Notes and Editorial Reviews
The whims of 19th-century prima donnas take a lot of explaining. Early on in Lucia’s career in Italy, Donizetti found that sopranos didn’t like the Act 1 cavatina, ‘Regnava nel silenzio’, and he allowed it to be replaced by another aria and cabaletta, ‘Perchè non ho’, from Rosmonda d’Inghilterra (the opera he had composed for Florence in 1834, the year before the première of Lucia in Naples). It’s a pleasant enough aria, but by losing all the story of Lucy seeing the ghost by the fountain (the subject of ‘Regnava’), the references later in the Mad Scene to this become meaningless. Similarly, as the Rosmonda aria is accompanied by a flute, that spoils the effect of the flute’s entry later in the opera.
was translated into French to become Lucie, for the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris in 1839 (not the theatre of that name we know today, but a quite different venue in the Rue Neuve-Ventadour), this transposed aria was kept, and the opera was shortened. The Lucy-Raimond duet was excised, as was the character of Lucy’s companion, Alisa. It’s all rather strange, and it’s difficult to believe that Donizetti actually wanted these changes, rather that they were forced on him by the managementand its stars. This French Lucie continued to be performed into the 1900s – Lucette Korsoff recorded the replacement aria in 1913 (reissued on IRRC, 8/92).
Lucie – the earlier one, live from the Martina Franca Festival in 1997, has a lot of spirit, but is inevitably overshadowed by this new studio version, recorded after a series of performances at the Lyon Opera in 2002. Natalie Dessay is a Lucy in the tradition of Lily Pons, a light soprano rather than the more dramatic character we have become used to in the performances of Callas and Sutherland. She phrases ‘A toi ma vie’ (‘Alfin son tua’) with real feeling, and takes the lower options at the climax of this and the sextet, which subsequently rather fails to make its usual impact.
Roberto Alagna is a fine Edgard; both the Wolf’s Crag duet – with Ludovic Tézier as Henry – and the tomb scene go well. For dramatic effects Alagna has taken to using a rather ‘throaty’ quality, which was never evident in his earlier recordings. I hope it is for effect, and not the result of singing too many Manricos and Don Josés. Nevertheless, ‘Tombe de mes aieux’ is the high point of the proceedings.
Evelino Pidò directs a mostly restrained reading, with little of the white heat that Schippers brings to it in the recently reissued Westminster set with Sills and Bergonzi (10/02). As for the Rosmonda aria, it is so much more appropriate in its original context, with a middle section as a duet for two sopranos, as can be heard in Renée Fleming’s performance on Opera Rara (6/01). Lucie is such a curiosity, that I’m glad to have heard it, but it makes one admire the original Lucia all the more.
-- Patrick O'Connor, Gramophone [reviewing the original release of this recording, Virgin 45528]
Works on This Recording
Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti
Roberto Alagna (Tenor),
Yves Saelens (Tenor),
Ludovic Tézier (Baritone),
Nicolas Cavallier (Bass),
Marc Laho (Tenor),
Natalie Dessay (Soprano)
Lyon Opera Orchestra,
Lyon Opera Chorus
Written: 1835; Italy
Date of Recording: 01/2002
Venue: Lyon National Opera, Lyon, France
Notes: This is the French version of the opera.
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