Vincenzo Bellini’s third opera, Il pirata, marked an important step in his career. Not only was it the 27 year old’s first score for the brand leader of Italian opera houses, La Scala, Milan, it also represented his first collaboration with Felice Romani, the leading librettist of the day, who was to become his regular artistic partner. Based (via a French translation) on an English play by the Anglo-Irish Gothic writer Charles Maturin, Il pirata describes how Gualtiero (José Bros) is shipwrecked during a storm on the Sicilian coast, where his former love, Imogene, (Carmen Giannattasio) has been forced into an unwilling marriage by Ernesto, the local duke (Ludovic Tézier). Tensions build between the three until Gualtiero kills Ernesto in a duel, causing Imogene to go mad with guilt. David Parry conducts this exceptional example of early romantic opera at its most dramatically potent.
Claudio Abbado’s youthful Beatlecut marks the age of this film‚ still one of the better screen Barbieres if not absolutely the best. JeanPierre Ponnelle based it on his Scala stagings‚ but filmed it‚ as he always preferred‚ in studio and in lipsync – more successfully than most. As a result‚ it looks and sounds very much fresher on DVD than contemporary videotapes.
“Ponnelle's film of his La Scala staging is so imaginative and musically refined that it triumphs over the dubbing. Von Stade is an achingly beautiful Cinderella, Araiza a romantic Prince.” BBC Music Magazine