Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

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,



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):