"Donizetti's Rosmonda d'Inghilterra is a masterpiece, and on the strength of this recording it is very hard to justify its neglect over the years. It is a worthy member of the composer's English Monarchy series, concerning Henry II and the conflict between his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine and his mistress, Rosamund Clifford. The cast is small, the principal roles exceptionally meaty and above all this is an opera of great ensembles, rather than great arias. The finales to both of the long acts are vintage bel canto. Certainly, there are moments where the writing is formulaic, and there are longeurs - but this is true of much of what is in today's "standard" repertory. This piece could, in a sympathetic staging and strong musical performance, hold its own alongside Maria Stuarda and Anna Bolena - and commendations don't come much higher than that.And for those who believe that the art of Bel Canto is dead nowadays, prepare to be confounded; the musical performance is stunning. Occasionally the characters are one dimensional, and the title role suffers particularly from that. Rosmonda is so good, and her lines so achingly beautiful, that one can lose patience with her. But Renee Fleming's performance combines beautiful tone, impeccable techinque and real temperament, not least in the second-act trio where she fires off a couple of spiffing top Ds. For her performance alone is the set worth having. As her rival for the king, Nelly Miricioiu is a fit contrast. Her incisive, occasionally hard tone works well as the woman scorned, but she is capable of tenderness too, especially in the finale where she shows all too clearly the desperation that drives her to murder. Again, her style is exemplary. As the arrogant Enrico, Bruce Ford sings gloriously with plenty of bravura, making light of music that most tenors would turn tail and run away from. Rosmonda's father, Clifford, is Alastair Miles, a consummate stylist and a veteran of this kind of part. And the obligatory page boy is luxuriously cast with Diana Montague, happily awarded an aria of her own in Act 2, and beautifully sung it is too.David Parry's conducting is beyond reproach and sustains the tension well towards the tragic finale. This set is a must if you are a bel canto enthusiast, and whilst it is expensive, it really is worth every penny. Performances of this quality don't come along that often!"
Two Words: BUY IT
Ed Beveridge | 09/26/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"They don't come much rarer than this. Rosmonda premiered in 1834, and despite its being a huge success, was only revived once more in the 19th century. It then waited 129 years (!) for its next performance in 1975 when Opera Rara performed it in concert. Don't let its neglect fool you. This opera is just as good as any of Donizetti's serious operas, and this recording does it full justice. Renee Fleming sounds positively angelic as the unfortunate Rosmonda. Nelly Miriciou's razor-thin voice may not be to everyone's taste, but it is perfect for portraying the jealous and vengeful Queen Eleanor. Bruce Ford, a wonderful Rossinian tenor, is passionate and in great voice as the philandering King Henry, and Alistair Miles portrayal of Rosmonda's puritanical father is very dramatically apt. As the pageboy Arturo, mezzo Diana Montague is charming, and she negotiates the one (difficult) aria for that character quite well. The music is both beautiful and dramatic (The confrontation between Rosmonda and the Queen is almost as breathtaking as the Dialogue of the Two Queens in "Maria Stuarda"). All of the singers combine passionate characterization with excellent bel canto technique. Two words sum it up: BUY IT."
An excellent opera rediscovered from Donizetti's maturity
J. E. ASENCIO-NEGRON | Guaynabo, Puerto Rico USA | 06/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Donizetti composed several operas with 2 opposing sopranos in principal roles during the 1830's: Anna Bolena (Milan, 1830), Ugo, conte di Parigi (Milan, 1832), Rosmonda d'Inghilterra (Florence, 1834), Maria Stuarda (Milan, 1835), Roberto Devereux (Naples, 1837). It is the same decade (i.e. the onset of Donizetti's maturity on opera composing) in which he produced one of his masterpieces: Lucia di Lamermoor (Naples, 1835).In England of the 1100's, Rosamonda Clifford (soprano), supposed mistress of Henry II (tenor) according to history, and daughter of Gualtiero Clifford (bass), king's old tutor, is discovered by the jealous Queen Leonora (soprano), the historical Eleanor of Aquitaine. In the last duet Leonora has opportunity to face her rival, Rosmonda, before she stabs her.Rosmonda d'Inghilterra (Opera Rara label, David Parry, conducting) won the Belgian Prix Cecilia (award). On this recording several excellent items, which I enjoyed, were included from the 1837's revision Donizetti made to the score: 1) the overture; 2) the cabaletta in the Introduzione to Act I: `Ti vedrò, donzella audace' (I shall see you, bold maid)(CD 1, Track 4), sung by Nelly Miricioiu (soprano) as Leonora (orchestrated by Robert Roberts except for the `tempo di mezzo'); 3) the cabaletta in Act II (ending of the opera): `Tu! spergiuro, disumano' (You! Perjured, inhuman man)(CD 2, Track 20), sung by Leonora. Besides, several Rosamonda's arias are unforgettably melodious and inmediately pleasing: `Torna, torna, o caro oggetto" (Return, return, my dear one)(CD1 Track 13), `Senza pace, senza speme' (Bereft of peace, bereft of hope)(CD 2, Track 11). I definitively recommend this recording of an excellent but forgotten opera , which deserves more regular performances (in the enhanced version brought to us by the Opera Rara label)."
The Cultural Observer | 03/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've never been much of a Donizetti fan. Okay, Lucia di Lammermoor was lovely and insane, and Anna Bolena was amazingly dramatic, along with Roberto Devereux and Maria Stuarda. I also occassionally enjoyed his Poliuto and his La Fille du Regiment and his Elisir d'Amore, but I never did think that he was anywhere near the master of Italian opera that Bellini was. Bellini, in my mind, is the supreme composer of the entire Italian school. It has to be properly sung and performed, otherwise it is just another vehicle for empty-shell singing and such and so. Like a prominent reviewer of one of his operas said, "Bellini is not like scrambled eggs. You can mess it up." Then I bought this recording...
Never before have I seen operas presented so beautifully. The packaging of Opera Rara is eye candy for the music conoisseur, and the booklet that comes with the box is amazingly so, a work of art as well. The information presented is very detailed and gives a good history of what we should expect from an almost-forgotten opera. From the details that inspired the story to the events that might have transpired in the past, along with performance annals, each and every aspect of the opera that would hardly be talked about in library books is covered in the essay that comes with these beautiful packages. Then you pop the CD into your player, and you get overwhelmed by the masterful conducting of the orchestra led by David Parry, one of today's top bel canto conductors. Simply amazing!
And on we go to the review. Nelly Miriciou, one of Opera Rara's staples in the studio, gives a ravishingly emotional performance here. I have to say though that there are glimmers in the opera where she sounds slightly like the Callas of the latter years. Very haunting singing, an almost accurate performance of this dark role of Queen Leonora. Bruce Ford is great as Clifford, as usual, as is most of the cast which supports this very good record label. Then we have Renee Fleming. I honestly believe she is the only singer today who can and will be able to handle the requirements of the bel canto repertoire while maintaining the large timbre of her voice. Oh yes, there's Elizabeth Futral, and Della Jones, but they don't have the creamy, rich tone that Fleming possesses in her throat (sounds like Ponselle, but only more flexible). Well, she really does! Listen to Ponselle's Casta Diva and hers, and you will find similarities. But her coloratura is better of course. At least it's not quacking. I must say that Renee Fleming gives a captivating performance as Rosmonda. The dramatic inflections of her voice on the role are placed where they are needed, and her coloratura embellishments, gladly, aren't overdone and overbaked. No overmannerisms here. Anyone that feels that Renee is an affected singer (???) should listen to this recording.
Overall, I don't think I can pinpoint anything weak about any Opera Rara recording. Masterfully presented in STUPENDOUS sound, and given in exquisite packaging, this is undoubtedly a treasure for any operatic library."
A "B" or even "B+" of a masterpiece
Esteban Molina | San Francisco | 01/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A definite 5 stars for the over-all performance, between 3 and 4.5 stars for Donizetti - and there is a lot of 4.5 music to be heard here! I think Ed Beveridge's review fairly well sums up my response to this Donizetti piece, and - on the whole - I am in accord with most of the reviews. However - I want to add my own perspective/response to the two leading ladies. It's only my response; take it only as that; but it is also a very definite response! I don't find Renee Fleming thin on top, as someone else does; but neither do I find her either angelic or commanding. Over and over throughout her music I find my attention wandering to such an extent that I cannot really evaluate Donizetti himself. She sings beautifully - and she could be singing absolutely any Donizetti lead in any opera and in any situation. There is - for me - scarcely any variation in her singing from one moment to the next. Vocally lovely - and genuinely lovely - and also devoid of any specific meaning. In short, she bores me utterly. I wish it weren't so, but there it is. This is so for me on the whole even when she does "act" with her voice: it simply doesn't carry any dramatic truth for me: I don't believe her and hear only notes very nicely delivered. Whether she will have the same effect on you is obviously unknown; but it could happen because it does for me. [This is true for me of Fleming in general, not only in this piece. Just put it down to individual taste or lack thereof.] On the other hand, whenever Miricioiu steps up to the mike, the music catches fire for me every time and my mind couldn't wander if I wanted it to. Every time. Never for me does she have a razor-edged tone, as she does for another reviewer. She has a constantly shifting response to the music which her voice reflects. I love what she does - not only for the traces of Callas [though thank God for anyone who can manage that miracle], but in her own right. I suppose we are smack in the middle of the old opera as drama or tonal beauty debate; and I really, really, REALLY do not want to open that one again because there is no answer other than one's personal preference. So take this for what it's worth, if it helps you in making the gamble of buying or not. There is much to enjoy here; but, no matter how good everyone else is - and they are indeed very good - your ultimate verdict may depend on your response to the leading ladies. All in all though, Donizetti is well-served; and that counts for much!"