Notes and Editorial Reviews
Director Werner Herzog and conductor Riccardo Muti combine with the finest of casts to lavish Rossini’s rarely-performed Neapolitan masterpiece, set in feudal sixteenth century Scotland, with the genius it deserves. June Anderson is an outstanding Elena (the Lady of the Lake) in the 1992 production of the melodrama based on Sir Walter Scott’s poem.
Sung in Italian with English subtitles
Giacomo V, Re di Scozia Rockwell Blake
Douglas d'Angus Giorgio Surjan
Rodrigo di Dhu Chris Merritt
Elena June Anderson
Malcolm Groene Martine Dupuy
Albina Marilena Laurenza
Serano Ernesto Gavazzi
Bertram Ferrero Poggi
Part nine of this mid-price collection, this DVD includes a 24 page booklet with libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola.
Running time: 167 mins
Picture format: 4:3
Sound format: Dolby Stereo
R E V I E W S:
Composed for Naples in 1819, La donna del lago, another of Rossini's serious operas, is based on a poem by Sir Walter Scott, whose appeal to Italian opera composers soon became rampant; the most famous is Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. The mists, the madness, the melodrama of Scott's work well-suited the burgeoning Romantic style of the early 1800s, and within the next five years La donna del lago was presented in opera houses as far-flung as St Petersburg, Paris, Graz, and Barcelona. After 1860 it disappeared until a revival in Florence in 1958; the present video dates from 1992, when La Scala mounted it for the composer's bicentennial. The story of 16th century Scotland and its border wars holds no interest whatsoever, but the opera contains some of Rossini's most luscious--not to mention vocally challenging--music. The writing for the two tenors is particularly florid and difficult, with frequent excursions into the stratosphere.
Musically, this production more than copes with Rossini's hurdles, with Riccardo Muti leading the La Scala forces with precision, snap, and even delicacy in the score's several pastoral moments. June Anderson, as Elena (the eponymous "Lady") is in top form, looking lovely and singing with more warmth than she frequently has and with no problems with the fiorature. Her final rondo, the famous "Tanti affetti", properly brings down the house. Both tenor parts are superbly taken. As Uberto (truly King James in disguise), Rockwell Blake's machine-gun way with fast coloratura remains miraculous, with endless breath and no difficulty with his top Cs and Ds. Chris Merritt is equally fine as Rodrigo, another of Elena's suitors, and the vocally competitive second-act trio (in which they're joined by Elena) is one of the performance's high points. That having been said, neither tenor's voice is very lovely. As Elena's third suitor, Malcolm, mezzo Martine Dupuy does not erase memories of Marilyn Horne, and at any rate, the then-habit of composing a man's role for a woman seems uncomfortable. Giorgio Surjan's handsome bass voice is most welcome as Douglas, Elena's father.
The ugly, gloomy, but elaborately expensive-looking sets by Maurizio Balo (were the Scots cave dwellers in the 16th century?) create atmosphere if not any particular visual delight. Franz Blumauer's costumes are huge and furry (save for Elena's elegant, blue, hooded number), and director Werner Herzog does not elicit anything special from the singers. Picture and sound are excellent, and there are subtitles in English. In all, this set serves Rossini's rich bit of Romanticism well.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com