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

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Gaetano Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor
04 Dec 2005

DONIZETTI: Lucia di Lammermoor

A superstar in Europe, Edita Gruberova can rest assured that future generations have the opportunity to appreciate her artistry: the record label Nightingale Classics exists primarily, it seems, to record her in her greatest roles.

Gaetano Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor

Edita Gruberova, José Bros, Georg Tichy, Dan Paul Dumitrescu, Zandra McMaster, Ray M. Wade, Cesar Gutierrez, Vocalensemble Rastatt, SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, Friedrich Haider (cond.).

Nightingale Classics NC040214-2 [2CDs]


The inside CD cover of this Lucia di Lammermoor even presents an advertisement for a biography written by Niel Rishoi, who also provides a booklet essay on the opera.

Gruberova’s agility and plaintive tone make her an ideal bel canto exponent, and this Lucia captures the best of her artistry in the last act, especially the mad scene. Here her sharp articulation has few rivals, and the lachrymose quality of her voice suits the scene. The excitement generated by her expert maneuvering in the challenging runs has a gladiatorial aspect, heightened by an awareness that Gruberova is singing this role, and this well, at an age when many a soprano has retired. She can pump her fists, metaphorically speaking, at scene’s end — she is still champion.

However….act one leaves something to be desired. Gruberova’s Lucia early in the set sounds on the edge of a nervous breakdown already, and the air of desperation created by a tendency to slight intonation droops makes one wonder why her Edgardo is attracted to this frail Lucia. Not until the sextet does Gruberova start to hit her stride.

Jose Bros sings Edgardo. Your reviewer heard him live in the role two seasons ago in Los Angeles, opposite Anna Netrebko. He sang well that night until the tenor’s big scene at the climax, where a tentative approach led to a sad crack on a high note. Here, under studio conditions, he manages the scene with confidence. However, his voice is more pleasing live than on record, where a lack of tonal variety becomes more apparent. Unlike Gruberova, he is at his strongest earlier in the set.

Georg Tichy snarls a bit too much as Enrico; otherwise he sings acceptably. Friedrich Haider’s leads the Baden Baden forces in an energetic, propulsive performance.

Realistically, nothing about this CD set rivals the best of the many, many other Lucia sets available. The big qualifier, obviously, would be for the most ardent fans of Miss Gruberova, of whom there are many. For them, the Nightingale recording will be an obvious self-recommendation.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

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