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Bel canto amore mio - Ouvertures d'opéra
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
I Capuleti e i Montecchi (1830) [4:48]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Don Pasquale (1842) [6:25]
Roberto Devereux (1837) [6:50]
Ugo, Conte di Parigi (1832) [8:01]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
Margherita d'Anjou (1820) [6:16]
Saverio MERCADANTE (1795-1870)
Emma d’Antiochia (1834) [7:16]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Tancredi (1813) [5:57]
Il Barbiere di Siviglia (1816) [6:55]
Orchestre national d'Île-de-France/Enrique Mazzola
rec. no dates supplied, Studio of the Orchestre national d'Île-de-France, Paris

Released on the NoMadMusic label this is the first release I have heard from the Orchestre national d'Île-de-France (ONDIF). The album contains eight overtures by five composers from the Bel canto period all premièred within a thirty year period.

Founded in 1974 ONDIF has recently become the partner orchestra of the Philharmonie de Paris. For several years the orchestra flourished under chief conductor Yoel Levi and since 2012 Enrique Mazzola has been principal conductor and music director. Mazzola clearly has a passion for Bel canto operas and has in a number of international opera houses conducted performances of Bellini’s La sonnambula, Donizetti’s L'elisir d'amore and Don Pasquale, and Rossini’s L'italiana in Algeri, La Cenerentola, Il barbiere di Siviglia and Tancredi.

This is Mazzola’s first album with ONDIF and with his Bel canto background it comes as no surprise that he has chosen a programme of Italian opera overtures from Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and Mercadante. I notice that Mazzola has also lately conducted Meyerbeer’s L'Africaine and has included on the release the overture from Meyerbeer’s Margherita d'Anjou one of his ‘Italian Operas’ a product of the same period as the others.

Here the Parisian orchestra presents an enjoyable programme of uplifting scores: a mix of the celebrated and the familiar gems such as Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Don Pasquale contrasted with the rarely heard yet appealing scores, Emma d’Antiochia, Ugo, Conte di Parigi and Margherita d'Anjou. Mazzola assuredly balances humour and elegance with geniality and polish. These are engaging readings yet I was left wanting a touch more exuberance to make the performances sparkle. Compared to the acclaimed recordings of Rossini overtures from LSO/Claudio Abbado on DG, Chicago Symphony/Fritz Reiner on RCA and National Philharmonic Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly on Decca everything feels slightly underpowered by comparison with its full blooded rivals.

Containing rather basic information the booklet notes take the form of a short introduction written by Mazzola plus some general points about Mazzola and ONDIF. My preference is generally for a warm sound quality but here in a cool, dry acoustic the engineering team provide closely recorded sonics with good clarity and balance. Oddly no recording dates are given.

Despite requiring additional vigour and character this is a fine mix of well known and rarely heard Bel canto Italian opera overtures agreeably played.

Michael Cookson