Donizetti: Le Duc d’Albe


2 disc set
Single Track Download

Originally conceived as the second grand opera the composer was to stage at the Opéra de Paris after Les Martyrs, Donizetti abandoned his score for Le Duc d’Albe after completing only the first two acts due to conflicts of interest with the theatre.

  • Opera category nomination for 2017 International Classical Music Awards
  • Opera category nomination for 2017 BBC Music Magazine Awards
  • Sunday Times Album of the Week
  • BBC Music Magazine Opera Choice
  • Limelight Editor’s Choice
Catalogue Number: ORC54 Categories: ,
  1. Prelude Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  2. Espagne! Espagne O mon pays Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  3. Par Saint Jacques, messieurs Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  4. Voyez donc cette belle Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  5. C'est donc ici... Daniel Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  6. Honneur a lui! Ce guerrier Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  7. Pourquoi dans cette foule Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  8. Au sein des mers Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  9. Du courage, du courage et pour braver l'orage Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  10. Cette fille noble et belle Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  11. Race faible et poltronne Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  12. Helene! O ciel!... Henri... Henri Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  13. Toi... Tu resteras! Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  14. Puni mon audace! Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  15. Je devrrais te punir! Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  16. Non, non point de grace Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  17. Je suis libre et sur la terre Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  18. Liqueur traitresse Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  19. Ici l'on travail Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  20. Vive la biere Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  21. Mais j'entends battre la retraite Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  22. Es tu seul? Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  23. Ombre murmure Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  24. Quoi! Deja de retour? Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  25. Plus bas! Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  26. Vous exposer encore! Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  27. Comment dans ma reconnaissance Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  28. Ah oui, longtemps Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  29. Malheureuse et proscrite Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  30. Noble martyr de la patrie Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  31. Les derniers feux Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  32. Amis! L'heure d'agir Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  33. Marchons, marchons Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  34. Liberte, liberte cherie Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  35. Ciel! Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  36. Liqueur traitresse Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  37. Maitre Daniel Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  38. Nous n'avons qu'un roi Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  39. Oui, bravons le tyran Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30
  40. O ciel! O surprise Donizetti, G Buy Track 0:30


Originally conceived as the second grand opera the composer was to stage at the Opéra de Paris after Les Martyrs, Donizetti abandoned his score for Le Duc d’Albe after completing only the first two acts due to conflicts of interest with the theatre. The opera remained unfinished until over 30 years after Donizetti’s death when it was completed by one of his former pupils, Matteo Salvi, using the composer’s sketches for Acts 3 and 4. While the opera has sporadically received performances in its Italian translation (Il duca d’Alba) since its première in 1882, the opera in its original French version was only given its première in 2012 by Vlaamse Opera using a new critical edition prepared by Opera Rara’s Repertoire Consultant, Roger Parker for Ricordi. For this first ever studio recording of Le Duc d’Albe, we decided to record only the first two acts using this new critical edition: “the part of the opera that was 95% completed by Donizetti himself. Acts 3 and 4, although they have some sketches of Donizetti’s ideas, have virtually no orchestration and leave two large sections with virtually no music at all. However, Acts 1 and 2 show thrillingly how, at the end of his hectic career, the composer was still adapting his musical language to new dramatic challenges.” Sir Mark Elder – Opera Rara’s Artistic Director and the Hallé’s Music Director – conducts Angela Meade in her recording debut as Hélène d’Egmont; Michael Spyres as Henri de Bruges, in his second recording for Opera Rara and Laurent Naouri as Le Duc d’Albe.


Angela Meade (Hélène d’Egmont), Michael Spyres (Henri de Bruges), Laurent Naouri (Le Duc d'Albe), Gianluca Buratto (Daniel Brauer), David Stout (Sandoval), Trystan Llyr Griffiths (Carlos), Robin Tritschler (Balbuena), Dawid Kimberg (Un Tavernier). Opera Rara Chorus, Hallé, Sir Mark Elder - conductor


01 Prelude
02 Espagne! Espagne O mon pays
03 Par Saint Jacques, messieurs
04 Voyez donc cette belle
05 C’est donc ici… Daniel
06 Honneur a lui! Ce guerrier
07 Pourquoi dans cette foule
08 Au sein des mers
09 Du courage, du courage et pour braver l’orage
10 Cette fille noble et belle
11 Race faible et poltronne
12 Helene! O ciel!… Henri… Henri
13 Toi… Tu resteras!
14 Puni mon audace!
15 Je devrrais te punir!
16 Non, non point de grace
17 Je suis libre et sur la terre
18 Liqueur traitresse
19 Ici l’on travail
20 Vive la biere
21 Mais j’entends battre la retraite
22 Es tu seul?
23 Ombre murmure
24 Quoi! Deja de retour?
25 Plus bas!
26 Vous exposer encore!
27 Comment dans ma reconnaissance
28 Ah oui, longtemps
29 Malheureuse et proscrite
30 Noble martyr de la patrie
31 Les derniers feux
32 Amis! L’heure d’agir
33 Marchons, marchons
34 Liberte, liberte cherie
35 Ciel!
36 Liqueur traitresse
37 Maitre Daniel
38 Nous n’avons qu’un roi
39 Oui, bravons le tyran
40 O ciel! O surprise


The scene is set in Brussels in the late sixteenth century. The country is under Spanish domination. The Count of Egmont (scion of a wealthy Low Countries’ dynasty) has, the day before the action begins, been beheaded by order of the Duke of Alba, the despotic Spanish ruler of the region.

Act 1
The Grand Place in Brussels. Spanish soldiers rejoice while the Flemish populace mutter resentment. Daniel (bass), a master brewer and Flemish patriot, has taken into his care Hélène (soprano), daughter of the Count of Egmont, and escorts her to the very place where her father was executed. Goaded into singing by Spanish soldiers, Hélène launches into a song in defiance of Spanish rule, thereby enthusing the people. Their newfound courage is immediately dampened, though, by the arrival of the feared Duke of Alba (baritone). Henri de Bruges (tenor), a young Flemish firebrand, appears and – unaware of the Duke’s identity – roundly condemns the Spanish overlords. However, and to the amazement of his soldiers, the Duke fails to respond, merely sending everyone away so he can be alone with Henri. The Duke questions Henri about his parentage, and then invites him to enlist in the Spanish army; Henri refuses angrily. Le Duke warns him to stay away from the rebels, but Henri, defiant to the last, enters Daniel’s brasserie as the curtain falls.

Act 2
Daniel’s brasserie. The workers celebrate the joys (and lament the painful aftermath) of drinking. They go off to work and Hélène appears. She believes that Henri has been arrested, and calls on the ghost of her father to aid him. Henri arrives and explains how, for reasons he cannot understand, he was released by the Duke. They both swear their love for each other and their commitment to the cause of freedom. Daniel appears with a group of conspirators, who arm themselves with weapons hidden in one of the beer barrels. Spanish soldiers, commanded by Sandoval (bass), burst in and discover the weapons. Everyone is arrested except Henri, who angrily demands why he has been spared. Sandoval tells him it is on the Duke’s orders. The act ends in confusion, neither the conspirators not Henri understanding why he is apparently being shielded by the Duke.

The remainder of the opera unfolds as follows. In Act 3, set in the Duke’s study, the governor reveals in a soliloquy how he has discovered that Henri is his long-lost son. He sends for Henri and, to the young man’s horror, reveals the truth of their relationship. Outside the conspirators, including Hélène, are being led to their execution. Henri begs for their lives, but the Duke will only show clemency if Henri acknowledges publicly that they are father and son and agrees to join the Spanish troops. Henri reluctantly agrees. Hélène, Daniel and the others are spared; but they condemn Daniel when they see that he is in the service of the Duc. The first scene of Act 4 takes place in Hélène’s chapel. Hélène reveals that she is determined to assassinate the Duke. Henri tries to dissuade her and admits that the Duke is his father. Hélène is horrified and sends him away. The finale takes place at the port of Antwerp. Soldiers welcome the Duke, who is about to return to Spain. Hélène approaches him, as if to offer a tribute of flowers, and then draws her dagger. Henri throws himself forward to protect the Duke and is stabbed by Hélène. In his dying speech, Henri asks for Hélène’s forgiveness. The Duke curses Flanders while the opposing forces hail or revile him.


Die Oper spielt Ende des 16. Jahrhunderts in Brüssel. Das Land ist unter spanischer Herrschaft. Am Tag, ehe die Handlung einsetzt, wurde der Graf von Egmont (Spross einer wohlhabenden niederländischen Dynastie) auf Befehl des Herzogs von Alba, des despotischen spanischen Herrschers der Region, enthauptet. 1. Akt Der Grand Place in Brüssel. Die spanischen Soldaten jubeln, während die flämische Bevölkerung ihrem Protest mit leisem Murren Ausdruck verleiht. Daniel (Bass), ein Meisterbrauer und flämischer Patriot, hat Hélène (Sopran), die Tochter des Grafen von Egmont, bei sich aufgenommen und führt sie zu dem Platz, an dem ihr Vater hingerichtet wurde. Aufgestachelt von den spanischen Soldaten, stimmt Hélène ein Widerstandslied gegen die spanische Herrschaft an und reißt die Umstehenden mit sich. Doch deren neu gefundener Mut schwindet sofort, sobald der gefürchtete Herzog von Alba (Bariton) Einzug hält. Der junge flämische Hitzkopf Henri de Bruges (Tenor) erscheint und verflucht, da er die Identität des Herzogs nicht kennt, die spanischen Herrenmenschen in aller Deutlichkeit. Zur großen Überraschung der Soldaten reagiert der Herzog jedoch gar nicht darauf, sondern schickt nur alle fort, um unter vier Augen mit dem jungen Mann zu sprechen. Allein gelassen, fragt er ihn nach dessen Herkunft und fordert ihn auf, in die spanische Armee einzutreten, ein Ansinnen, das Henri wütend zurückweist. Der Herzog warnt ihn davor, sich mit den Aufständischen einzulassen, doch als der Vorhang fällt, betritt Henri trotzig Daniels Brasserie. 2. Akt Daniels Brasserie. Die Arbeiter besingen die Freuden (und beklagen die leidvollen Folgen) des Trinkens, dann brechen sie zur Arbeit auf. Hélène tritt ein. Sie glaubt, dass Henri verhaftet wurde, und beschwört den Geist ihres Vaters, ihm beizustehen. Dann erscheint Henri und erklärt, dass der Herzog ihn aus Gründen, die ihm unbekannt seien, habe ziehen lassen. Beide schwören sich ewige Liebe und geloben, sich mit aller Kraft für die Freiheit ihres Landes einzusetzen. Daniel kommt mit einer Gruppe von Verschwörern hinzu, die Männer rüsten sich mit den Waffen, die in einem der Bierfässer versteckt sind. Da stürmen spanische Soldaten unter ihrem Befehlshaber Sandoval (Bass) herein und entdecken die Waffen. Alle Anwesenden werden verhaftet, bis auf Henri, der zornig fragt, weshalb er verschont werde. Sandoval erklärt, das geschehe auf Befehl des Herzogs. Der Akt endet in allgemeinem Chaos, weder die Verschwörer noch Henri können verstehen, weshalb der Herzog ihn nicht ebenfalls festnehmen lässt. Die weitere Handlung entspinnt sich wie folgt: Im 3. Akt erklärt der Herzog in der Abgeschiedenheit seiner Gemächer in einem Monolog, er habe erfahren, dass Henri sein verloren geglaubter Sohn ist. Er lässt den jungen Mann zu sich rufen und gibt sich ihm zu dessen Entsetzen als sein Vater zu erkennen. Auf dem Platz werden unterdessen die Verschwörer, unter ihnen auch Hélène, zu ihrer Hinrichtung geführt. Henri fleht um ihrer aller Leben, doch der Herzog ist nur bereit, Gnade walten zu lassen, wenn Henri sich öffentlich zu ihm als sein Sohn bekennt und sich den spanischen Truppen anschließt. Widerstrebend willigt Henri ein, und alle Verschwörer werden begnadigt. Als diese jedoch erkennen, dass er im Dienst des Herzogs steht, verdammen sie ihn. Die erste Szene des 4. Akts findet in Hélènes Kapelle statt. Sie gelobt, den Herzog zu ermorden, und im Versuch, sie von ihrem Plan abzubringen, gesteht Henri, dass er dessen Sohn ist. Schockiert schickt Hélène ihn fort. Das Finale spielt am Hafen von Antwerpen, Soldaten empfangen den Herzog, der sich nach Spanien einschiffen will. Hélène nähert sich, als wollte sie ihm zur Ehrbezeigung Blumen überreichen, zieht dann aber ihren Dolch. Henri stürzt sich dazwischen, um den Herzog zu schützen, und Hélènes Dolch bohrt sich in ihn. Sterbend fleht er um ihre Vergebung. Der Herzog verflucht Flandern, während die Versammelten ihn, je nach Loyalität, bejubeln oder schmähen.


La vicenda è ambientata a Bruxelles, alla fine del XVI secolo, mentre il Paese si trova a subire la dominazione spagnola. Il Conte di Egmont (rampollo di una ricca dinastia dei Paesi Bassi) è stato decapitato il giorno prima per ordine del Duca d’Alba, il dispotico governatore spagnolo della regione. Atto 1 La piazza davanti al Palazzo Comunale di Bruxelles. I soldati spagnoli bevono allegramente mentre i popolani fiamminghi esprimono a mezza voce il loro risentimento. Daniel (basso), birraio e patriota fiammingo, che si è assunto la tutela di Hélène (soprano), figlia del Conte di Egmont, accompagna la fanciulla fino al punto in cui suo padre è stato giustiziato. Incitata a cantare dai soldati spagnoli, Hélène intona un inno di sfida contro la dominazione spagnola, infiammando il popolo. Il barlume iniziale di coraggio, tuttavia, si spegne subito all’arrivo del temuto Duca d’Alba (baritono). Entra Henri de Bruges (tenore), un giovane agitatore fiammingo, che – ignaro dell’identità del duca – pronuncia parole di aperta condanna contro i signori spagnoli. Tra lo stupore dei suoi soldati, il Duca non reagisce e si limita a sgombrare il campo per poter rimanere da solo con Henri. Gli rivolge alcune domande sulla sua famiglia e poi lo invita ad arruolarsi nell’esercito spagnolo. Henri rifiuta sdegnosamente e il Duca lo ammonisce di tenersi lontano dai ribelli ma il giovane, con un gesto di aperta sfida, entra nella birreria di Daniel mentre cala la tela. Atto 2 La birreria di Daniel. I lavoratori esaltano i piaceri dell’alcool (lamentandone le dolorose conseguenze). Quando escono per andare a riposare , entra Hélène. Convinta che Henri sia stato arrestato, invoca lo spirito del padre perché venga in suo aiuto. Arriva Henri e spiega che il Duca lo ha rilasciato per motivi a lui incomprensibili. I due giovani si dichiarano amore reciproco e giurano di combattere per la libertà. Entra Daniel con un gruppo di congiurati venuti a prendere le armi nascoste in una delle botti di birra. Fanno irruzione i soldati spagnoli, comandati da Sandoval (basso), e scoprono le armi. Tutti vengono arrestati tranne Henri, il quale esige con rabbia di sapere perché è stato risparmiato. L’atto si conclude tra la confusione generale: né i congiurati né Henri riescono a spiegarsi la manifesta indulgenza del Duca nei confronti del giovane. La seconda parte dell’opera ha il seguente svolgimento. Nell’Atto 3, durante un soliloquio ambientato nello studio del Duca, il governatore rivela di aver capito che Henri è il figlio che temeva di aver perduto. Lo fa chiamare e gli rivela la vera natura del loro rapporto, suscitando orrore nel giovane. All’esterno i congiurati, tra cui si trova Hélène, vengono accompagnati al patibolo. Henri chiede che vengano risparmiati, ma il Duca è disposto alla clemenza solo a patto che il figlio riveli pubblicamente il loro legame e si arruoli nelle truppe spagnole. Henri accetta, controvoglia. Hélène, Daniel e gli altri vengono risparmiati, ma condannano Henri quando capiscono che è al servizio del Duca. La prima scena dell’Atto 4 si svolge nella cappella di Hélène. La donna rivela di essere decisa ad assassinare il Duca. Henri cerca di dissuaderla e ammette che il Duca è suo padre. Inorridita, Hélène gli intima di andarsene. Il finale si svolge al porto di Anversa. I soldati salutano il Duca che sta per tornare in Spagna. Hélène gli si accosta come per offrirgli in dono dei fiori e poi estrae il pugnale. Henri si frappone fra i due per proteggere il Duca e viene colpito dalla pugnalata mortale. Nelle sue ultime parole prima di spirare, Henri chiede perdono a Hélène. Il Duca maledice la Fiandra tra le acclamazioni e le proteste delle opposte fazioni.


L’action se déroule à Bruxelles à la fin du seizième siècle. Le pays est alors sous domination espagnole. La veille du jour où débute l’histoire, le comte d’Egmont (descendant d’une riche famille des Pays-Bas) a été décapité sur l’ordre du duc d’Albe, qui gouverne en despote la région. Acte I La Grand Place à Bruxelles. Les soldats espagnols s’abandonnent à leurs réjouissances tandis que la population flamande murmure son ressentiment. Daniel (basse), maître brasseur et patriote flamand, a pris sous son aile la fille du comte d’Egmont, Hélène (soprano), et l’escorte sur le lieu d’exécution de son père. Lorsque les soldats espagnols la pressent de chanter, Hélène entonne un chant qui réprouve la domination espagnole, redonnant ainsi courage à ses compatriotes. Mais ceux-ci se trouvent immédiatement arrêtés dans leur nouvel élan par l’arrivée du redoutable duc d’Albe (baryton). Henri de Bruges (ténor), jeune Flamand plein de fougue, fait alors son entrée et – ignorant tout de l’identité du duc – tient des propos insultants pour les autorités espagnoles. À la grande surprise des soldats, le duc reste impassible. Il se contente de renvoyer tout le monde pour rester seul avec Henri. Après avoir interrogé le jeune homme sur ses origines, le duc l’invite à s’engager dans l’armée espagnole ; Henri refuse vivement. Le duc le prévient de ne pas se mêler aux rebelles, mais Henri, toujours aussi impétueux, pénètre dans la brasserie de Daniel tandis que tombe le rideau. Acte II La brasserie de Daniel. Des ouvriers y vantent les plaisirs de la boisson (malgré les lendemains de fête douloureux) avant d’aller reprendre le labeur. Hélène apparaît. Elle pense qu’Henri a été arrêté, et en appelle à l’esprit de son père pour lui venir en aide. Henri arrive et dit avoir été – pour des raisons qu’il ignore – libéré par le duc. Les jeunes gens se jurent de s’aimer et de défendre la cause de la liberté. Daniel fait son entrée accompagné de conspirateurs venus chercher des armes cachées dans un tonneau de bière. Des soldats espagnols commandés par Sandoval (basse) font irruption dans la brasserie et découvrent les armes. Toutes les personnes présentes sont arrêtées, sauf Henri qui, furieux, exige de savoir pourquoi il se trouve épargné. Sandoval répond que c’est sur les ordres du duc. L’acte s’achève dans la confusion, car ni les conspirateurs ni Henri ne comprennent pourquoi le duc paraît le protéger. Le reste de l’action se déroule comme suit. Le troisième acte s’ouvre sur un monologue du gouverneur qui, seul dans son cabinet de travail, explique avoir découvert qu’Henri est son fils longtemps disparu. Il envoie chercher ce dernier et, au désespoir du jeune homme, lui révèle qu’il est son père. Dehors, l’exécution d’Hélène et des conspirateurs se prépare. Henri supplie le duc de les épargner. Celui-ci se dit prêt à faire preuve de clémence à condition qu’Henri reconnaisse publiquement être son fils et s’engage dans l’armée espagnole. Henri accepte à contrecœur. Hélène, Daniel et les autres ont la vie sauve, mais vilipendent Henri en le voyant aux côtés du duc. La première scène du quatrième acte a lieu dans la chapelle d’Hélène. La jeune femme déclare qu’elle a décidé d’assassiner le duc. Henri tente de l’en dissuader et lui avoue que c’est son père. Hélène, horrifiée, le renvoie. Le finale a lieu dans le port d’Anvers. Des soldats saluent le duc, qui s’apprête à retourner en Espagne. Hélène s’approche de lui comme pour lui offrir des fleurs, puis sort un poignard. Henri se jette entre eux pour protéger le duc et c’est lui qui reçoit le coup fatal. Ses derniers mots sont pour Hélène, à qui il demande pardon. Le duc maudit les Flandres tandis les factions rivales l’encensent ou l’injurient.

Press Reviews

Opera Rara, with its typically scrupulous historicity, has discarded the Salvi accretions, presenting only the first two acts… the present release makes as a good a case for Le Duc d’Albe as can be imagined… Though none of the singers could reasonably expect to repeat their roles, all give committed performances without a trace of for-studio-only deadness. Some of the credit must go to conductor Mark Elder, whose work is lively but never excitable, characterized by an unerring sense of proportion. Special praise is due to Roger Parker for his authoritative, illuminating essay detailing Le Duc’s strange history.

Opera News

Various hands have attempted to complete the 1840 score, but Opera Rara have opted here to record only what can be said to be original Donizetti – and very fine it is… The score is packed with interest and memorable ideas, beautifully rendered by the Hallé under the dynamic baton of Sir Mark Elder… Listen to this lovingly produced and superbly engineered recording, you can’t help thinking, what a terrible loss.


Opera Rara’s latest Donizetti issue continues the exploration of his Paris Opéra output already so magisterially embarked upon by the company’s justly-praised recordings of Dom Sébastien and Les Martyrs – both superbly conducted, as is the new recording, by Mark Elder. Like those predecessor sets this Duc d’Albe sheds a revelatory light on Donizetti’s unique qualities in confronting Parisian grand opéra and making the form of his own… Parker, renowned bel canto and Verdi authority, editor of Ricordi’s Duc d’Albe edition, and project advisor for its new recording, also lays out the reasons why Opera Rara has chosen not to record either Il duca d’Alba or the four-act Duc d’Albe premiered four years ago by the Vlaamese Opera… Here we get just the first two acts, in themselves pure Donizetti except for the six small sections completed in perfect stylistic sympathy by Martin Fitzpatrick… What’s performed here, by contrast, is almost entirely echt-Donizetti – unblemished… No less important are the care, fine preparation and attention to detail in the musical execution, marvellously evident from first note to last, as is the great superior calibre of the Hallé orchestral playing and the Oepra Rara choral singing… But since what does appear on those CDs creates overall so splendidly powerful an impact, and so strong an impression of devotion on the part of all its executants, such niggles are in the end, if one may say so, small beer.


This is one of the most exciting of Opera Rara’s Donizetti recordings… The several magnificent choruses are sung with gusto by the Opera Rara Chorus and supported by a possessed Hallé Orchestra, Sir Mark Elder eliciting fervent and accurate performances from every last participant. The opera only has one female character, but Angela Meade makes sure that her singing makes up for that by hurling herself into this heroic role, sounding in fact more at home when she is contemplating making war, not love. Henri is the excellent tenor Michael Spyres, just as exciting and committed. All the cast deserve mention, but so does the elucidatory introduction of Roger Parker, Donizettian-in-chief, and Opera Rara for uniquely continuing to package their products carefully, and above all for providing a text in both French and English, indispensable in opera.

BBC Music Magazine

Sir Mark Elder is an Opera Rara veteran and takes charge of a bracing performance… Opera Rara’s truncated account should not be missed by Donizettians.

Beckmesser’s Quill

Opera Rara, in a performance led here by Mark Elder, has opted to record only the music completed by Donizetti… it turns out to be a juicy 93 minutes of music.

Classics Today

So what we have is but a torso, tantalising and inevitably positing several major whatifs. And it’s all the more tantalising since the first two acts are dispatched with all the style and ‘elan we’ve come to expect from Mark Elder in this music, here with the Hallé. He brings conviction, stylistic nous and a wonderful airy clarity to the score… the label should be thanked for yet another fascinating and important release, presented with all its usual care, seriousness and lavish attention to detail.


,,, Donizetti offers a more concise musical language to make an impact and his theatrical effects are exciting, given full reign under Mark Elder. In the title role, Laurent Naouri sounds the best I’ve heard him, suave and rich-toned. Michael Spyres as Henri is impeccably stylish as ever, and Angela Meade’s first recording offers class, thrills…

Opera Now

It may seem short measure but the quality of Donizetti’s original creation along with the performance itself make this a must-have for lovers of bel canto.

MusicWeb International

The Hallé, under the direction of their Music Director, Sir Mark Elder, deliver a high-flying performance. Thanks to his moderate and clear direction, the conductor perfectly maintains the sound balance whilst the chorus is never overwhelming… The American soprano Angela Meade… shines once more in the role of Hélène d’Egmont while Laurent Naouri’s interpretation of the dark Duc d’Albe is everything one might want from the role… Michael Spyres’ arias “Punis mon audace!” in Act I and also his wonderful duo with Angela Meade in Act II, “Noble martyr de la patrie” are exquisite.


One of the joys of this recording is the performance of tenor Michael Spyres as Henri de Bruges. Spyres has strength, stamina, courage and sweetness of tone, and he calls upon all these qualities in a commanding performance… Angela Meade exhibits temerity and technical prowess in tackling the demanding role of Hélène… Sir Mark Elder injects Donizetti’s score with a revolutionary fervour worthy of Verdi… As always, Opera Rara provide a detailed accompanying booklet which includes Roger Parker’s extensive and informative liner notes, an English-French libretto and production images. This is a gripping performance which certainly does not, in a single regard, leave one feeling it is ‘incomplete’.

Opera Today

With an excellent orchestra and chorus at his disposal, Mark Elder’s enthusiastic conducting is one of the best things about this recording. The orchestration comes across perfectly, the tension is constant and the ensemble work is thrilling! The box-set ends and you have only one wish: to listen to it again with all the greater pleasure.

Forum Opéra

Lovers of opera are alerted to a major audio disc release just out on Britain’s trailblazing Opera Rara label. Following on the heels of its multiple award-winning recording of Donizetti’s French grand opera Les Martyrs, the company’s latest two-disc set, comprising the first two acts of Donizetti’s unfinished masterwork Le Duc d’Albe, adds further lustre to its priceless catalogue of rarely recorded works penned by the great 19th-century composer…
Sir Mark Elder, Opera Rara’s Artistic Director, is on typically commanding from here at the helm of Manchester’s renowned Hallé Orchestra. The recording’s stellar cast is headed by the dazzling accomplished American soprano Angela Meade, making her long-awaited recording debut… The magnificent Meade, a renowned Metropolitan Oepra star, appears opposite her gifted compatriot, tenor Michael Spyres… the two American stars send sparks flying.

The Mercury

With the help of Elder’s assistant conductor, Martin Fitzpatrick, it has been possible to perform the first two acts, most of which Donizetti had composer, and it remains a magnificent torso… Certainly, this recording is worth hearing, above all for the thrilling male leads. Is there a better tenor today than Michael Spyres? He makes Henri’s fiendish music sound easy. Laurent Naouri as the Duke and Giancluca Buratto as the Flemish leader, Brauer, are superb, too.

The Sunday Times

However, the first two acts survive almost intact. Those are what Opera Rara gives us and, under Mark Elder’s propulsive baton, the highlights keep coming… Michael Spyres’s clarion tenor shines throughout as Henri. Angela Meade’s soprano is… commanding in all the right ways in act two, and Laurent Naouri and David Stout are excellent as the Duke and his snarling henchman.

The Guardian

All in all, then, the new recording more than lives up to Opera Rara’s mission to resurrect bel canto gems which are not merely obscure but also genuinely well worth hearing…

Presto Classical

The troubled story of Donizetti’s often thwarted attempts to complete and stage this heroic tale is a plot in its own right, and Opera Rara presents only the first two acts, jettisoning Salvi’s completion. In a starry cast that includes Michael Spyres, Robin Tritschler, Gianluca Buratto and Laurent Naouri, the American soprano Angela Meade sings brave Hélène.

The Independent

Half an opera here is treated with double the usual care… Opera Rara has recorded only that part of the score largely completed by the composer, but with impressive resources. Imaginative casting brings together authoritative soprano Angela Meade, stylish tenor Michael Spyres and elegant French baritone Laurent Naouri. Mark Elder conducts a cultivated performance with the Hallé. The history is fully documented. The presentation is lavish.

Financial Times

Their work having been featured on previous Opera Rara recordings, the excellent playing of the Hallé musicians and the vigorous but stylish conducting of Sir Mark Elder are not surprising, but they here surpass their own high standards… Opera Rara’s commitment to recording ignored treasures of 19th-century opera — or, as in the case of the label’s planned studio recording of Rossini’s Semiramide, recording these treasures as they ought to be but are so rarely performed – sometimes leads into musical territory that Alexander Pope might have described as ground ‘where angels fear to tread,’ but no fools rushing in are Opera Rara and the artists who take part in the label’s projects! The Opera Rara catalogue is a lavish collection of performances that allow scores to exhibit their efficacy as their composers intended, but even among many gems this Le Duc d’Albe sparkles very brightly.


However, Opera Rara, freed from the need to present a coherent dramatic spectacle on stage, here presents the original torso with the minimum of tampering. Good decision: there’s enough first-rate Donizetti here to justify this approach… In particular, Hélène d’Egmont, a Joan of Arc figure urging her compatriots to stand up for freedom, is given a couple of sizzling arias that Angela Meade dispatches with magnificent power and assurance. Michael Spyres is also rock-solid in the tenorial stratosphere inhabited by the hotheaded Flemish patriot Henri… That said, the most exciting moments on this double-CD are supplied by the Hallé and the Opera Rara Chorus under Mark Elder’s zestful direction. Indeed, many of Donizetti’s pulsating, militaristic ensembles anticipate Verdi in their confrontational power.

The Times

Mark Elder elicits a strong and powerful performance from the Opera Rara chorus and the Hallé. Elder has now conducted a number of Donizetti’s late French operas for Opera Rara and brings out the sober beauty of the style. Donizetti’s writing is not immediately melodically appealing but instead there is a long breathed power to the writing. And the way the music builds out of the structure is stirring. This is a recording which repays repeated listening. It is not an opera that would be easily staged, something would have to be done regarding the subsequent acts, but on disc it makes perfect listening.

Planet Hugill

Awards & Accolades

  • Opera category nomination for 2017 International Classical Music Awards
  • Opera category nomination for 2017 BBC Music Magazine Awards
  • Sunday Times Album of the Week
  • BBC Music Magazine Opera Choice
  • Limelight Editor’s Choice