Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Gaetano Donizetti: Marino Faliero (1835 edition)
20 Aug 2011

Donizetti’s Marino Faliero at the 2008 Bergamo Music Festival

Gaetano Donizetti is arguably the established opera composer with the highest ratio of failures to successes.

Gaetano Donizetti: Marino Faliero (1835 edition)

Marino Faliero: Giorgo Surian; Elena: Rachele Stanisci; Fernando: Ivan Magri; Israele Bertucci: Luca Grassi; Steno: Luca Dall’Amico; Leoni: Leonardo ramegna; A gondolier / Strozzi: Domenico Menini; Irene: Paola Spissu; Vincenzo: Aleksandar Stefanovski; Beltrame: Giuseppe Di Paola; Pietro: Enrico Marchesini; Marco: Livio Scarpellini; Arrigo: Elvis Fanton; Giovanni: Moya Gonzalo Ezequiel. Bergamo Musica Festival Chorus and Orchestra (chorus master: Fabio Tartari). Bruno Cinquegrani, conductor. Marco Spada, stage director. Alessandro Ciammarughi, set and costume designer. Giovanni Pirandello, lighting designer. Recorded live at the Teatro Donizetti, Bergamo, Italy, 31 October and 2 November 2008.

Naxos 2.110616-17 [2DVDs]

$39.99  Click to buy

Of his enormous output, only three operas are regularly staged — Lucia di Lammermoor, L’elisir d’amore, and Don Pasquale. The so-called “Queen” trilogy is once again getting some attention (Maria Stuarda, Anna Bolena, Roberto Devereux), and a couple others get occasional revivals, such as La Favorita and Lucrezia Borgia. But Donizetti wrote at least 4 dozen operas. Verdi, by comparison, wrote over two dozen operas, at least half of which are either standard repertory or get regularly revived. Is the disparity in quality between Donzietti’s established and obscure works really so great?

The answer is a qualified “yes,” on the basis of the Dynamic DVD of the Bergamo Musica Festival’s 2008 resurrection of Marino Faliero, the Donizetti opera that immediately preceded the premiere of his greatest success, Lucia. The full name of the festival, by the way, is Bergamo Musica Festival Gaetano Donzietti, and the operas are performed at the Teatro Donizetti. Explorations of the composer’s lesser-known titles must be a regular festival tradition. The orchestra’s performance of this score, as conducted by Bruno Cinquegrani, certainly reflects comfort with and dedication to the composer’s limited but evocative tonal world. For the tight Teatro Donizetti stage Alessandro Ciammarughi designed a modestly modernistic uni-set, with a sweeping walled staircase at the rear and a grated platform at the center of the open stage space. The costumes, also by Ciammarughi, are more opulent and thoroughly traditional. Given a suitable cast of singers, the festival can be said to have given an obscure opera such as Marino Faliero every opportunity for a fresh presentation of any overlooked virtues.

Faliero debuted around the same time as Bellini’s I Puritani, which had a greater success and overshadowed Donizetti’s work. Contemporary reviews, quoted in Dynamic’s excellent booklet essay, reveal that Faliero received qualified praise at best. The opera did not immediately vanish, but performances dwindled until it had disappeared from the repertory by the turn of the century.

The 2008 performance reveals a work with, unsurprisingly, a flawed libretto that only fitfully inspired the composer to excellent work. The very long first act bears the crux of the responsibility. It takes librettist Giovanni Emanuele Bidera far too long to establish both the romantic triangle and the political intrigue that move the plot forward, and the two elements never really coalesce. The story might seem to foreshadow Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, as the title character is the Doge of Venice, caught up in the usual Venetian subterfuge and treachery. However, a more apt comparison would be to a sort of funhouse-mirror reflection of Un ballo in Maschera. Marino Faliero would be the Renato character, joining a conspiracy to take power away from a despised elite, but unaware that his wife Elena is in love with another man — the Doge’s nephew, Fernando. Fernando dies in defense of the Doge, and when Faliero’s conspiracy is revealed, he is sentenced to death. His wife then chooses that unfortunate moment to reveal to her husband that she was in love with Fernando. As he faces death, Marino forgives his wife.

It takes Bidera around thirty minutes to even get Faliero on stage, and the rest of act one drags itself to a forgettable conclusion. A spooky chorus starts act two off better, and although Fernando’s act two scene lacks that melodic memorability Donizetti displayed elsewhere, the music is strong. Act three has some more good music as Elena lies in despair after hearing of Fernando’s death, and then a brutal trial scene for the conspirators and Faliero packs a punch that serves to heighten the undeveloped promise of the story. So some of what keeps a small number of Donizetti’s works on the world’s opera stages is in evidence — just not nearly enough.

Perhaps an even better impression would have been made with a stronger cast. The Bergamo audience loves the tenor who sings Fernando, one Ivan Magri, but on DVD he comes across as very modestly talented, singing without much subtlety while misidentifying braying for volume. That said, he is better than the soprano, Rachele Stanisco, whose voice is aggressively unpleasant through much of the opera. By act three she finally seems to have settled and is able to make a decent impression. In the title role, baritone Giorgio Surian wobbles all over the place, but he has a gruff authority suitable for the role. As a chief conspirator, Luca Grassi makes the best impression, singing his music of outrage and defiance with real conviction.

For many opera lovers, exploring rare repertory retains a strong appeal, and though this Bergamo production doesn’t reveal a lost masterpiece, and the performance is not all it could be, there’s enough of interest here to suggest a recommendation to such fans for this Marino Faliero.

Chris Mullins

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):