Search - Gaetano Donizetti, Antonello Allemandi, London Philharmonic Orchestra :: Donizetti - Elvida / Massis Ford Larmore Spagnoli LPO Allemandi

Donizetti - Elvida / Massis · Ford · Larmore · Spagnoli · LPO · Allemandi
Gaetano Donizetti, Antonello Allemandi, London Philharmonic Orchestra
Donizetti - Elvida / Massis Ford Larmore Spagnoli LPO Allemandi
Genre: Classical


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A poor opera poorly performed
John Cragg | Delta(greater Vancouver), B.C Canada | 06/27/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)

"Why in the world Opera Rara wasted resources on this production is the main question it arouses. There are far more interesting and exciting works awaiting good studio productions from the bel canto era, especially from the large group of highly talented composers who have been eclipsed by the big three. Their best works, judging by the few recorded examples we have (largely thanks to summer festivals and Bongiovanni) is a lot better than Donizetti's worst. While Elvida may not quite fit into the latter category, it must be close to it.

Elvida is a one-act opera composed for a Gala occasion when it was to be expected that the audience would not be listening closely. The writing is by and large rather pedestrian and Donizetti himself indicated that he really didn't think much of it. However, since singers of a quality that Donizetti at that stage in his career might not be able to command were engaged for the occasion, some of the writing is technically demanding and should produce bel canto fireworks even if somewhat empty ones. Of the cast assembled here, the best by a long shot is Jennifer Larmore, who produces some beautiful singing and probably makes the material sound better than it is. Bruce Ford is, as expected, reliable without brilliance. The bass, Pietro Spagnoli, is a bit weak. Unfortunately, the soprano, Annick Massis, singing the title and central role, is simply not up to the task, producing some most unpleasant sounds. This despite the conducting being rather leaden, both in tempi and dynamics. This conducting means that some of the items become boring, more so than the basic material would warrant. This is especially so for the trio and the first part of the quartet that are supposed to be the gems of the opera. (The lack of dynamic subtlety pretty well dooms the second part of the quartet.) The orchestra and the chorus are very good so the shortcomings must be laid to the conductor, for it does not sound as if it can be blamed simply on lack of rehersal time. This is far below what we have come to expect from Opera Rara."
Fascinating Glimpse Into a Master's Development
[Insert Name Here] | Jacksonville, Florida, USA | 02/17/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Elvida" is a very early work in Donizetti's career - his fifteenth opera, coming some four years before "Anna Bolena," the earliest of his works to have entered the general repertory. As such, it's almost inevitable that it will prove to be not a neglected masterwork, but an interesting example of how one of the greatest composers for the voice honed his craft. Still, it's not without interest to listeners who enjoy early nineteenth-century Italian opera, and this recording does well by the piece.

The opera's plot bears a slight, oversimplified resemblance to that of Mozart's "Abduction From the Seraglio": Elvida, a Spanish noblewoman, held captive by the Muslim ruler Amur, awaits rescue by her lover, Alfonso. The twist here is that it is not Amur who has fallen in love with the woman, but his son, Zeidar (a travesti role). Spoiler alert - there's a happy ending for the Spaniards, and a pardon for the Muslims.

Donizetti sets the piece according to the dictates of his time, allotting his prima donna and primo tenore the only true solo arias in the piece, but giving the other principals strong presence in duets, a trio, and a quartet. One of the interesting technical innovations here lies in the way Donizetti ends each of the first two scenes, not giving us full stops with grand pauses, but practically dovetailing the music that ends one scene into the music that begins the next, so that the action is strongly continuous despite the need for three different settings - the stage crew at the San Carlo must have been scurrying to get the scene changes done quickly enough!

In this recording, Annick Massis makes a fine Elvida, and Jennifer Larmore is even better as Zeidar. Bruce Ford is a little tight and steely as Alfonso - if I were Elvida and were judging my suitors on their vocal allure, I'd dump the guy and take up Zeidar's offer! - but he's still ardent and graceful. Pietro Spagnoli's Amur is authoritative and, where required, fiery. The singers' diction is excellent, and they handle their acrobatically florid roles well, articulating coloratura passages cleanly without aspirating them.

Conductor Antonello Allemandi proves a fine accompanist with the London Philharmonic, responding flexibly so that he moves things along smoothly while allowing the singers the breathing room and rubato that the period's style demands. The Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, generally playing various bands of Muslim and Spanish soldiers either heading off to battle or celebrating their victories, sings with lusty enthusiasm.

Opera Rara's production lives up to the label's reliably high standards. The booklet accompanying the set contains a fine English essay on the opera's background, a detailed English/French/German/Italian synopsis, cast and track listings (generously banded - 24 tracks over 66 minutes), full Italian-English libretto, numerous color photos of the recording sessions, and engravings and résumés of the original production's cast.

The casual opera listener may not find a great deal of appeal here, but it's well worth the cost for those who love "bel canto" operas in general, or Donizetti's in particular, and it's certainly recommendable to fans of these singers."