Donizetti Rosmonda d'Inghilterra

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Donizetti Rosmonda d'Inghilterra

  • Rosmonda d'Inghilterra

With the persistence of the bel canto revival, or more specifically the unearthing, editing and performance of forgotten early nineteenth-century operas, it becomes ever more difficult to make out the line which has separated survival from extinction. By the criteria appropriate to its kind, Rosmonda d’Inghilterra is a very good opera, inferior to Lucia di Lammermoor but not annihilatingly so. To say that score and libretto are highly workmanlike may register as a kind of belittlement, though it should not do so, and it needs saying since we know that Donizetti worked fast and turned out operas by the dozen and so are inclined to assume that he must have been slipshod. In fact, this, his forty-first, shows the confident mastery of form that can make useful, unselfconscious innovations, and there is scarcely more than a single item in which he seems not to be writing with genuine creativity. I suppose the answer must lie with the absence of the really Big Tune (though the gift for melody never falters). Or possibly it is as a matter of state or opera house politics (a King shown letting his heart rule his head, and a finale in which the principal soprano lies dead upon the floor while her rival sings the last solo, which she naturally regards as her rightful own). Whatever the cause, over the period of roughly a century-and-a-half audiences have been missing out on an opera that is a credit to its genre, which in turn is far more of a credit to the art-form than has been generally conceded.
The performance could hardly be improved. David Parry conducts, as he has done throughout this series, with what any listener who presumes to judge is likely to feel a natural rightness: one is not, from the armchair, forever calling out ‘Slow down!’, ‘Put some life into it!’ or the other familiar cries of encouragement. More than that, the playing of the Philharmonia is of unvaryingly high quality, and they have plenty to play – the Overture is one of Donizetti’s best, and the orchestral score shares interest on equable terms with the voice-parts. These include two virtuoso roles for sopranos, who in the final scene confront each other in duet. As Rosmonda, the immured and misled mistress, Renee Fleming shows once again that not only has she one of the most lovely voices to be heard in our time but that she is also a highly accomplished technician and a sympathetic stylist. Nelly Miricioiu is the older woman, the Queen (originally Eleanor of Aquitaine) whose music encompasses a wide range of emotions with an adaptable vocal character to match. Whether by design or by the condition of her voice in the different recording sessions, she fits the Second Act more happily than the First, where for much of the time the tone appears to have lost its familiar incisive thrust.
Bruce Ford is an excellent Enrico (plenty of incisiveness there), and Alastair Miles makes an authoritative father and councillor in the person of Clifford. The travesto role of Arturo is taken by the ever welcome Diana Montague, and it is good to find that a solo has been dutifully included for ‘him’ in Act 2, even if it is a less than inspired piece of music.
As always with Opera Rara’s productions, the booklet adds substantially to the value of the set and contains a first-rate introduction by Jeremy Commons. The only complaint I have with the recording concerns balance, which sometimes accords prominence and recession in a somewhat arbitrary way. The opera and performance, however, are strong enough to take that on board, and the set is keenly recommended.'

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