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Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848) Olivo e Pasquale (1827)
Olivo – Bruno Taddia
Pasquale – Filippo Morace
Isabella – Laura Giordano
Camillo – Pietro Adaini
Le Bross – Matteo Macchioni
Columella – Edoardo Milletti
Matilde – Silvia Beltrami
Diego – Giovanni Romeo
Orchestra dell’Accademia Teatro alla Scala, Coro Donizetti Opera/Federico Maria Sardelli
rec. 28-30 October 2016, Teatro Sociale, Bergamo, Italy
DVD Video 16:9, Audio, Stereo DD 5.1
Sung in Italian
Subtitles English, French, German, Italian DYNAMIC 37758 DVD [ 83:45+ 67:11]
Olivo e Pasquale is a welcome rarity, prepared under the auspices of the Donizetti Foundation. A domineering father of Lisbon (Olivo) wants to marry off his daughter (Isabella) to a Spanish merchant she does not love (Le Bross) instead of the apprentice she does (Camillo). In this variant of an old story, the nasty patriarch Olivo is balanced by his easy-going brother, Pasquale. With the connivance of a sympathetic La Bross, the young lovers break Olivo’s resistance by faking a double suicide, and all are reconciled at the final curtain.
There is nothing subtle about the story, and this production embraces its opportunities for mockery. Gestures are broad and colors are bright. The chorus wears bright red suits, except when decked out in sailor costume, pulling a ship. This is a frivolous opera, not a precursor of Lucia di Lammermoor or Roberto Devereaux.
Olivo e Pasquale is quite enjoyable, even if it is no lost masterpiece. It is full of echoes of Rossini plus prefigurations of more famous Donizetti arias and ensembles that the twenty-year old composer had not yet imagined. Donizetti was young, but no novice. Sixteen operas preceded Olivo e Pasquale, and this performance is of a rewrite for Naples of a work composed earlier in 1827 for Rome. The revision abandons the trousers role for Camillo, making him a tenor instead of an alto. It also drops recitative for spoken dialog in Neapolitan dialect.
The orchestra plays well, although it sometimes sounds a little thin, and Federico Maria Sardelli keeps the pace moving smartly, perhaps distracting us from lingering over the opera’s weaker moments. The overture is perky, if routine, but the opening introduction is outstanding, culminating in a boisterous quintet. The opera continues mixing memorable moments with more routine fare. Donizetti was five years away from the polished perfections of L’elisir d’amore, for which this work was surely good practice. There are passages in the Act II duet between La Bross and Isabella which could be taken for a more mature work, with comic misunderstandings and misplaced, but still soaring, passion.
The singing in this production is lively and enjoyable. There are three good tenors – one romantic, one dignified, and one a clown. There are two basses for a double-buffo combination. But the big duet between Olivo and Pasquale in Act II disappoints, partly from being ordinary, and partly because of the Olivo (Bruno Taddia), who needs more bottom to his voice, and has a tendency to bark. As Pasquale, Filippo Morace has more authority and a smoother voice. Both singers make an excellent job at being silly. Laura Giordano puts on a fine show in her acrobatic rondo-finale as Isabella. Silvia Beltrami, singing the conspiratorial maid Matilde, left me wanting to hear more.
Donizetti enthusiasts will find this recording to be a lively and enjoyable performance of a virtually unknown work from the Master’s second tier. These are rare, and should be celebrated and cherished. Novices to bel canto comedy should begin instead with L’elisir d’amore or Don Pasquale.