In Vincenzo Bellini’s last opera, Elvira’s love for Arturo overcomes the power games in Puritan England, staged with darkly dramatic flair by Francisco Negrin as a world of blind dogma. Mariola Cantarero is compelling as the heroine on the verge of insanity in one of the greatest mad scenes in the history of opera. One of the leading lyric tenors today, John Osborn sings Arturo with fearless commitment and some spectacular top notes. In the pit is the bel canto specialist Giuliano Carella.
Enzo Capuano released this mostly instrumental gem on a small label in the mid 1970s. Born in Calabria in 1947, Capuano is a talented guitarist and vocalist who would go on to perform outside the progressive realm for years to come. After this album Enzo would do some acting and have a career in the Chemistry field before returning to singing in the late '80s. Often written off by proggers who got the impression this was a strictly singer-songwriter affair it will surprise many who hear it. It's an interesting progressive album in the form of a long, connected instrumental suite combining some of the Italian folk traditions with a bit different approach than many of the other classic period Italian prog bands. Rather than the manic, wild, anything-goes approach of the day Enzo presents a more measured surface sound that finds its own way of sounding special.
Italian trumpeters Enrico Rava and Paolo Fresu pay tribute to the late Chet Baker – but take it from us, the set's way more than just a simple tribute album! Some of the tunes might be familiar ones from Chet's book, but the performances here are often distdemoinctly un-Baker-like – taken at times, tempos, and tones that really push the envelope – and which make the album more of a nstration of the instrumental strengths of Rava and Fresu than a return to Chet's earlier sound.
In its 88th year, the prestigious Verona Arena Festival honoured the legendary Italian stage director Franco Zeffirelli. Zeffirelli delivered an opulent staging af the fairy-tale story of the Chinese Princess Turandot, who will only marry a prince capable of solving her riddles. The Russian soprano Maria Guleghina proved a brilliant Turandot, whilst tenor Salvatore Licitra’s trump card is his imposingly radiant voice of which he remains in sovereign control even in the role’s muchfeared tessitura. The soprano Tamar Iveri is a beautiful and sensitive Liù. The Orchestra and Chorus of the Verona Arena are conducted by Maestro Giuliano Carella.
Bellini's "Norma" is a classic of the bel canto tradition, combining lavish vocal splendor with a story of great passion and nobility. The title character in "Norma" is a role with emotions ranging from haughty to desperately passionate to vengeful and defiant. Italian soprano Fiorenza Cedolins is one of the most thrilling Normas of the younger operatic generation. Along with a distinguished supporting cast, including Sonia Ganassi as Adalgisa and Vincenzo La Scola as Pollione, this psychologically staged production by Francisco Negrin, conducted by Giuliano Carella, makes the belcanto tradition vivid and exciting.
Maybe you’ve come across this plot before: a damsel-in-distress is saved by a knight in shining armour. This is the standard ‘fairy tale’ we all learned as children. Yet the surprising thing about Adelaide di Borgogna is that the story is true. Oh yes: in an important but rarely remembered piece of Italian history, Otto II, emperor of Germany, came to the rescue of Adelaide, widow of Lotario, king of Italy. And what did Rossini do with this? He covered it, as always, with the most beautiful music, writing arias, duets, quartets and finales to melt your hearts. This is virtually guaranteed to happen when Jennifer Larmore and Majella Cullagh bring their amazing voices together in one of those moments that recording producers pray for. But the joys in this recording are not confined to the contributions of those talented ladies. Bruce Ford, once again the bad guy, is at his virile best with his father, Mirco Palazzi, at one elbow and Rebecca Bottone, as his mother, at the other. This trio of malcontents doesn’t have much chance against Cullagh, who has a formidable aria just before the end of the evening. But Larmore, as Ottone, puts the seal of triumph on the whole evening with a rondo finale of outstanding verve and panache.
Elisabetta regina d’Inghilterra (1815) was the first of the nine Rossini Neapolitan operas written for Teatro San Carlo. The works Rossini composed were hailed (and have been ever since) as some of the most remarkable ever to be composed for the lyric stage. Opera Rara has made a new performing edition from the autograph manuscript and, for the first time, Rossini’s opera has been recorded absolutely complete, with the original orchestration. As Queen Elizabeth, Jennifer Larmore takes command of her country and her audience with a portrayal, which is strong, yet avoids the stereotypical concept of Elizabeth associated with the films of Bette Davis. Larmore, with the splendid vocalism, makes Rossini’s florid vocal writing work for the character. The part of her rival Matilde has Majella Cullagh giving another of her limpid-voiced heroines. Antonino Siragusa makes his mark in the demanding tenor part of Norfolk while Bruce Ford as Leicester adds the ninth and last of the Neapolitan operas to his repertoire.
Mercadante studied under Zingarelli, who also taught Bellini. Although Rossini’s influence is present, especially in the early works, Mercadante admired operas by Meyerbeer, Halevy, and Mozart. The opening of Caritea’s Sinfonia is strongly reminiscent of Mozart’s Don Giovanni , and much of his music reminded me of Donizetti with a hint of Bellini here and there. Eleven years after Caritea , Mercadante endeavored to “reform” opera by varying the forms, eliminating “trivial cabalettas,” crescendos à la Rossini, limiting the number of repeats, and enriching the orchestrations without overwhelming the singers. He also lost interest in ending operas with a splashy showcase for the prima donna. Beginning with his 41st opera Il giuramento (1837), Mercadante put these reforms in place, although his later operas don’t sound all that radically different than many of his earlier ones…