This re-release of
material not found in the CD catalogue
is most welcome. Most of these overtures
were released at a time when the Monte-Carlo
Opéra were presenting lesser-known
operatic works in the 1970s. This coupling
with Cimarosa items from Lausanne is
a bonus, though the inclusion of one
aria seems a little out of place on
a disc devoted to overtures.
The booklet does not
give all dates, but as we can see, from
the above list, we have Donizetti
material principally from the early
1840s, a period towards the end of his
life: a time when Donizetti’s output
of operas was prolific. By then he had
his most popular works, L’elisir
d’amore, Lucrezia Borgia and Lucia
di Lammermoor, under his belt and
in the repertoire of the opera houses.
The overture Marino
Faliero is the odd one out datewise
amongst this Donizetti collection since
it stems from an earlier period. The
opera is loosely based on Byron’s tragedy
of 1821. The scoring here presents a
variety of moods, elegantly presented,
and confirms the proficient compositions
this composer was capable of in his
initially written as the tragedy
Poliuto, was first seen in
Paris after being banned by the Italian
censors to play in Naples a couple of
years earlier; this order of events
often plagued productions in Naples.
The adapted book by Scribe tells of
a Roman Poliuto’s secret conversion
to Christianity and how he is condemned
to death as a result. His wife, who
is in love with the Roman Proconsul,
decides to join her husband and die
with him. Its overture contains strong
thematic material blended with stirring
and fascinating rhythmic undercurrents.
Linda di Chamounix
likewise attempts to provide a hybrid
of the Italian semi-seria with the French
opéra comique. The overture must
rank amongst one of Donizetti’s best.
A melodious and warm introduction offers
a romantic opening before much stronger
thematic material takes over. A haunting
and charming theme with French influence
soon provides a link with opéra
comique characteristics. Donizetti shows
his skill in seamlessly interweaving
both stronger and lighter themes. Scimone
provides a spirited reading with all
the necessary sparkle.
Relaxation into a more
casual style of composition is provided
in the opera buffa, Don Pasquale,
with its comic overtones of a highly
tuneful overture. The lightly sprung
reading by Scimone certainly captures
the sparkle and mischief found in the
Maria di Rohan
starts with ominous fanfare and mournful
three minutes viola-led opening section
before gathering momentum to take us
to a heavily scored yet more tuneful
main section: it skillfully reflects
the power of action found in this opera.
The tragedy has a heavy plot where a
secretly married girl falls in love
with a Count, who is challenged to a
duel by her husband. The Count is killed
by her husband and the she is made to
live a life of disgrace for her unfaithfulness.
The opera was written for a Parisian
audience, and though Donizetti attempts
to slant his Italian style to suit the
French, what we hear is an overture
with noticeably German influences.
The Monte-Carlo Orchestra
is on good form here. Those who know
Fulton’s reading of La Muette de
Portici (EMI) with them can appreciate
this orchestra’s brilliant playing of
The Cimarosa overtures
are more lightly scored than those of
Donizetti, yet are equally charming.
Il Matrimonio Segreto
is the most frequently revived of his
comic operas. Its text is taken from
‘The Clandestine Marriage’, a book by
Colman and Garrick. A wealthy citizen
of Bologna attempts to marry off one
of his daughters to an English count.
But the count prefers his other daughter
who, unknown to father and count, is
secretly married to a young lawyer.
An elopement is planned with a tangle
of mistaken identities, yet all ends
happily. One may be forgiven for considering
that this might be a piece from the
pen of Mozart because there are strong
likenesses of style and orchestration.
The piece flows with ease in this fluid
reading by Jordan and good responsiveness
by his orchestra.
Included is Geronimo’s
aria - an unusual item to include with
a disc devoted to overtures. Sung by
Philippe Huttenlocher, the aria buffa
announces that this rich merchant’s
daughter, Elisetta, will become a countess.
He also promises that he will arrange
a noble and no less fitting marriage
to his other daughter, Carolina. Huttenlocher
ideally captures the mood of the piece.
Il Fanatico per
gli Antichi Romani is Cimarosa’s
earliest known opera of which the score
fortunately still survives. This long
overture is divided into three distinct
sections: an Allegro, Andantino grazioso,
Allegro. It is good to have this music
available so that one can study the
output of the composer at his freshest.
The strings are placed forward to good
effect and the speed of the outer movements
gives the work appeal. The Andantino
seems perhaps a little too pedantic.
Included as a filler
for this disc is a piece Mercadante
wrote on themes from Rossini’s Stabat
Mater. This is believed to have
been written to precede performances
of the Rossini work, yet its date is
uncertain. A heavy and powerful opening
portrays imminent dangers before some
of the plaintive melodies are introduced
to carry forward the main body of the
piece. One will be aware of a popular
Rossini theme used for the central section
of the piece.
The booklet contains
brief notes on the composers and less
on the operas for which the overtures
were written. The notes are written
in English, French and German.