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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



CD REVIEW

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Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
La Figlia del Reggimento (1840, rev. Bassi)
Maria Costanza Nocentini (soprano) - Maria; Georgio Casciarri (tenor) - Tonio; Luciano Miotto (bass) - Sulpizio; Milijana Nikolic (mezzo) - La Marches de Berkenfeld; Eugenio Leggiadri-Gallani (bass) - Ortensio; Arturo Cauli (bass) - A Corporal; Giulia Martella (mezzo) - La Duchessa (The Duchess of Crackentorp); Franco Becconi (tenor) - A Peasant; Alessandro Pento (tenor) - A Notary
Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Marrucino di Chieti/Marzio Conti.
rec. live at Teatro Marrucino, Chieti, Italy, 31 March-5 April 2004
NAXOS 8.660161-62 [65:32 + 36:26] 

Experience Classicsonline


Recently, Donizetti’s La fille du régiment in a telecast from New York’s Met was a source of great joy. Natalie Dessay was the clear star as Maria, her vocal acrobatics only matched by her inexhaustible energy. It is perhaps unfair to pit stars such as Dessay and Flórez against the lesser-known names on the present offering. What Naxos is doing is something very different – offering well-loved operas in live performances that we would not otherwise be able to enjoy. There is no way the chorus and orchestra of the Teatro Marrucino di Chieto can ever compete with their Met counterparts. The recording is rather thin, too, which only serves to accentuate Donizetti’s light scoring and which can present it in less than the best light. Try the orchestral opening to the finale of Act 1, where we are greeted with what amounts to a badly recorded military band with added strings.
 

We have also to consider language. At the Met, it was La fille and was in French; this one is in the revised Italian version by Calisto Bassi, first performed at La Scala in 1840. Initially, it was this Italian version that was the more widely travelled, but the piece does seem, to these ears at least, to be more at home in French. 

If Lucia represents Donizetti at the heights of pathos, Figlia/Fille fizzes as unstoppably as the finest champagne. Dessay understood this, and effectively carried the show in so doing. Maria Costanza Nocentini (whose teachers include Suzanne Danco) has all the requisite equipment … even if her lower reaches are rather obviously stretched by Donizetti’s passages down there. What she lacks is the gritty backbone married with an insatiable joie-de-vivre that Dessay so vividly conveyed. She enjoys the sheer vocal exhilaration of the ‘Rataplan’ less than Dessay. She, however, comes closer to Dessay’s excellent sense of desolation towards the end of Act 1 and this serves to balance the more outgoing side of the character.

The Florentine tenor Giorgio Casciarri is the brave soul that takes on the part of Tonio. Here lies the perilous sequence of top C’s (“Qual destin!” in Italian) that slung fame at Pavarotti at the Met and which were so memorably delivered by Floréz in the Met telecast. Casciarri is no match for either. Strain is evident, although in fairness it must have added to the occasion rather than detracted, but he simply does not have the requisite presence. The orchestra is particularly weak at this point, only matched in weediness by the male choral passages soon afterwards. In fact the choir is a major disappointment in this performance, lacking in body and in tidy ensemble. 

The 11th Regiment’s Sergeant, Sulpizio, is a bass role taken here by Buenos Aires-born bass-baritone Luciano Armando Miotto. His Act 1 scene with Maria goes well enough but his voice is not of sufficient character to carry the part on disc alone. Milijana Nikolic and the wonderfully-named Eugenio Leggiandri-Gallani work well as a team in the second Act, both interacting well with the ongoing chaos, the result being a triumph of ensemble. This shorter second act is more successful than the first overall, in fact. Donizetti is very close to English farce here, it strikes me, and it is clear that fun was had by all. The act is well paced by conductor Marzio Conti. 

As this is a live performance, microphone technique must have been rather limited. For example, at track 7, around 10 seconds in, the tenor is suddenly highlighted in amongst the texture for no good reason. A fortepiano is used for the recitative, I believe, to great effect. Worth having certainly, especially if you want an Italian-language alternative to your Fille, but I would hope no-one holds this as the only Fille/Figlia in their collection.

Colin Clarke

see also Review by Göran Forsling

 


 


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