This special playlist featuring Mark Elder conducting Donizetti operas was created to promote our concert performance of Donizetti’s Les Martyrs and celebrates Mark Elder’s recordings of Donizetti operas for Opera Rara.
Rita (ORC50) ‘Il me vient une idée…’ – Pepé and Gasparo (Barry Banks and Christopher Maltman)
Donizetti composed Rita in 1841, the year after La Fille du regiment, but it was never performed in his lifetime. Discovered among his papers after his death, it received its belated premiere in 1860. Rita is a rustic landlady, married to Pepé, who runs the inn under her somewhat strict command – if he questions her or answers back he is liable to get a slap. Gasparo, her first husband, who she believes dead and who in turn believes Rita died in a fire, returns to acquire the documents that will enable him to re-marry. Pepé is delighted: a first husband takes precedence, and he will win his freedom from slaps. But Gasparo has no wish to return. Here the two men play a game, each trying to lose, to decide who keeps Rita as their wife.
Maria di Rohan (ORC44) ‘Contessa!’ – Visconte, Maria, Fiesque, chorus (Graeme Broadbent, Krassimira Stoyanova, Brindley Sherratt)
Donizetti’s first opera after Linda once again shows him at the height of his powers. The plot is driven by the French king Louis XIII, his wife Anne of Austria, and his minister Cardinal Richelieu, but none of them appears on stage. Confusingly, their messengers and servants do and at the centre of the plot is a soprano-tenor-baritone love triangle. On this track the courtiers take Maria to task for her downcast spirits, but when an usher brings her a paper which she discovers to be Chevreuse’s pardon, she visibly rejoices and is scarcely able to contain her sense of relief.
Linda di Chamounix (ORC43)
‘Non so; quella canzon’ – Linda and Carlo (Eglise Gutiérrez and Stephen Costello) and ‘Ah! tardai troppo’ – Linda (Eglise Gutiérrez)
Composed for Vienna in 1842, when Donizetti was at the very height of his powers, Linda di Chamounix is a semiseria in which the comic and tragic are most adroitly mixed. But the main action is anything but comic. It was the custom for impoverished families in Savoy to send their children to Paris each summer to earn money to support the ailing peasant community back home. Linda, who is due to be sent to Paris, is in love with a simple painter ‘Carlo’ is who is in fact the aristocratic Visconte di Sirval. In this first track we hear Linda and Carlo sing of their concealed love for each other and their hope that one day they shall be husband and wife. In this second track, the introductory recitative to the famous ‘O luce di quest’anima’, Linda enters with a posy of flowers from her ‘Carlo’, left by him at their secret meeting place in his absence. She looks forward to their next encounter, anticipating their future happiness.
Dom Sébastien roi de Portugal (ORC 33)
‘Seul sur la terre’ – Dom Sébastien (Giuseppe Filianoti) and ‘D’espoir et de terreur’ – Zayda, Dom Sébastien, Abayaldos, First, second and third Inquisitor’s (Vesselina Kasarova, Giuseppe Filianoti, Simon Keenlyside, John Upperton, Lee Hickenbottom, John Bernays)
Dom Sébastien was to prove the last opera Donizetti wrote, even if not the last he actually produced. It was, too, the largest-scale work he had ever undertaken: a five-act grand opera, complete with ballet, which eclipsed even Les Martyrs in terms of spectacle and physical forces required to perform it. Donizetti was convinced that Dom Sébastien was his masterpiece and it is a sombre masterpiece. In this first aria Dom Sébastien having been revived by Zayda recognises her as an angle sent to him by Heaven. In this second extract Zayda has announced that she saved Dom Sébastien from death but then Abayaldos steps forward and brands her as an adulteress.
‘Sin la tomba è a me negata!..’ – Antonina (Joyce El-Khoury)
Belisario was Donizetti’s first collaboration with the librettist Salvadore Cammarano, at this stage a beginner. It is a rather sombre work, innocent of any traditional operatic love interest. Yet it was a great success at its premiere in 1836 and it received 36 consecutive performances. In the opera Belisario’s disgrace is engineered by his wife, Antonina, who holds him responsible for the murder, many years ago, of their infant son and forges the documents that will lead to his downfall. On this track Antonina sings of her grief for her long lost son ‘Sin la tomba è a me negata!..’ – ‘Even a tomb is denied me’
Imelda de’ Lambertazzi (ORC36) ‘M’odi almen’ – Imelda (Nicole Cabell)
For many years Imelda de’ Lambertazzi was an opera which, since it was totally unknown, intrigued and fascinated Donizetti scholars. Composed immediately before Anna Bolena, it seemed, both in title and content, to anticipate all the better-known tragedie liriche of the 1830s. The plot, drawn from medieval Bolognese chronicles, is derived from a history of feud and vendetta between two families and similar in its broad outlines to the story of Romeo and Juliet, it tells of a star-crossed love affair between Bonifacio and Imelda. Originally the opera contained no aria finale but this piece, written especially for the first Imelda –Luigia Boccabadati – is an unashamed showpiece with which to bring down the curtain.