At last, Mercadante's VIRGINIA in a good production
B. Cathey | Wendell, NC United States | 04/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"VIRGINIA was Saverio Mercadante's last performed opera (1866), although composed about fifteen years earlier. Opera Rara gave a performance of it about twenty years ago, and that performance has circulated in mediocre sound on LPs and CDs since then. This present recording now released by Opera Rara is done with all the care and completeness that opera-lovers have come to expect from that group. The notes (by Jeremy Commons) are exemplary, the multi-language libretto easy to follow. General notes about the opera are quite informative (I didn't remember that Montserrat Caballe was originally scheduled to sing it at Carnegie Hall in 1978, and then had to cancel!). Before Opera Rara's revivals, VIRGINIA had laid dormant since about 1900.
And that is a real shame, for the work contains some extremely fine music-writing and some quite beautiful music. The first act opens auspiciously with some joyous music, punctuated by a moving funeral march! Mercadante's characters are not mere cardboard figures, and indeed, they spring to life in the second act. The final scena of the opera, a magnificent concertato scene is shattering, as it must have been for the audiences who first saw it 143 years ago. First act aria/scenes for Appio (the tenor villain) and Virginia--reminiscent of Donizetti or Bellini-- give way to long, transforming duets and trios in acts II and III, and it is there that Mercadante really excels.
As to the principals, I admit to not being much taken by Paul Charles Clarke's assumption of the role of Appio; although committed and really "in" the role, his voice seems to me to be under some stress a good bit of the time (although improving as the work proceeds). Susan Patterson's Virginia is quite good, from her delicious first act scena to the later concertato pieces. Everyone else is certainly capable, and the orchestral playing is excellent, as is the sound.
This is an important issue, one that enables us to hear what Italian composers other than Verdi were doing in the mid-19th century. Names like Petrella, Ricci, Lauro Rossi, Pacini, Marchetti, Faccio, and Mercadante don't often figure in conversations of 19th century Italian opera, but they should. Mercadante's VIRGINIA is a fine example of works until now forgotten. With Opera Rara's assistance, that is changing, let us hope.
Highly recommended to opera lovers."
I'm a convert
Esteban Molina | San Francisco | 12/21/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
". . .to Mercadante. However, this is not a review but a warning: if anyone plans to buy the MP3 download of this opera, please check Disc 2, tracks #11 through #18 before you do. As of the present writing, these tracks are not from "Virginia" but from a German lieder recital! Amazon is supposedly going to fix this problem - hopefully, because the opera is certainly worth having."