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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1868)
An Introduction to ... L’Elisir d’Amore

The 'bel canto' era
Rossini and Bellini
The Scottish connection
Johann Simon Mayr
Donizetti's first successes
L'elisir d'amore

Background to L'elisir d'amore
The opening: Adina and Nemorino
Sergeant Belcore
Dr Dulcamara
Act I finale
Act II opening:
Adina and Belcore’s engagement
Nemorino's enlistment and Adina's discovery
'Una furtiva lagrima'
A happy ending
Narrative written by Thomson Smillie and spoken by David Timson
Musical extracts taken from complete Naxos recording (8.660045-46) conducted by Pier Giorgio Morandi
Bargain Price
NAXOS EDUCATIONAL 8.558120 [77.59]


I am uncertain who is the bigger bore, a smoker who has given up or the converted sceptic. I have become so converted to the ‘An Introduction to…’ series from Naxos, that I was more than a little miffed not to get the Verdi ‘Forza’ for review. Verdi’s works constitute the cornerstone of my extensive collection of opera CDs and also of my equally comprehensive, well thumbed and read, library. What I enjoy so much are the nuggets of scholarship that illuminate the ‘Introduction’ section, twenty-seven minutes spread over seven tracks on this disc. I always hear something new, or forgotten, and am also made to jump at some musical illustration of the many that litter the narrative.

Inevitably the ‘Introduction’ on this issue opens with a sizeable sample of the most popular aria in the opera, ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ (Tr. 1), whilst the emergence of opera and its relationship with the renaissance follow (Tr. 2) with Monteverdi and Cavalli being mentioned in the lead up to the great belcantoists Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti. The names of those two composers are drawn into a discussion of ‘movements’. The discussion spreads into art and literature of different periods from the renaissance to the romantic. The narrative returns to the age of bel canto via musical illustrations drawn from Naxos’s recording of Rossini’s ‘Barber of Seville’. This provokes a discussion of Rossini and Bellini (Tr. 3) with interesting musical illustrations of recycling of overtures and arias. An example of the latter made me sit up, being from mezzo to tenor. I ‘knew’ the piece but the parallel had never really hit me before hearing these juxtaposed musical excerpts. There is also mention of Rossini’s serious operas whilst Bellini is eulogized as the personification of the perfect belcantoist. After mention of Verdi, Puccini and verismo, with extracts from the ‘Forza’ overture and ‘Nessun dorma’ we return to Donizetti with mention of the variety and number of his works before focusing on Lucia (Tr. 5) with the sextet from a Naxos ‘Historical’ issue and a modern version of the ‘Mad Scene’ as musical illustration. Tribute is paid to Mayr for his support of Donizetti’s education and his works and his influence on the evolution of the crescendo (Tr. 6) that we often attribute to Rossini who used it so effectively. The introduction concludes with further mention of Donizetti’s extensive oeuvre and ‘opera buffa’, with a sample of Verdi’s Falstaff, before considering the origins of ‘L’elisir’. The remaining fifty minutes of the disc take the listener through the plot of the opera with the many brief, but relevant musical illustrations, coming from Naxos’s own complete recording.

Erudite, informative and entertaining for the opera enthusiast or first timer.

Robert J Farr


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