16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Up to Opera Rara's usual standards,
This review is from: Donizetti: Caterina Cornaro [Carmen Giannattasio, Colin Lee, Troy Cook] [Opera Rara: ORC48] (Audio CD)
I have liked this opera since I heard a private recording of it years ago. That private recording was hampered by particularly poor sound, so I was delighted when I learned that Opera Rara were recording this work. Indeed, I was sufficiently interested that I purchased the set directly from Opera Rara when they made it available early this summer. They are now encouraging the public to support them financially by putting their recordings on sale directly from them, and then withholding distribution through other venues for three months. Now that the recording is on general sale, I can offer this review. I listened to the recording when I first received and I've just now completed another hearing. It receives my hearty recommendation.
The story is loosely based on history. There was a Venetian noblewoman named Caterina Cornaro who was married to James II Lusignan, who ruled the Crusader Kingdom of Cyprus. That's where the historical similarity begins and ends. The excellent essay by Jeremy Commons gives the rather tortured history of the first performances in Naples and the subsequent revision and revival in Parma.
Dramatically the piece is almost incomprehensible due to changes the Neapolitan censors required before the first performance. (For the curious, 40 years ago, the Donizetti Society issued a reprint of an undated score published by Casa Ricordi. This appears to have missed the changes insisted on by the Neapolitan censors.) Musically, the work is very fine. It's among the last of Donizetti's output so it contains passages that are both lovely and dramatic. I guess to give the piece a maritime flavor, much of the music is in 6/8, 9/8 or 12/8 time. My favorite piece is the lilting duet for Caterina and Gerardo in the Prologue.
The title role is taken by Carmen Gannattasio who frequently appears on the Opera Rara label. As always, her performance is well sung and intelligently acted. Also, as always, I find that the studio miking adds a certain hardness to her voice. On the whole, the most pleasing singing comes from Colin Lee in the part of Gerardo. The voice is clear and sweet, with a nice ring to it. Vuyani Mlinde is very good as the villain, Mocenigo. Troy Cook is more routine than outstanding as the very noble King, Lusignano.
The BBC Singers and BBC Orchestra respond well to the conducting of David Parry. Production qualities are up to the high standard Opera Rara have set for themselves.