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
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
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
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.