Notes and Editorial Reviews
Here are 79 minutes of what likely is a three-hour opera by Meyerbeer, first produced at La Scala in 1822, staged in Florence four years later, and then not heard again. Opera Rara presents the entire libretto and translation (as well as its usual helpful, informative background material) so that we can follow the plot's intricacies if we wish, with the recorded excerpts in blue. Essentially, the main characters are Almanzor (mezzo-soprano), king of Granada, Azema (soprano), the woman he loves, and Sulemano (bass), Azema's father and the former, exiled king. Alamar (tenor) is leader of Almanzor's family, the Zegris (Ali, another bass, is a Zegri officer), but he opposes the king's tolerance toward others. Sulemano is in Granada, disguised,
and he tries to kill Almanzor; he is pardoned when Azema pleads for mercy, and all ends happily.
The opera is filled many great scenas and ensembles, and that is mostly what we get on this CD. The curtain rises on a grand scene, complete with solos, chorus, stage band, rich orchestration, and vocal fireworks, and the scenes we hear here follow suit. Azema's offstage entrance is lovely (though a bit too offstage--we can barely hear her); a duet for Sulemano and Almanzor is exciting; and in general the music is top-drawer Meyerbeerian bel canto, which is to say, all the stops are pulled out, singers seem to be out-embellishing one-another for our benefit, and there's a general sense of grandeur.
The performances are excellent. Almanzor is sung by Manuela Custer, a fine mezzo without a break in her smoothly produced voice; her ease with coloratura is impressive. Equally so is bass Mirco Palazzi, who matches her phrase-for phrase and has a hearty, round tone. Soprano Laura Claycomb is bright-toned (up to a solid E-natural) and energetic, singing gently when called for and with outrage when offended--and her trill is lovely. Paul Austin Kelly's Alamar, with only an aria in the opening scene, is excellent. Giuliano Carella leads orchestra, chorus, and soloists as if this were a masterpiece, and a good time is had by all. Recommended.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
L'esule di Granata: Excerpt(s) by Giacomo Meyerbeer
Laura Claycomb (Soprano),
Manuela Custer (Mezzo Soprano),
Ashley Catling (Tenor),
Paul Austin Kelly (Tenor),
Mirco Palazzi (Bass),
Brindley Sherratt (Bass)
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,
Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
Written: 1821; Italy
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