dwadefoley | New York, New York United States | 07/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Opera Rara's Ginevra di Scozia, recorded live at the Teatro Verdi in Trieste in 2001, is one of those rare recordings with which you really can't lose - there truly is something for almost everyone here. Don't like Italian opera? Mayr was Bavarian by birth, and his style has more in common with Mozart and Beethoven than with Rossini. On the other hand, if you're a bel canto devotee and/or historian, you can have a ball plumbing Mayr's fascinating score for pre-echoes of Rossini - and of Mayr's most illustrious pupil, Donizetti. Finally, if you just love great singing, you'll find this recording a sinfully rich smorgasbord - in fact, this is possibly the best live recording of an opera I've ever heard.
The performance isexcellent, and if you like VERY high soprano singing, you've hit the mother lode. Elizabeth Vidal in the title role takes her voice far, far, above the high C's and D's that mark the threshold of comfort for most mortal sopranos. Yet this exospheric singing is not the limit of Vidal's powers, for in addition, the role demands a melting legato line and the ability to perform amazing feats of vocal acrobatics. None of this phases Vidal a bit. The truly amazing thing, however, isn't how high her upper extension is, nor is it the marvelous accuracy and effortlessness her coloratura. Rather, it's the sheer beauty and brilliance of tone that is present throughout that makes this performance such a special occasion. Never do we feel like we are listening to a bloodless mechanical songbird; every note, irrespective of how far in orbit it may lie, pours forth with richness and vibrancy.
Vidal is able to ACT with her voice, conveying at all times the character's purity, innocence and vulnerability. Witness her despair when, in the heartrending finale to Act I, she hurtles to an unbelievable G above high C, a feat she later repeats. These are not tasteless circus tricks. Vidal (and Mayr - whose score actually `only' calls for notes up to E in alt) use such high notes to intensify the emotional impact of the heroine's plight. We are treated to more such acuto sfogato throughout the opera, with at least one more high G and a plethora of E's. After all this, Sutherland and Sills sounds like mezzos. Vidal is so good that had the remainder of the cast squawked and croaked every note of their music, the substantial price of this set would have been well worth it.
But they meets a very high standard of excellence as well. In particular, the young Italian mezzo Daniela Barcellona proves herself fully equal to the challenges of the fearsome castrato role of Ariodante, offering a healthy balance of technical aplomb and histrionic realism. In both of Ariodante's big scenes, Barcellona gives real shape and substance to the character's pain and suffering, without ever losing beauty of tone and accuracy in her runs, trills, and other ornaments. As thrilling as her performance is, one cannot help but wonder what might have happened had Horne discovered this role, for only a more consistently manly lower range would have made Barcellona's rendition any better.
As the arrantly evil Polinesso, Antonino Siragusa continues to show great promise, as in his recent Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra (also for Opera Rara). Siragusa has no trouble negotiating the difficult coloratura and high-lying vocal line, and in this regard his performance is quite impressive. The lesser roles are sung quite competently - Bass Luca Grassi deserves special mention for his sonorous and dignified portrayal of the beleaguered King, who is torn between love for his daughter and his duties under the law. Countertenor Marco Azzari can boast remarkable agility and an impressive upper extension. He uses his dramatic gifts to breathe life into Lurcanio's despondency and subsequent ire, but his voice won't be everyone's cup of tea, for it does suffer from the hootiness and one-dimensionality often typical of the countertenor. The chorus of the Teatro Verdi is in fine form, and are able to elevate themselves beyond the status of mere commentators on the action to the level of players in the drama - and at the same time they don't squander the chances offered them by Mayr's beautiful choral writing. The sound is luxuriant and the intrusions from the strangely reserved audience are few and quite unobtrusive.
Opera Rara is unsurpassed-and in fact, unequalled-in the presentation department. A substantial 219-page booklet is beautifully produced, with a complete libretto in both Italian and English, a foreword by Opera Rara's artistic director Patric Schmid, a fascinating essay about the reconstruction of the score of the opera, and a lengthy and informative article by Jeremy Commons discussing the history of the opera and its music. The jewel box features gorgeous pre-Raphaelite art, and even the inside of the CD case and the CD's themselves are decorated beautifully. All in all, this is one of the best complete opera recordings I've purchased - a superb value and an absorbing listening experience."
SUPERB SUPERB SUPERB
Bruce Bogin | rural France | 09/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can do no more than to endorse 200% the comments of the previous reviewer. This work is everything he says it is and more. Elizabeth Vidal ranks right up there with the greatest of sopranos. Do yourself a huge favor and buy this work. Why this work of Mayr is not as well known as the works of the other 19th century composers is beyond me. This work is beautifully packaged, and the accompanying booklet is excellent."
A Masterpiece, A Rarity, A Treasure
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 11/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After hearing this opera, I can't find enough words to praise its sheer beauty and magnificence. It stars soprano Elizabeth Vidal, Daniella Barcellona, Antonino Siragosa and Luca Grassi, conducted by the Italian Tiziano Severini and performed by the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Verdi Trieste. This recording has to be the best of the Opera Rara Series, a label which specialize in obscure operas that you will otherwise never find on any operatic stage in the world. These are mostly unknown bel canto arias or rarites of the Baroque and Classical Era. Giovanni Somone Mayr was a composer who composed at the time of Beethoven, Carl Maria Von Webber and the young Rossini and Donizetti, roughly around the early 1800's and Napoleonic Era. And at best, this opera is a mixture of German Romanticism and early Italian bel canto. His music bursts with dramatic energy and beautiful melody, the precursor to the bel canto/historic dramas like Lucia Di Lammermoor, Roberto Devereaux, Lucrezia Borgia and even Norma. Ginevra Di Scozia (Ginevra of Scotland) is a tale is of courtly romance, intrigue and adventure. Especially praiseworthy is the star herself Elisabeth Vidal, singing Ginevra. Elisabeth Vidal is a French lyric soprano with high coloratura abilities. Far from being a "canary or songbird" who effortlessly tosses high notes and acrobatic coloratura roulades, she is expressive in her singing, dramatically manifesting a variety of emotions in her singing from love to grief. Daniela Barcelona sings the mezzo soprano role of a man, yet another operatic tradition of having a young man sung by a mezzo soprano. However, it was likely that during Giovanni Simone Mayr's time the role was sung by one of the last brood of the castrati. The mezzo di voce of Miss Barcelona is lazer-sharp and emotive. Hers is a more coloratura-mezzo we hear so much in Rossini opera, a mezzo voice like that of Cecilia Bartoli. In fact, Cecilia Bartoli would have been a terrific choice for the role. Also, as another critic pointed out, Marilyn Horne would have been perfectly suited for the part. Horne championed rare operas but during the heady days of her career even this opera was unheard of. For a more "manly" voice they could have chosen such mezzos as Federica Von Stade, whose voice is pure mezzo or perhaps even Janet Baker, Birgit Fassbaender, Elena Obrazstova or Dolora Zajick. No one in the late 60's or 70's would have considered this opera to be worthy of staging. It is still too obscure to be performed on stage. As with most rare operas it can only appear as a recording. Antonio Siragosa is an excellent baritone with bel canto technique and portrays the hero with supreme heroism. Luca Grassi as the King is fittingly regal, his is a soothing and noble bass tone. I wish they had contracted Samuel Ramey or Bryn Terfel for the part. All in all, this is a terrific opera with supreme musical/operatic significance. This opera was the kind of imaginative and inspirationally Romantic opera that influenced not only the bel canto operas of Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, but those of Wagner and Meyerbeer."
New music for a new century
B. Bork | Ontario, Canada | 03/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Beyond the merits of the actual recording itself, Mayr's music is ultimately the star of this production. Like the included essay suggests, Mayr's orchestration is what propels the drama of this opera forward through the use of common theme type music situated on each character and advanced dramatically as the story unfolds. This kind of "themed" music is somewhere in-between Mozart's gift at recalling previous moments and Wagner's leitmotifs.
It is, at first, most obvious with the musical numbers of the antagonist, Polinesso. His first number begins with a slow movement and is then capped with a faster one. His second number recalls the ending of the first and carries forward with Lurcanio and the chorus backing him up and advancing the drama and force of the piece into further greatness. His last number mirrors his first number but includes the greatness of the second in the allegro movement (the vocal line is also slightly more complicated).
Ginevra and Ariodante develop in a similar but less linear fashion than Polinesso but the concept is the same. Another good example of this type of character building is in the first act finale when Ginevra is defending herself against the implications of Polinesso to the assembled court of Scotland. Her aria finale begins with an impassioned (and melodic) plea for vindication with asides by Polinesso and the chorus which then slows down into an interlude where Ginevra ponders her feelings of abandonment supported by the inaction of her father and the Scottish nobles around her. The music then propels upward, back into the range of the first movement (with even greater melody) of her aria but advances the concepts beyond the initial moment to new effects.
The score is full of these kinds of advancing and comparative elements which establish a unique approach to character development that I have yet to encounter before this recording. This style even occurs in the two numbers allotted to the servant characters of Vafrino and Dalinda. Vafrino's only number is in the first act while Dalinda's occurs during the second. They are two different numbers but have a similar feel and construction which recall each other and link them together with commoner blood.
It is this unique thematic approach that I've come to appreciate and cherish in this recording. As the included literature also says, analysis of this opera is very rewarding when endeavored upon."
Mayr at his best!
Bo Liedman | Kristianstad, Sweden | 11/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is masterpiece. Wunderful opera and glorius music, it's spirited and wellmade. Thank's Opera Rara for this rare treat."