

 

It was the fourth of Donizetti’s operas to be performed during his life, and the first of Donizetti’s to achieve any kind of performance history. It had at least seven stagings by 1827 , when its last known performance in the 19th century took place. It was neglected until 2003 when it was given in St. Petersburg. It was on the same subject as Pacini’s Falegname di Livonia, although the latter had a much better record of performances between its premiere (also in 1819) and 1840, when it was last heard. The Pacini work had an unusual total of 47 performances at La Scala in its premiere run, and was to have close to 40 more stagings. As a matter of fact, throughout the 1820s, it was Pacini rather than Bellini, Donizetti or Mercadante who gave Rossini the biggest competition in Italy.

The plot of Pietro il Grande is relatively simple. Carlo, a carpenter in an unnamed town in Livonia (Latvia), which was then under Russian rule, is in love with the orphan Annetta who also lives in the town. Carlo claims to be of noble origin and shows that he has a bit of a temper when the tsar and his wife, Caterina, arrive, both traveling incognito. They are looking for the tsarina’s lost brother, and have reason to suspect that it might be Carlo. The tsar asks the innkeeper, Madame Fritz, about this carpenter, when Carlo enters. Carlo, not knowing who the stranger is, is rather insolent to him, and an argument ensues, with Peter threatening Carlo with dire consequences. The town magistrate , Ser Cuccupis, also gets into an argument with Peter. This magistrate has pretensions of grandeur. Not knowing who the stranger is, he goes so far as to threaten him with his friend, the tsar. Peter decides to pull rank on the magistrate, and tells him that he is Menzikoff, a high officer of the tsar. The magistrate has Carlo imprisoned. The latter is about to be convicted when Madame Fritz runs in with some documents proving that he is Catherine’s brother. Carlo is not told this until Act II, at which time he introduces the girl to the imperial couple. He warns them that the tsar must never see her since she is the daughter of the traitor Mazeppa (the subject of several operas). When told that Mazeppa is dead, Menzikoff pardons the girl. The captain of the troops tells the magistrate that Menzikoff is actually the tsar. The magistrate sees an opportunity to advance himself, but since the tsar has already recognized him for what he is, he fires him from his position of authority and orders him to pay a fine. Peter, Catherine, Carlo and Annetta leave happily for St. Petersburg.

Donizetti was to write a second opera on Peter the Great’s incognito travels some eight years later (1827). The details of the plot differ, although the tenor is again a carpenter (falegname), the buffo becomes the town mayor rather than a magistrate, and the heroine the mayor’s daughter rather than an orphan. The action takes place at the seaport of Zaandam in Holland,, rather than the town in Livonia (Latvia). This second Donizetti work on the subject, Il Borgomastro di Saardam was to be less successful than the first, although the same plot was used in 1837 by Albert Lortzing for his tremendously successful Zar und Zimmermann . Another 17 years were to pass before Meyerbeer put his oar in with L’etoile du Nord , where Peter and Catherine first fall in love, not surprisingly, the tsar also starts out incognito in this work, in his customary disguise as a carpenter.

When I was first asked to review this recording, I expected a very Rossinian opera buffo. It is, to a large extent, but I was still able to see tiny glimpses of Donizetti’s own personality come shining through. An example is the lyric pathos of Annetta’s “veder l’amato bene” in the finale to Act I. There are other lovely numbers, including the duet for Pietro and the Magistrate: “Ser Decuppia siete voi”, definitely a forerunner of the delightful “Cheti, cheti” in Don Pasquale and Carlo’s aria “Il dolce nome e tenero”.

Martina Franca often uses unfamiliar, but talented young singers, as is the case here. I particularly enjoyed the Madame Fritz of Rosa Anna Peraino, the Pietro of Vito Priante and the intentionally obnoxious Magistrate of Giulio Mastrototaro. But the entire cast contributes to the success of the performance.

Still, if I may make a suggestion for future Dynamic releases of operas of the period, the consistency between the tabulation of the tracks on the CDs and the cast list could stand a little more attention. Thus, looking at the tabulation on pages 2 and 3, we see several “numbers” sung by the “Magistrato”. But there is no “Magistrato” in the cast list on page 1 — instead, he is listed under his other name of Ser Cuccupis.

Martina Franca has a long history of reviving long forgotten works, often giving these as part of a series with a thread in common. Perhaps they will give Peter the Great the same treatment, and revive Pacini’s Falegname di Livonia , Donizetti’s Borgomastro di Saardam, and Meyerbeer’s Etoile du Nord . Hopefully, if such a revival of operas dealing with Peter the Great takes place, they will all be recorded by Dynamic

This is a recording I can recommend not only to Donizetti completists, but to all who appreciate Italian opera

Tom Kaufman

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):