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Donizetti: Caterina Cornaro / Parry, Lee, Cook, Mlinde, BBC Symphony

Release Date: 09/10/2013 
Label:  Opera Rara   Catalog #: 48   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Loďc FélixSophie BevanGraeme BroadbentCarmen Giannattasio,   ... 
Conductor:  David Parry
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony OrchestraBBC Singers
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

DONIZETTI Caterina Cornaro David Parry, cond; Carmen Giannattasio ( Caterina ); Sophie Bevan ( Matilde ); Colin Lee ( Gerardo ); Troy Cook ( Lusignano ); Graeme Broadbent ( Cornaro ); Vuyani Mlinde ( Mocenigo ); Loic Félix ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Strozzi, Knight ); BBC Singers; BBC SO OPERA RARA 48 (2 CDs: 116:00 Text and Translation)

Thank you, once again, Opera Rara, for the latest contribution to deepening our knowledge of Donizetti’s late work. Caterina Cornaro follows their recent releases of Maria di Rohan ( Fanfare 35:4) and Linda di Chamonix ( Fanfare 35:1). Caterina was composed over a longer period than customary, with other operas coming in between: there were problems with the Neapolitan censors over the libretto, while Franz Lachner’s Catarina Cornaro was scheduled for Vienna at about the same time as an eventual production of Donizetti’s version, so the latter was temporarily put aside. In addition, the same tale forms the basis of Halévy’s Reine de Chypre . Unlike the latter, however, Donizetti was not composing a French grand opera, but was pursuing the concision that works so well in Maria di Rohan . As the timing indicates, less than two hours are necessary from start to finish. Catarina was the last of his operas to be produced during his lifetime, but he was unable to be present at the premiere for last-minute adjustments, which were entrusted to Mercadante. A second production a year later included a revised finale, cutting the prima donna’s final cabaletta and replacing it with a newly written scene for the dying Lusignano (shades of Lucrezia Borgia ). The title role was originally sung by Fanny Goldberg, who was evidently more of a mezzo than a soprano, and it must be admitted that the role lies quite central in the voice, with few excursions above A above the stave.

The story is the usual convoluted tale, with Caterina prevented from marrying Gerardo in Venice for political reasons (Prologue), instead marrying Lusignano, who is King of Cyprus. Gerardo arrives in Cyprus and engages on the king’s side (act I). A battle ensues, Lusignano is wounded, and Caterina has the traditional aria finale, with a short death scene for the king between its two parts (act II). The revised finale omits the cabaletta and replaces it with an extended arioso for the dying king. Strangely, there are no heightened confrontations between Catarina and Lusignano, but the soprano has three duets with Gerardo, the first of which is an echo of the garden scene duet for the lovers in Don Pasquale . Also unusual is the placing of Lusignano’s two arias, first a two-verse cabaletta and later a romanza, in the next scene. Donizetti rises to the challenges, with sophisticated orchestral writing, a clear-cut navigation through traditional approaches with personal solutions to the problems posed. We can easily see how Verdi was influenced in his early operas. Carmen Giannattasio in the title role is more dramatic than in her first appearances on Opera Rara, but I sense a strain from time to time, as she attempts to put more weight on the voice in dramatic utterances. Colin Lee is more than satisfactory, but his voice is truly one size too small. Troy Cook also tends to push what is essentially a lyric voice. Vuyani Mlinde is authoritative as the villain, Mocenigo. David Parry conducts the BBC forces with his customary panache, while once again we are spoiled by Jeremy Commons’ extended introduction.

FANFARE: Joel Kasow
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Works on This Recording

Caterina Cornaro by Gaetano Donizetti
Performer:  Loďc Félix (Tenor), Sophie Bevan (Soprano), Graeme Broadbent (Bass),
Carmen Giannattasio (Soprano), Colin Lee (Tenor), Troy Cook (Baritone),
Vuyani Mlinde (Bass)
Conductor:  David Parry
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra,  BBC Singers
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1844; Italy 

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