Notes and Editorial Reviews
This brings to about a half-dozen the number of recordings of this odd work from Rossini's Neapolitan period. Perhaps the first great "Romantic" opera, it may have been a flop at its 1819 premiere, but it soon charmed audiences elsewhere and, strangely, was a great hit in London and New York. It fell out of favor for more than 100 years but has charmed its way back into the repertory, particularly since the type of high-flying, florid tenors for whom it was composed have re-emerged.
The plot may be somewhat of a mess--it comes from a confused poem by Sir Walter Scott and presumes knowledge of Highland clans and features a king in disguise as a hunter--but Rossini's music is his most pastorally lovely, and when
called for, most energetically militant. And for fans of everything that thrills about the bel canto, it can't be beat.
Elena, the "donna" of the title, is sung by Carmen Giannattasio, and the role seems hand-tailored for her. The voice has a rich, smooth middle, which is where most of the part sits, and her high interpolations are always in good taste and without strain. She's fluent in coloratura, the tone is unfailingly attractive, and she paints a lovely portrait of our heroine, with whom everyone in the opera is in love. Tenor Kenneth Tarver as Uberto/King James is simply astonishing, tossing off fiorature and high notes with ease and a bright tone. Gregory Kunde, as the rebellious Rodrigo, is almost as impressive, his grainier tenor also comfortable with the stratospheric high notes and required floridity.
Patricia Bardon, in the trouser role of Malcolm (Elena's true beloved), almost makes you forget Marilyn Horne in the role. Her voice and characterization are rich, her tone firm, and her technique flawless. Bass Robert Gleadow impresses as Elena's father, Douglas, despite a timbre that is a bit light.
Maurizio Benini leads the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Edinburgh Festival Chorus (the latter with much to do in this opera) with a sure hand in both gentle and fierce moments. The recorded-live-in-concert sound is excellent. Despite other fine recordings--one led by Muti, one featuring Horne, one starring Caballé--this one is now the preferred version.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
La donna del lago by Gioachino Rossini
Patricia Bardon (Mezzo Soprano),
Francesca Sassu (Soprano),
Gregory Kunde (Tenor),
Kenneth Tarver (Tenor),
Mark Wilde (Tenor),
Robert Gleadow (Bass Baritone),
Carmen Giannattasio (Soprano)
Scottish Chamber Orchestra,
Edinburgh Festival Chorus
Written: 1819; Italy
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