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Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797 – 1848)
L’elisir d’amore - Opera comica in due atti
Adina…Katia Ricciarelli (soprano)
Nemorino…José Carreras (tenor)
Belcore…Leo Nucci (baritone)
Dulcamara…Domenico Trimarchi (bass)
Giannetta…Susanna Rigacci (soprano)
Orchestra sinfonica e coro della RAI di Torino/Claudio Scimone
Recorded: July 1984, Teatro Nuovo, Turin, Italy
PHILIPS DUO 475 442-2 [2CDs: 71.01+55.51]


As the brief notes in the booklet remind us, this is Donizetti’s stop-gap opera for Milan. It was composed in a matter of weeks, first performed in May 1832 and from then never left the standard repertoire in Donizetti’s lifetime.

There is clear character development: two buffo characters: a strong streak of pathos (giving Nemorino two haunting arias): some powerful characterisation (all this in a comic opera) and an overarching sense of delight. The comedy is never cruel and the pace fizzes along.

This recording, now released in the Philips Duo series, was originally recorded in July 1984 with a star cast. Whereas we become concerned in re-masterings or the like about clicks, hisses and bloops, there are no such worries here. There is not an errant sound; and no audience so no irritating bronchitic background. Each Act is neatly fitted onto one CD and whilst there is no libretto we are given a track-by-track synopsis.

This should all set the scene for a recording par excellence. The singers never miss a note, run, trill, and all have very clear diction. That said, and whilst it does not apply to all of the cast all of the time, too often there appears to be no true involvement. Therefore, I found myself curiously disappointed.

Katia Ricciarelli is in fine voice with some delightful runs and trills and delicious warm low notes. Her Tristan and Isolde storytelling is beautifully phrased. The playlet with Trimarchi Io son ricco e tu sei bella is delightful although her romantic numbers with Carreras do not convince me of her emotional involvement. And whilst Carreras himself is middle note and crystal clear and has the best arias, I do not think that this recording exemplifies his usual smooth mellifluous tone.

Trimarchi has a classic buffo role with all the traditions. When ‘straight’ singing there is a distinct wobble which seems to vanish in patter song and in other character interaction. It was then that he did indeed seem to be the purveyor of potions but even Ecco el magico liquore with Carreras only just comes across as the irresistible duet that it should be. Similarly the duet with Ricciarelli Quanto amore! only just achieves its sparkle.

Leo Nucci as Belcore is not entirely comfortable in his role. He seems in serious voice for a role which I always associate with an almost ‘devil may care’ attitude. Venti scudi with Carreras produces a more lively interchange but it is not riveting.

Susanna Rigacci presents a believable Giannetta. Her scene setting is cogent. Saria possibile, with its ‘gossipy’ interchanges, is totally convincing. She is undoubtedly into the character of Giannetta and it shows.

We do not have the detailed recording schedule but from the general ‘July’ information it seems likely that it was over more than one day; so it seems with the orchestra and chorus who in the first scene miss the light touch that they capture later.

Upon re-reading, these observations seem particularly negative. Certainly that is my opinion as to the spirit of the opera: but if you do not have a recording then this one will not let you down particularly at low to middle budget. However it will not fire you up either.

Robert McKechnie

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