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.
Proserpine was staged at the Théàtre de l’Opéra on the evening of Tuesday 28th March 1803. During the première the enthusiasm of Paisiello’s supporters was drowned out by the demonstrations of disapproval of his opponents. Napoleon, who was in the audience, did not intervene but made a public declaration expressing his appreciation of this tragédie lyrique. Yet the opinion of the First Consul did not achieve the desired effect and the opera ran to only twelve more performances. Examining the opera more closely in a historical context, Paisiello’s Proserpine reveals eighteenth-century characteristics but at the same time looks forward to the nineteenth century, pre-announcing orientations that would be immediately developed by musicians of the following generations. Paisiello, then, created an opera that was quite different from his earlier works and that represents a fundamental moment in his capacity for assimilation (Mozart, Haydn) and creativity in this final difficult period of his career as a composer. The opera offers the listener various motives of interest in the beauty of many of its pages, where the neo-classical poise of the work’s structure manages to combine with sincere, touching inspiration, especially in the more melancholic passages and the pages steeped in tenderness or passionate rage.
Here are two comic operas by Paisiello, taped live in July, 2002 at the Martina Franca Festival. In Le due contesse, when the Countess and her suitor Leandro leave for vacation, and a widower–Cavaliere–comes to the door looking for the Countess, the servants Livietta and Prospero tell the Cavaliere that she, Livietta, is the Countess. Cavaliere begins to court her. Guess what? Yup–the real Countess and Leandro come back and Livietta tells the Cavaliere that she’s allowing her servant, really the Countess, to act like a Countess. Prospero tries to convince the real Countess to pay attention to the Cavaliere (who, by now, is confused), and this makes Leandro jealous. Anger/mirth ensues; a duel is suggested but is averted. The real Countess, in fact, falls for the Cavaliere, and somehow Livietta gets together with Leandro.