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

Dvořák Requiem, Jakub Hrůša in memoriam Jiří Bělohlávek

Antonín Dvořák Requiem op.89 (1890) with Jakub Hrůša conducting the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Requiem was one of the last concerts Jiří Bělohlávek conducted before his death and he had been planning to record it as part of his outstanding series for Decca.

Schumann Symphonies, influenced by song

John Eliot Gardiner's Schumann series with the London Symphony Orchestra, demonstrate the how Schumann’s Lieder and piano music influenced his approach to symphonic form and his interests in music drama.

Unusual and beautiful: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė with the Kremerata Baltica, in this new release from Deutsche Grammophon.

Diana Damrau sings Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder on Erato

“How weary we are of wandering/Is this perhaps death?” These closing words of ‘Im Abendrot’, the last of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder, and the composer’s own valedictory work, now seem unusually poignant since they stand as an epitaph to Mariss Jansons’s final Strauss recording.

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 3 & 4 from Hyperion

Latest in the highly acclaimed Hyperion series of Ralph Vaughan Williams symphonies, Symphonies no 3 and 4, with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, recorded in late 2018 after a series of live performances.

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

This Accentus release of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, recorded live on 15/16th December 2018 at St. Thomas’s Church Leipzig, takes the listener ‘back to Bach’, so to speak.

Retrospect Opera's new recording of Ethel Smyth's Fête Galante

Writing in April 1923 in The Bookman, of which he was editor, about Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate (1913-14) - the most frequently performed of the composer’s own operas during her lifetime - Rodney Bennett reflected on the principal reasons for the general neglect of Smyth’s music in her native land.

A compelling new recording of Bruckner's early Requiem

The death of his friend and mentor Franz Seiler, notary at the St Florian monastery to which he had returned as a teaching assistant in 1845, was the immediate circumstance which led the 24-year-old Anton Bruckner to compose his first large-scale sacred work: the Requiem in D minor for soloists, choir, organ continuo and orchestra, which he completed on 14th March 1849.

Emmerich Kálmán: Ein Herbstmanöver

Brilliant Emmerich Kálmán’s Ein Herbstmanöver from the Stadttheater, Giessen in 2018, conducted by Michael Hofstetter now on Oehms Classics, in a performing version by Balázs Kovalik.

Liszt Petrarca Sonnets complete – Andrè Schuen, Daniel Heide

An ambitious new series focusing on the songs of Franz Liszt, starting with all three versions of the Tre Sonetti del Petrarca, (Petrarca Sonnets), S.270a, S.270b and S.161 with Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide for Avi-music.de.

Une soirée chez Berlioz – lyrical rarities, on Berlioz’s own guitar

Une soirée chez Berlioz – an evening with Berlioz, songs for voice, piano and guitar, with Stéphanie D’Oustrac, Thibaut Roussel (guitar), and Tanguy de Williencourt (piano).

A Baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi

A baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi, this year’s offering in their acclaimed Christmas series. Great value for money - four CDs of music so good that it shouldn’t be saved just for Christmas. The prize here, though is the Pastorale de Noël by Marc-Antoine Charpentier with Ensemble Correspondances, with Sébastien Daucé, highly acclaimed on its first release just a few years ago.

Christmas at St George’s Windsor

Christmas at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with the Choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, James Vivian, organist and conductor. New from Hyperion, this continues their series of previous recordings with this Choir. The College of St George, founded in 1348, is unusual in that it is a Royal Peculiar, a parish under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch, rather than the diocese.

From Darkness into Light: Antoine Brumel’s Complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday

As a musicologist, particularly when working in the field of historical documents, one is always hoping to discover that unknown score, letter, household account book - even a shopping list or scribbled memo - which will reveal much about the composition, performance or context of a musical work which might otherwise remain embedded within or behind the inscrutable walls of the past.

Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams

New from Albion, Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams, with Mary Bevan, Roderick Williams, William Vann and Jack Liebeck, highlighting the close personal relationship between the two composers.

Puccini's Le Willis: a fine new recording from Opera Rara

The 23-year-old Giacomo Puccini was still three months from the end of his studies at the Conservatoire in Milan when, in April 1883, he spotted an announcement of a competition for a one-act opera in Il teatro illustrato, a journal was published by Edoardo Sonzogno, the Italian publisher of Bizet's Carmen.

Liszt: O lieb! – Lieder and Mélodie

O Lieb! presents the lieder of Franz Liszt with a distinctive spark from Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës, from Aparté. Though young, Dubois is very highly regarded. His voice has a luminous natural elegance, ideal for the Mélodie and French operatic repertoire he does so well. With these settings by Franz Liszt, Dubois brings out the refinement and sophistication of Liszt’s approach to song.

The Academy of Ancient Music's superb recording of Handel's Brockes-Passion

The Academy of Ancient Music’s new release of Handel’s Brockes-Passion - recorded around the AAM's live performance at the Barbican Hall on the 300th anniversary of the first performance in 1719 - combines serious musicological and historical scholarship with vibrant musicianship and artistry.

Vaughan Williams: The Song of Love

From Albion, The Song of Love featuring songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams, with Kitty Whately, Roderick Williams and pianist William Vann. Albion is unique, treasured by Vaughan Williams devotees for rarely heard repertoire from the composer’s vast output, so don’t expect mass market commercial product. Albion recordings often highlight new perspectives.

A new recording of Henze’s Das Floß der Medusa

Henze’s Das Floß der Medusa is in some ways a work with a troubled and turbulent history. It is defined by the time in which it was written – 1968 – a period of student protest throughout central Europe. Its first performance was abandoned because the Hamburg chorus refused to perform under the Red Flag which had been placed on stage; and Henze himself decided he wouldn’t conduct it at all after police stormed the concert hall to remove protesters, among them the librettist Ernst Schnabel.

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):