Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797 – 1848)
Lucrezia Borgia (1833)
Dimitra Theodossiou (soprano) – Lucrezia Borgia; Roberto De Biaso (tenor) – Gennaro; Enrico Giuseppe Iori (bass) – Don Alfonso; Nidia Palacios (mezzo) – Maffio Orsini; Luigi Albani (tenor) – Rustighello; Giuseppe Di Paola (bass) – Gubetta; Mauro Corna (tenor) – Astolfo; Livio Scarpellini (tenor) – Jeppo Liverotto; Giovanni Manfrin (tenor) – Oloferno Vitellozzo; Orchestra and Chorus of the Bergamo Musica Festival Gaetano Donizetti/Tiziano Severini
rec. live, Teatro Donizetti, Bergamo, Italy, 30 November-2 December 2007
NAXOS 8.660257-58 [55:56 + 76:45]
Lucrezia Borgia was the 31st of Donizetti’s 55 operas and was composed during an enormously prolific period. Between 1830 and 1834 he wrote 21 operas including, besides Lucrezia, Anna Bolena (his breakthrough), L’elisir d’amore, Parisina, Rosmondo d’Inghilterra, Maria Stuarda and Gemma di Vergy. Unlike many of his other works Lucrezia Borgia never vanished completely from the repertoire, even though performances during the first half of the 20th century were few and far between. It was finally re-discovered in the 1960s and the semi-staged production at Carnegie Hall in 1965 not only placed Lucrezia Borgia firmly on the operatic map but also catapulted Montserrat Caballé to stardom. RCA Victor promptly recorded the opera with a stellar cast: Caballé, Shirley Verrett, Alfredo Kraus and Ezio Flagello and with Jonel Perlea at the helm. In the 1970s Decca followed suit with Sutherland, Horne, Aragall and Wixell, conducted by Richard Bonynge.
Musically Lucrezia Borgia is one of the most pleasing of Donizetti’s operas, filled with striking and dramatically attractive numbers and a good performance on records is a nice way of spending an evening, whether one wants to follow the action via the libretto or just wallow in the cornucopia of wonderful melodies. The present issue has the Italian libretto available on the Naxos website but no translation. Like most new opera issues on the label this is taken from live occasions, in this case from Bergamo. The recorded sound is by and large good but there are the obligatory stage noises and a great deal of applause, which can be tiring at repeated listening. The orchestra seems to be a good one and the chorus are highly accomplished. Speeds are sensible in a middle-of-the-road manner: not especially illuminating but neither egocentric nor weird.
The title role is taken by the Greek soprano Dimitra Theodossiou, who has been singing all over the world in a wide repertoire, though primarily 19th century Italian operas. She has a fine sense for nuance but the voice is afflicted by a vibrato that may not be to all tastes. Nidia Palacios in the trouser role as Orsini is expressive with a brilliant upper register while sounding rather dull in the lower reaches. She has also a rather heavy vibrato at times but the drinking song (CD 2 tr. 16) is quite good. Roberto De Biasio as Gennaro has a light, slightly dry lyric tenor voice and he sings and acts with great sensitivity. While he can’t challenge Alfredo Kraus (who can?) his performance is in the same mould and this is praise indeed. Listen to Di pescator ignobile (CD 1 tr. 9 where he is at his best. As Don Alfonso Enrico Giuseppe Iori sings with authority and sensitivity. The many minor roles are acceptable without being memorable.
I have only heard excerpts from the Bonynge recording but have owned the Perlea for quite some time. Vocally that is a tour de force and I won’t pretend that the present cast is anywhere in that league, but they are admirably sensitive and involved – more than the Perlea cast at times – and this should also be lauded. The Perlea recording has recently been reissued at super budget price and was awarded Bargain of the Month status by my colleague Robert J Farr (see review); definitely a first choice for Lucrezia Borgia.
The Italian libretto may be accessed at www.naxos.com/libretti/660257.htm
see also review by Robert J Farr