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Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
L’elisir d’amore (1832).
Valeria Esposito (soprano) Adina; Aquiles Machado (tenor) Nemorino; Enrico Marrucci (baritone) Belcore; Erwin Schrott (bass) Dulcamara; Roberta Canzian (soprano) Giannetta; Coro Lirico Marchigiano ‘V. Bellini’; Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana/Niels Muus.
Rec. Arena Sferisterio, Macerata, in July 2002. DDD
TDK CD-OPELAMOR [71’07 + 57’47]


This performance of Donizetti’s sparkling L’elisir d’amore was played in front of an audience of 5,000 at the Macerata Opera Festival in 2002. It is also available on a DVD-Video (DV-OPELAMOR), but this appears to be only available in North and South America. The production sounds delightful - a big red box opens to present the entire opera, on which even some of the orchestral musicians take part, apparently. It is to be hoped it will be made available here in the UK before long, because as a purely aural document this falls quite a long way short.

The overture reveals painfully close spotlighting and a general lack of depth to the sound-picture, two traits confirmed immediately by the initial chorus. At least there is plenty of evidence of the ‘live’ element of this performance (plenty of shuffling going on).

Nemorino’s ‘Quanto è bella’, Aquiles Machado’s first solo aria, is fair, marred by some shouting at the very top of his range though. But already there is evidence of a lackadaisical element to the orchestral playing (similarly, the Act I orchestral ‘Marziale’ suffers from lack of close ensemble); and in the ensuing chorus, the singing again lacks life.

Machado’s main representation on disc seems to have been the title role in Albeniz’s opera Henry Clifford (Decca 473 937-2). His is an adequate, but no more, assumption of Nemorino. The famous ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ of Act II here boasts some tender phrases and is fairly affecting, but no more.

Adina, taken by soprano Valeria Esposito, begins well, with an infectious laugh, but one gets the impression that she is forcing her tone and that she is generally stretched. Her low range in particular can be weak. Yet in fairness she can be delightful, too; in her Act I exchange with Nemorino (‘Una parola, o Adina …’) she brings a definite lift to this accompanied recitative. Esposito turns in some lovely ornaments at ‘Chiedi all’aura lusinghiera’ (CD1 Track 9). Here she reveals possible star quality. Esposito seems, if anything, to grow in stature as the performance progresses.

However, unusually, perhaps, it is the Gianetta who leaves lingering memories. Roberta Canzian’s ‘No fate strepito’ (CD2, track 9) is pure delight, light of tone with phrasing carefully considered.

Belcore (Enrico Marrucci) has a rich sound and is capable of good lyricism, with clear words. Erwin Schrott’s Dulcamara needs more authority at times (‘Udite’ff, CD 1, track 11, for example), yet in the end he convinces us that he is actually a Donizettian after all.

Niels Muus brings a real sense of the theatre to the whole. His pacing is carefully tailored to the situations. Try Act II Scene 6 as an example of a real sense of theatre, or indeed the finale of the entire opera. A pity more discipline was not imposed, for there are occasions when ensemble goes awry; specifically chorus and orchestra parting company. Muus’s discography includes a very different work – Langgaard’s Antikrist on Danacord from the Tiroler Landestheater, DACOCD517. He seems to have a good feeling for a wide range of repertoire, therefore. But at the end of the day there are enough caveats to preclude a recommendation for Muus’s Donizetti, even at its budget price. For a modern audio Elisir, perhaps the Gheorghiu-Alagna dream-team is guaranteed to raise more of a smile (Decca 455 691-2, conducted by Evelino Pidò).

I would be intrigued to see whether the DVD-Video of this TDK production would change my opinions, although that comparison would appear to be impossible at the present moment, at least on the U.K. side of The Pond. The staging, from the descriptions, sounds interesting. It was brave of TDK to issue this as audio-only format as here we only have our ears by which to judge.

Colin Clarke


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