Notes and Editorial Reviews
Amaury du Closel, cond; Geneviève Barrial (
); Elisabeth Baudry (
); Georges Gautier (
); Mario Hacquard (
); Sinfonia de Chambord
KARUSSELL 750 (79:05
Italian and French only)
I just love these foreign CDs that get issued with liner notes and texts only in foreign languages. Apparently, Karussell hasn’t gotten the memo that English has replaced French (which, earlier in the 20th century, replace Latin) as the official educated language of the Earth. Or maybe Karussell presses its CDs on another planet. Another anomaly of this recording is that the sound is very much, to my ears, like a radio broadcast of the late 1980s or early 90s, but the back of the CD box insert indicates that it is a studio recording from February 1990.
In any event, this is one of Haydn’s “rescue” operas, the plot being somewhat similar to Mozart’s comic
Abduction from the Seraglio.
Gernando, his wife Costanza (you gotta love these Costanzas!), and her sister Silvia, whose ship is wrecked at sea and manages to make it to an island, are captured by pirates. Thirteen years later (why 13? why not 11, or 14, or even 8?), Costanza is convinced that Gernando has deserted her (apparently, they were separated) and so teaches her sister that all men are unfaithful. But of course, Gernando finally manages to break free (I guess he wasn’t too old when he was captured) and shows up with his friend Enrico. Meeting only Silvia, Gernando thinks Costanza dead and is comforted by Enrico. Silvia, of course, falls madly in love with Enrico and tells Gernando had Costanza is sill alive. The couple finally reunites, quarrel a bit, explain everything, and make up. End of opera.
Musically, it has the kind of weaknesses that keep most of Haydn’s operas off the world’s stages much of the time. Haydn wrote his operas as if he were constructing a symphony or a cantata, and this style just doesn’t sound right. In the overture, for instance, the headlong rush of the music, exhilarating at first, stops dead before a slower,
styled melody comes in, like the interlude of a French overture. Costanza’s opening scene, in which she explains what’s going on, is roughly six minutes of orchestrally accompanied recitative, and all the arias, duets, and trios are so formal and prissy that they lack blood and vigor. Yet if you take it on an entirely different level, as a sort of cantata with multiple voices, it has its charm. And, happily, this performance does its level best to bring this music to life. At one point, I heard a melodic line that sounded for all the world like the opening of the slow movement of the Hofstetter string quartet (“Serenade”) so long attributed to Haydn, and the orchestral introduction to one of the tenor arias bears a striking resemblance to the opening of Mozart’s
Martern aller Arten.
Most of the praise must go, of course, to the conductor, without whom the musical style of the opera would doubtless be inconsistent or at least episodic. Du Closel finds exactly the right tempos, phrasing, and accents for each scene, and his orchestra plays beautifully in appropriate 18th-century style without sounding like a MIDI (I especially liked the sounds of the old horns). Both our sopranos, Barrial and Baudry, have lovely voices and sing with dramatic expression. Tenor Gautier has a light voice but a very well-trained one, able to negotiate turns and runs with ease, and with a pleasant tone, while our baritone (Hacquard) also possesses a light voice but one of great beauty, and he possesses a fine trill.
The biggest drawback to this recording is that the liner notes are only in French and the libretto only in French and Italian, but it has only one real competitor, the Doráti recording with Norma Lerer (Costanza), Linda Zoghby (Silvia), Luigi Alva (Gernando), and Renato Bruson (Enrico). The
praised that older recording, but only for Doráti’s conducting and the singing of the second soprano (Zoghby) and baritone (Bruson). I personally like this one much, much better.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
L'isola disabitata, H 28 no 9 by Franz Joseph Haydn
Geneviève Barrial (Voice),
Elisabeth Baudry (Soprano),
Georges Gautier (Tenor),
Mario Hacquard (Baritone)
Amaury Du Closel
Sinfonietta De Chambord
Written: 1779; Eszterhazá, Hungary
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