Bellini: Il pirata Box set
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Bellini, V.: Il Pirata
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* The third opera by the 27-yearold Sicilian Vincenzo Bellini, Il Pirata marked an important step forward in his career. His first score written for the brand leader of Italian opera houses, La Scala, Milan, it also represented his first collaboration with Felice Romani, the leading librettist of the day.
* After its première in 1827, it soon went on to win acclaim in Vienna, Dresden, Paris, London and New York. Its comparative neglect in our day is inexplicable, but Opera Rara rectifies this situation with this all-star cast. David Parry conducts this exceptional example of early romantic opera at its most dramatically potent.
* The 3 CD set, studio recording, comes with a lavishly illustrated book including a complete libretto with an English translation by Jeremy Commons and comprehensive article and synopsis by Dr Benjamin Walton.
Il pirata is the least known of Bellini's mature operas a work of some charm and beauty, overshadowed by the superior originality of Norma, La sonnambula and Il puritani. The plot, an early romantic tale of love shipwrecked by the tides of life, cries out for a radical modern interpretation in the theatre. Here, at least, we have the music, stylishly conducted by David Parry and uniting a cast that, while not outstanding, maintains an acceptable standard. The chief interest is Giannattasio an exciting artist on stage (as her Covent Garden debut this month La bohème will doubtless confirm) but inclined to squally touches and a hard edge that are exposed in the glare of the recording studio. Perhaps because of that, her Imogene radiates a Violetta-like quality, relying on technique, temperament and Italianità to shape a dramatic portrait. *** --Financial Times, 05/05/12
The complete opera sets studio-recorded by Opera Rara are works of reference: using the latest scholarship to rediscover notoriously corrupted scores, they are lavishly documented at a time when some of the mainstream companies put out opera sets, especially on DVD, with the most perfunctory information about the work. Sumptuously illustrated, Benjamin Walton's 25-page essay brings the history behind Bellini s third opera vividly to life. Il pirata (The Pirate) was Bellini's first commission for La Scala, Milan, and was written for the great Rubini, the tenor who had created the male title role of his earlier Bianca e Gernando (1826), and went on to headline the cast of his final masterpiece, I puritani. Bellini demanded stratospheric notes Es and even an F above top C from this virtuoso, making his roles almost impossible to cast until very recently. The titular pirate, Gualtiero, is in love with Imogene, who, believing him dead, has married his mortal enemy, Ernesto. After recriminations on both sides, Imogene loses her mind her Mad Scene was a Callas speciality and Gualtiero, having killed Ernesto, commits suicide. David Parry keeps the dramatic temperature high, and even if the principals, Carmen Giannattasio (Imogene), José Bros (Gualtiero) and Ludovic Tézier (Ernesto), occasionally force when bel canto is required, they have the histrionic measure of their roles and mostly rise to the music s technical challenges. CD OF THE WEEK --Sunday Times,20/05/12
Another success for Opera Rara --Gramophone,Sept'12
Another success for Opera Rara --Gramophone,Sept'12
Top customer reviews
Although I don't find her voice particularly attractive, I have to do her justice and state that Carmen Giannattiso is outstanding as Imogene. At times her tone becomes a bit astringent for my taste, but the voice is secure and the technique solid. She shows a keen intelligence that shows both an understanding and empathy for the situation this heroine faces. What the voice lacks in beauty is more than made up in the drama she conveys.
Jose Bros offers another finely sung and well acted role in the title part of the pirate, Gualtiero. The high tessitura of the part appears to offer him no challenges. I've come to regard Mr. Bros as a dependable singer whose performances I know I'll enjoy.
I was initially less sure about Ludovic Tezier as Ernesto. I was very disappointed in his portrayal of Giorgio Germont on the recent DVD of "Traviata" from Aix-en-Provence. Here he shows more involvement, both musically and dramatically, in his part. His "aria di sortita" and his contributions to the duets and trio are all very good indeed.
Brindley Sherratt makes the most of the small part of the hermit, Goffredo. The two comprimarios are acceptable, even if Mark Le Brocq's Italian pronunciation is pretty horrible.
Kudos to the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as to the conducting of David Parry. The opening scene of the opera is truly tempestuous and the gentlemen of the chorus give a rollicking rendition of the drinking chorus, "Evviva!"
There are limited other choices of recordings of this opera. The oldest is a live recording featuring Maria Callas towards the end of her career. She gets off to a shaky start, but is quite good for what remains of the opera. The Callas recording can be recommended only to those interested in this important artist. The performing edition is mangled out of shape by the extensive cuts that were required for compensate for the limited capabilities of the other singers. Only Callas is up to the music. A recording with Monteserrat Caballe came out in the early 1970s and it has a great deal to recommend it. Unfortunately, it also has Madame Caballe's husband, Bernarbe Marti, in the title role. Prior to the Opera Rara release, the Caballe recording had top honours. There's also a lesser known recording featuring Lucia Aliberti on the Berlin label. The Berlin recording has many enjoyable moments, particularly the Gualterio of Stuart Neill, but I'd not recommend it other than as a curiosity. Ms. Aliberi's singing is curious, when not just plain bizarre. This Opera Rara set is by far the best of the lot and I give it my hearty recommendation.
However, after listening to other recordings by Rescigno (Callas etc, EMI), Gavazzeni (Caballe etc, EMI), or Rossi (DeCavalieri(McKnight) etc, RAI), one finds out what is missing here: "brio". The most striking example is perhaps the duo Imogene/Ernesto from Act 2: thanks to Rescigno's know-how in the Callas live-recording, Callas and the mediocre Constantino Ego manage to perform a fantastic stretta, although most of Ego's solo parts are omitted. You will not recognize this scene in Parry's recording. Of course Tezier sings the notes that Ego is unable to produce, but otherwise there is no brio at all.
Among the singers, only Jose Bros is really disappointing. In earlier recordings together with Edita Gruberova his voice is still intact; here he is beyond his repertoire, the role requires a more spinto-type tenor with "agilita" (difficult to find, of course), not a tenorino. Apart from this, his former strength, the high tessitura, is spoiled.
Ludovic Tezier is the first baritone who sings all notes written for the difficult role of Ernesto, which requires both the flexibility of a Rossini baritone and the power of a Verdi baritone. The latter quality is not (yet) his strength, at least he cautiously avoids forte where it would be adequate. Somewhat, his interpretation, not his purely vocal performance, remains one-dimensional.
Carmen Giannattasio is a convincing Imogene, she masters all difficulties of this role of the type "soprano d'agilita' ", although her voice has no real beauty. With a better conductor she could have delivered an outstanding performance here.
In summary, with this recording you will learn what Bellini has written, but not find out how good that can sound. For this you need to listen to Rescigno, to Gavazzeni, and not to forget to Rossi, and to have the imagination how they could have performed the missing music.
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