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.
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.
This is Paisiello's one French opera and he adapted to the requirements and traditions of French opera with remarkable success. The result is that the usual French declamatory method of moving the plot forward – rather than using recitativo – is handled with great musical success where often, especially for non-French composers, it can deteriorate into ugly hollering. The orchestra is given a prominent role, not only in the dance sequences, but also more generally in the opera. The orchestration is remarkably rich and veried, with some very distinguished writing for the winds. In addition, the chorus is given a more prominent role than is usual in Paisiello's Italian operas. This is combined with some very lovely and molodic writing for all elements. Indeed, the opera is a listening joy, and it may be better heard this way than in an actual performance, since the libretto is a rather stilted retelling of Greek myth.
The "Comedy for music" Le due contesse, first staged at the Teatro Valle in Rome in the Carnival season of 1776, marks the first encounter of Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816) and the Arcadian Roman poet Giuseppe Petrosellini, who at the time had already made something of a name for himself as a versifier, having provided one or more librettos for such prestigious musicians as Piccinni, Anfossi, Mozart and Guglielmi. In accordance with the usage of the day, which forbad the presence of women on stage, the opera was sung by male performers, castrati that is, and its success was so rapid that from the very first performances it won extraordinary fortune in all the major opera houses in Europe. Moreover, the character of the "Contessina di Belcolore" attracted the attention of no few singers of the time, starting with the famous Anna Morichelli Bosello, who was later to link her name to peerless performances of Paisiello's works.