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CD: Crotchet


Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797–1848)
Lucia di Lammermoor (1835)
Vladimir Stoyanov (baritone) – Lord Enrico Ashton; Mariella Devia (soprano) – Lucia; Giuseppe Sabbatini (tenor) – Sir Edgardo di Ravenswood; Blagoj Nacoski (tenor) – Lord Arturo Buklaw; Carlo Colombara (bass) – Raimondo Bidebent; Damiana Pinti (mezzo) – Alisa; Enrico Cossutta (tenor) – Normanno
Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Lirico di Cagliari/Gérard Korsten
rec. live, Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, Italy, June 2004
Italian libretto and English translation enclosed
DYNAMIC CDS 576/1-2 [65:15 + 71:16]
Experience Classicsonline

Cagliari, the principal city and capital of the island of Sardinia, was founded by the Carthaginians. Until WW2 there was an ancient Teatro Civico, which was destroyed by bombardments in the old town. As long ago as 1967 plans were approved for a modern building to replace the old theatre but it was not until 1993 that it could be inaugurated. Since then Teatro Lirico has become a leading company with bold choices of repertoire and high profile directors, conductors and singers. Among the works that have been staged may be mentioned Dalibor by Bedrich Smetana, Die Feen by Richard Wagner, Die ägyptische Helena by Richard Strauss, Euryanthe by Carl Maria von Weber, A Village Romeo and Juliet by Frederich Delius, Alfonso und Estrella by Franz Schubert, Hans Heiling by Heinrich Marschner, Oedipe by George Enescu, Chérubin by Jules Massenet and Die Vögel by Walter Braunfels. But they also perform standard works and this Lucia di Lammermoor, recorded four years ago, looked promising with four renowned singers in the central roles.
Promising was also my first impression when I started listening. The sound is rich and atmospheric and the orchestra is excellent. Teatro Lirico also sports a fine chorus, Gérard Korsten chooses sensible tempos throughout and there is remarkably little in the way of stage noise. It is also a very complete version of the opera with the Wolf’s Crag scene included. The comprimario singers are alright with Blagoj Nacoski an extremely lyrical Arturo, having a very beautiful voice although encountering some trouble with the top notes. The reliable Carlo Colombara is a dramatic and imposing Raimondo who delivers a splendid cabaletta Al ben de’ tuoi qual vittima (CD 1 tr. 16). He is no Pinza but who is?
The Bulgarian baritone Vladimir Stoyanov is a sturdy Enrico in the opening scene. He soon shows his credentials as a many-faceted singer with a quite impressive voice. His Cruda funesta smania (CD 1 tr. 3) can be compared to that of many illustrious predecessors and the cabaletta is even better with brilliance radiating from the final top note. And it is not only a great voice. He is also a fine vocal actor. Just listen to the ingratiating beginning of the duet with Lucia (CD 1 tr. 12). Throughout he is a pillar of strength.
When it comes to the central couple some reservations unfortunately have to be made. Mariella Devia is described in the notes as ‘one of the finest bel canto singers to be heard in opera houses today’. This may have been true some years ago and she certainly has fine insights in the character of poor Lucia. Her phrasing is all one could wish for. Her coloratura can’t be faulted with a perfect trill and top notes being secure and fairly easily produced. But what was once a steady and beautiful instrument is now – read four years ago – afflicted by an insistent vibrato. This borders on a wobble which quickly becomes tiring to listen to. This is a pity since so much of what she does is so right. I wish she had been allowed to record the role five years earlier. I suppose this issue is made up of takes from several performances since she is quite variable. In the duet with Enrico (CD 1 tr. 12-14) she is even shakier than in the opening of the opera. She does however make amends with a well controlled mad scene (CD 2 tr. 9-11). Suddenly the wobble is gone.
Giuseppe Sabbatini, who has been one of the foremost Italian bel canto tenors for two decades now, has lost some of his lightness and youthful tone. He still has all the hallmarks of a stylist but the voice has hardened and his delivery is more effortful than it once was. I haven’t heard him in the flesh since the early 1990s when he was a splendid Arturo in I Puritani at Covent Garden. Listening to him singing Edgardo’s aria from Lucia on a recital disc from Zyx, recorded in 1994, the deterioration is evident. On the present recording he is just as apt in his shadings and exquisite pianissimo singing but the strain and sometimes a prominent beat mar the reading. The end of the aria proper is however magical and he sings Tu che a Dio beautifully and with deep feeling without lachrymose sobs and hiccups in the Giglian manner.
Let me add at once that my reservations about both these singers are only relative to their heydays. One will have to travel many miles to hear more stylish singing and more exquisite phrasing. For those qualities – plus Vladimir Stoyanov’s ardent Enrico – this set requires to be heard.
For a library version of Lucia di Lammermoor I would still opt for Pritchard’s recording with Sutherland and Cioni or Schippers with Sills and Bergonzi. Serafin’s recording with Callas and Di Stefano is a classic but it is cut and in mono. There are also attractive recordings with Gruberova (her first on EMI with Alfredo Kraus), Caballé, Cheryl Studer and Sutherland’s remake with Pavarotti. The overall vocal excellence is higher on all of these but the present recording is certainly deeply involving.
Göran Forsling


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