La Serenata

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1 disc set
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Throughout 19th-century Europe the drawing-rooms of fashionable hostesses (or occasionally, like Rossini, hosts) rang to the sound of high-quality music-making, especially when the performers, in the very best houses, were the great singers of the day.

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Catalogue Number: ORR242 Category:
  1. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: Le soir Various Buy Track 0:34
  2. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: Quando lo miro Various Buy Track 0:34
  3. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: Ange et mortel Various Buy Track 0:34
  4. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: Prends patience Various Buy Track 0:34
  5. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: Splende nel ciel Various Buy Track 0:34
  6. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: Pour toi Various Buy Track 0:34
  7. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: Si j'étais petit oiseau Various Buy Track 0:34
  8. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: Près de la mer Various Buy Track 0:34
  9. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: Ecco qual fiero istante Various Buy Track 0:34
  10. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: La serenata Various Buy Track 0:34
  11. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: Il soldato Various Buy Track 0:34
  12. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: T'intendo si mio cor con tanto Various Buy Track 0:34
  13. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: Le Chalumeau: Chalumeau Various Buy Track 0:34
  14. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: Vieni diletta, che guinta Various Buy Track 0:34
  15. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: Il giglio Various Buy Track 0:34
  16. Il Salotto, Vol 11: La Serenata: La Galopomanie Various Buy Track 0:34

Description

One of the most inspired of Opera Rara’s recent initiatives has been a series exploring the more intimate world of the salon (salotto, in Italian) and the music written for this most sophisticated of social environments. Throughout 19th-century Europe the drawing-rooms of fashionable hostesses (or occasionally, like Rossini, hosts) rang to the sound of high-quality music-making, especially when the performers, in the very best houses, were the great singers of the day. Opera Rara responds, aptly, with some of the leading bel canto singers of our day, including Diana Montague, Bruce Ford, Majella Cullagh and Barry Banks. Composers both major and minor would regularly attend such occasions, and many wrote songs, duets, trios and larger ensemble pieces especially to delight the guests. This latest selection takes its title from a setting by Ambroise Thomas, and includes his most famous song, the enchanting Le soir, as well as other examples from the pens of Mercadante, Donizetti, Offenbach and Pacini and several of their lesser-known contemporaries. And there’s a sure winner in the sextet La Galopomanie, written by Amédée de Beauplan in 1840 in response to the latest dancing craze – the gallop!

‘Performed in high style by a starry clutch of soloists’ – Anthony Holden, The Observer

Cast

Bruce Ford, Diana Montague, Barry Banks, Majella Cullagh, Mark Stone, Elizabeth Vidal, Paul Austin Kelly, Sine Bundgaard, Roland Wood. Susie Beer, cello, Richard Simpson, oboe, David Harper, piano.

English

One of the greatest difficulties that confronts anyone opening a score or libretto of Mercadante’s Maria Stuarda regina di Scozia is to identify just who all the characters are. Maria Stuarda herself presents no problem: she is Mary Queen of Scots. But Olfredo Conte di ‘Lenox’? And Ormondo Prince of the Blood? As the introductory article to this recording suggests, Olfredo is most probably Henry Darnley, Mary’s second husband, and Ormondo perhaps the Earl of Murray or Moray, Mary’s half-brother. But both portraits, if we try to pursue these identifications, prove far from true to their originals. From the outset, we must realise that we are dealing with a romantic melodrama which has only tenuous connections with history.

Whereas Schiller’s tragedy and most operas on the story of Mary Queen of Scots concentrate on her condemnation, final confession and execution, the story of Mercadante’s opera deals with an earlier period of her life, when she was struggling to maintain her authority and her independence from the overbearing and bullying ambitions of Scottish chieftains and nobles.

Act 1, Scene 1

Ormondo, a prince of the royal blood, is gathering his supporters together. He claims to be acting to support Maria’s tottering throne, and to thwart the ambitions of Olfredo, Earl of Lennox, but we very soon realise that he is himself an unscrupulous adventurer, intent upon his own advancement and determined to bring about Olfredo’s fall by means of a forged document which will implicate him in a plot against the Queen.

Ferrondo, commander of the royal guards, realises that in this conflict between Ormondo and Olfredo, Ormondo is likely to prove the more powerful. He therefore decides to throw in his lot with him, and agrees to hand the forged document to Maria at the very moment when she plans to award Olfredo the Order of Scotland for his services to the throne.

Scene 2

Maria and Olfredo return to the court in Edinburgh from a hunt. Maria orders Carlo, described as ‘the primate of Scotland’ but perhaps more properly ‘one of the primary noblemen of Scotland’, to make preparations for the ceremony in Olfredo’s honour.

Ermanno, a shepherd from Dunbar, comes to ask that he and his fellow shepherds receive their annual wages. Ermanno’s presence in the opera illustrates the devotion and loyalty of the Scottish peasantry to Maria.

We learn that Carlo, on the other hand, is a rejected suitor of Maria, and has consequently joined Ormondo’s conspiracy.

Scene 3

The royal throne-room. Maria is about to present Olfredo with the insignia of Scotland’s highest award when Ferrondo hands her the forged document, received, he claims, from an unknown hand. She reads it, and immediately breaks off the ceremony, forbidding Olfredo to quit the court without express permission. Ordered to surrender his sword, he does so. He is utterly mystified as to the nature of his offence, though he is not for a moment deceived by Ormondo’s feigned sympathy.

A dismayed Maria reveals the contents of the document to Ormondo: it is a claim that Olfredo is conspiring against her throne and life. Her reaction is to place her trust in Ormondo and grant him supreme command. He advises her against seeing Olfredo in private, as she wishes, and, in view of the popular unrest which prevails in Edinburgh, he leaves her with Carlo and a bodyguard to escort her to Dunbar Castle, the ‘Rock of Dunbar’.

Maria has Olfredo brought before her. He protests his innocence, reiterates his loyalty, and – what he has hitherto hesitated to reveal – declares that he loves her. His ardour begins to win her over, but Ormondo, Ferrondo and Carlo suddenly return, taunting him with treachery and persuading Maria to have him thrown into prison. He is appalled to realise the danger that threatens her while she is in Ormondo’s hands, but is unable to convince her of the truth of what he is saying.

Act 2, Scene 1

Maria is being escorted to Dunbar Castle by Carlo and Ormondo’s followers when a storm forces her to take shelter in a shepherd’s hut – the home of Ermanno. Ermanno tells her that the citizens of Edinburgh, rallying in Olfredo’s defence, have released him from prison and have tried to proclaim him king. He, however, has remained true to Maria, rebuking his liberators and recalling them to their true allegiance. Realising that she has wronged him, Maria declares that she must return to Edinburgh, but Carlo makes it very clear that she is now Ormondo’s prisoner and must continue to Dunbar. He tells her that she has only two options: either to marry Ormondo or to die.

Ermanno, after Maria’s enforced departure, determines to raise a force of his fellow-shepherds to deliver her from her enemies.

Scene 2

A disconsolate Olfredo is scouring the countryside in search of Maria when he meets with Ermanno and his shepherds. They inform him that Maria is being led captive to Dunbar, and he immediately sets out to rescue her.

Ormondo and his followers now come across the shepherds. Hearing that Maria has been seen on her way to Dunbar, Ormondo gloats, confident that he now has her at his mercy and can force her into marriage.

Scene 3

Imprisoned in Dunbar Castle, Maria sees only too clearly that she was deceived by a forged document. Of all the noblemen who surrounded her, she realises that Olfredo alone was loyal. At last she recognises Ormondo as her greatest enemy.

Roberto, Keeper of the Rock of Dunbar, allows her to receive a messenger who comes in secret from Edinburgh. It is Olfredo. He declares that he comes either as her prisoner or as her deliverer – whichever she wishes – and she, in return, proposes that they should link their destinies in marriage. As they express their love for each other, a cannon shot is heard announcing the arrival of Ormondo. Maria prevails upon Olfredo to conceal himself.

Ormondo, though he still claims to be ‘the most submissive of your subjects’, presents Maria with a choice: either she will marry him or Olfredo will die. He lays before her a document which he describes as ‘your sentence’ – presumably an act of abdication in his favour – saying that it requires only her signature to take effect. Indignantly she defies him, refusing to sign and denouncing him as a traitor.

Carlo adds his voice to that of Ormondo, but at this moment Olfredo emerges from concealment, declaring that he and Maria are now husband and wife.

Ormondo orders his followers to arrest Olfredo. The confrontation is at its most tense when a sound of arms is heard and Ermanno and his shepherds burst in. Ormondo, Carlo and Ferrondo are arrested. Olfredo places himself at the head of the band of liberators, and he and Maria rejoice at their delivery.