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Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797 – 1848)
Olivo e Pasquale (1827)
Olivo – Bruno Taddia (baritone)
Pasquale – Filippo Morace (bass)
Isabella – Laura Giordano (soprano)
Camillo – Pietro Adaini (tenor)
Le Bross – Matteo Macchioni (tenor)
Columella – Edoardo Milletti (tenor)
Matilde – Silvia Beltrami (mezzo-soprano)
Diego – Giovanni Romeo (baritone)
Coro Donizetti Opera, Orchestra dell’Accademia Teatro alla Scala/Federico Maria Sardelli
rec. live, Teatro Sociale, Bergamo, Italy, 28 & 30 October 2016
The complete Italian/English libretto is available online
DYNAMIC CDS7758.02 [72:51 + 70:07]

The cover of this set states that this the first modern performance, which I believe is correct – to some extent. On the Operadis website two recordings are listed conducted by Bruno Rigacci, both from 1980, one issued on Nuovo Era, the other on Bongiovanni. There are different casts and locations. On both Camillo is sung by a woman, which means that these are recordings of the original version, premiered on 7 January 1827 at the Teatro Valle, Rome. On the present recording Camillo is sung by a tenor. Donizetti revised the score for a production in Naples at the Teatro Nuovo in September 1827 and the most important difference was that he changed Camillo to tenor. The booklet also defines set this as the Neapolitan version.

In 1827 Donizetti was 30 and well established as opera composer. His first attempt, Il Pigmalione, was finished in 1816 when he was nineteen and it was never performed during his lifetime (not until 1960 in fact). There followed a couple of unfinished works, but in 1818 he had two operas performed within little more than one month. Then followed another fourteen premieres before Olivo e Pasquale. But not until the great success of Anna Bolena three years later, did his teacher Simone Mayr regard him as a genuine composer and address him Maestro. Despite this, there is a lot of music here that is mature Donizetti.

The action takes place in Lisbon, where two brothers run a shop. Olivo is a choleric type while Pasquale is quite the opposite. Olivo has a daughter, Isabella, who is in love with Camillo, a young and poor man. Olivo wants her to marry a rich merchant, Le Bross. Isabella tells Le Bross that she loves another, and instead of telling him the truth she says it is the old man Columella. But then she has second thoughts and reveals who it is. Olivo gets to know that his daughter wants to marry the ‘wrong’ person and is furious. Le Bross then decides to help Isabella to marry her beloved. They threaten to kill themselves at 5 o’clock if Olivo doesn’t give them his blessing. He doesn’t believe them and refuses. At 5 o’clock there are shots fired and Olivo is broken-hearted. He would rather have his daughter married to Camillo than dead. It was however a fake suicide and when the two young lovers come to him alive, Olivo is happy and blesses them.

The story is neither worse nor better than most others from this period and it was obviously a source of inspiration for Donizetti, who lavished some of his finest melodies on this score – together with some that are less than that. There are no secco recitatives but quite extended patches of spoken dialogue and I must admit that a lot of it is delivered with panache and involvement, in particular Bruno Taddia as the choleric Olivo.

In the overture, a quite substantial piece of 7˝ minutes, one can trace Rossini as a model with a lively crescendo, something he utilizes on other occasions as well. The young lovers have several beautiful solos, requiring a lot of florid singing. Camillo’s first act aria (CD 1 tr. 3) is Donizetti in really romantic mood and in the second act there is another highlight, Che pensar? Che far degg’io? (CD 2 tr. 10). Isabella’s Come vuol che freni il pianto (CD 1 tr. 7) is a splendid aria but Donizetti saved the best for the finale, where Isabella has her big scena with cabaletta, harp accompaniment and chorus (CD 2 tr. 17-18). This number is definitely on a level with his best writing during his best period in the 1830s.

The singing is generally very good, and Pietro Adaini’s beautiful and flexible lyric tenor blossoms in the role of Camillo. His florid singing is a pleasure to listen to. Laura Giordano’s bright soprano sits well in Isabella’s technically challenging role, and she has a sweet tone. Both Olivo and Pasquale are more buffo characters, and Bruno Taddia and Filippo Morace are excellent. The former shows a lot of true human feelings when he believes his daughter has killed herself. These are indeed great moments of drama. Matteo Macchioni as Le Bross is splendid, as singer as well as actor, and the long scene with Isabella in act 2 (CD 2 tr. 6-8) is one of the highlights. The quartet near the end of act 1 (CD 2 tr. 1), where the two were joined by Olivo and Pasquale, is another good moment. The remaining characters are well taken and contribute to an admirable performance of an operatic rarity, probably not played in this version since Donizetti’s days.

The recording is good, but as always with live recordings containing stage business, there are a lot of distracting sounds. True Donizetti freaks will probably not bother about such trivialities but non-freaks should give this set a try. Not everything is top-drawer Donizetti, but quite a lot is.

Göran Forsling

Previous review (DVD): Richard Kraus



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