Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Della Jones, Christian du Plessis, Nuccia Focile|
Donizetti - L'assedio di Calais / D. Jones, du Plessis, Focile, Serbo, Smythe, Philharmonia Orchestra, Parry
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An Enjoyable Listening Experience
dwadefoley | New York, New York United States | 06/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"L'Assedio di Calais is one of the oddest of Donizetti's operas. In many ways, it is one of the best crafted and most forward-looking works Donizetti had written at the time (it premiered in 1836), yet in others it is a throwback to earlier opera serias of the 1820s: The opera is dominated by a contralto hero. Donizetti himself lavished more attention on it than he normally did, and the results are impressive. A duet for the baritone and soprano reminds one of Verdi, and two tremendous ensembles are intensely moving and powerful. In particular, the nonet in the final scene, beginning as a solo for Aurelio, the hero, and gradually adding the other voices, is especially impressive. Of course, there is a florid two part duet for Aurelio and Eleonora, his wife, the final movement of which reminds one of "Si, fino al'ore" from Norma. Aurelio himself has a big display piece in the first act, which places him alongside Arsace and Tancredi as one of the great contralto pants roles of the 19th century. In spite of the sombre atmosphere of tragedy that pervades the work, at the last minute a happy ending is whipped up, and all rejoice in a jubilant chorus. Because the soprano had no aria in the original version, Donizetti provided an alternative ending in which Eleonora gets to sing a joyous cabaletta, replete with coloratura and featuring runs in thirds for her and Aurelio in the coda. Della Jones is splendid as Aurelio, bringing a dashing masculinity to the role and shining in every note, whether it is at the top of her register or a basement contralto G. Her powerful chest voice and precise coloratura are especially unusual among mezzos, and make her perfect for the role. Nuccia Focile's shining soprano is a joy to hear, and she makes the most of the rather uninspired aria-finale in the appendix. Christian du Plessis brings dignity and beauty to the music of the noble mayor. John Tomlinson's woolly bass is less enjoyable, and Donizetti's mind was clearly elsewhere when he wrote the aria for that role. Surprisingly, there is no leading tenor part in the opera. It is worth noting that a number of staged productions took place after the release of this recording in 1988. The work had not been heard anywhere since 1840. This recording shows us that a brief stage life does not a bad opera make. In fact, critical response to both the recording and the revivals that have taken place in recent years has been almost unilaterally positive, a fact that is especially unusual in an age when virtually any unknown bel canto opera is regarded with negative bias and suspicion. We have come to expect that the booklets provided with opera rara sets will be informative, and this one is no exception, detailing the interesting and unusual history of the work as well as the revisions that took place after its initial performances. Plan to turn the volume on your stereo up a bit higher than normal, for the recording level is a bit low. Nevertheless, an immensely enjoyable recording, and one that can be heartily recommended."
A Forgotten Jewel Revived
Dr. John W. Rippon | Florida | 12/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"L'Assedio di Calais is Gaetano Dinizetti's 49th opera and an important bridge from his former Italian works to those intended for Paris. It is the "internationalizing" of his style. This is a mature work of a master of melody and master of the dramatic stage. However after it's lukewarm reception when premiered at the San Carlo in Naples on 19 November 1836 it dropped out of sight. (The previous year had seen a triumph at the San Carlo with Lucia di Lammermoor.) Little known even by specialists, it was one of the enterprises of Opera Rara. This brought it back to life with a live recordidng in July 1988. Opera Rara based in England has revived many forgotten and obscure works in the 1970s and 1980s and on. I first encountered them then and purchased a few LPs out of curiosity. After several listenings I relized there was more to Donizetti the Lucia and that great treasures were coming from Opera Rara. Ugo, Conte di Parigi, Maria Padilla & Gemma De Verge to name but a few. As in this recording the productions are quite good, the singers excellent and the recoding techniques of the time(now on CD) good. Since there is no other recording available of which I know, there is nothing to compare it with except other Donizetti opers and it holds up quite well. The librettist, Cammarano also librettist for some Verdi, was a master of his craft. He presented the composer with a tight piece with high patriotic drama, heroism and melting forgiveness; a good opera. But the composer tried to do it in the Frech style by adding four ballet sequences thus diluting the intensity of the final act. Only two short pieces are used here.
The story is obviosly meant to appeal to the French. The English King Edward III in 1347 is terrorizing northern France but the city of Calais remains unconquered but under seige. Patriotism is running hight with the Mayor defying the King. The Mayor must also face down mutinous citizens egged on by what turns out to be a English spy. The high point is a deliciously beautiful duet by the Mayor's son and his wife of love and fidelity. It is sung by a soprano (Focile) and a mezzo (D.Jones). Apparently the San Carlo had no good tenor available so Donizetti set it for a "musico"; a "pants" role. Some critics of the time objected but Mozart and Handel had done it before and Richard Strauss after (hardly any male roles in Strauss are sung by "real" men). In the second act the King sends an edict that if six citizens will surrender and be executed he will spare the city. More high drama and long build up to the chorus of the chosen victims (Mayor, Mayor's son etc.). That is breathtaking. In Act 3 the King's wife Isabella returns after subduing Scotland. (Historically Isabella is his mother, his wife is Phillipa of Hainault). She wants to see Calias and all France subdued as well. The citizen victims have glorious music to bid farewell to their families. Again a beautiful duet for the Mayor's son and his wife. The Queen is moved by this scene and asks the King to relent. He does and a supercharged, typically Donizettian ending ensues. This is a very rewarding recording and a must for the Donizetti enthusiast; it will be played repeatedly. One can hope a staged production and DVD will follow."
Lorenzo Moog | Seattle, WA USA | 11/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A huge thanks to Opera Rara for the opportunity to hear, enjoy and treasure this wonderful Donizetti opera; libretto by Salvatore Cammarano. Donizetti himself described it at the time (1836) as "my most exacting opera" with an eye towards a Paris production but alas it appears to have never left Teatro San Carlo where it was given 36 performances from its prima until 1840, then disappears.
So it is a great privledge to hear it given the star tratment in this very accomplished set from Opera Rara with extensive notes by William Ashbrook and John Black.
I was intrigued with it from my first hearing and upon repeated hearings I am convinced that Donizetti/Cammarano have created a first rate opera with L'assedio d'Calais, an opera without a tenor (what might have been the tenor role, Aurelio, is sung by a mezzo). Donizetti agreed that it would be a great tenor role and wanted to re-write it but the whirlwind of his hectic life and ceaseless production took over and it never got done. That doesn't mean that some enterprising opera company couldn't do that for a super star tenor. In the meanwhile it's an exquisite role for a mezzo, in this case Della Jones.
Ms Jones gets into Aurelio with gusto using her stunning coloratura to bring the young patriot to life. She is in every regard perfect for the role as well as being a very distinguished Donizetti interpreter, a pleasure to listen to throughout. Her "Al mio core, oggetti amati" is stunning. Christian Du Plessis gives a thoughly believable Eustachio in his polished, resonant baritone, deeply emotional and wonderful. Nuccia Focile turns in a beautiful performance with her Eleonora (Aurelio'wife) and a very sound Eiddwen Harrhy as Queen Isabella appears in Act 3 to save the day (or at least the 4 burghers of Calais). Her arrival is announced with cannon fire! This is a big, dramatic opera with wonderful use of the chorus and beautifully sung by the Geoffry Mitchell Choir. Donizetti gives big rousing ensemble scenes throughout such as the "Come tigri" at the end of Act 1 and again with " D'un popolo aflitto" in Act 2. Wow! The orchestration is especially well done, richly-moody and/or triumphant,the orchestration for "Qual silenzio funesto" for instance and the "Introduzione" to Act 2 and in the hands of the great David Parry the music sparkles. In spite of an undistinguished third act this opera deserves to be more widely known and many thanks to Opera Rara and Peter Moore's
Foundation for their constant pursuit of great works that deserve that distinction. As to this performance.......... Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Highly Recommended."