Rediscovering Donizetti's Les martyrs

Martin Cullingford
Monday, May 18, 2015

Donizetti's grand opera Les martyrs has rarely been heard since its premiere in 1840, 175 years ago. Originally written in Italian for Naples, as Poliuto, the work presents a tale of Christian martyrdom. Subject to censorship however, it was never performed there, and Donizetti later adapted it for the Paris Opera and French audiences. The premiere was a success, but it disappeared from the repertoire. Using a new critical edition, Sir Mark Elder – together with soloists and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – has now recorded it for the ever-enterprising Opera Rara label. 

Sir Mark Elder spoke to Gramophone at the recording sessions of Les martyrs about the work and some of its most interesting and unusual elements. Discover more by clicking the first image above to launch the gallery. All photos are by Russell Duncan, and were taken at the sessions held at St Clements Church, London EC1V.

Les martyrs is reviewed in the new (June) issue of Gramophone, receiving an Editor's Choice. 

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