Another winning thoroughbred from Opera Rara's stable of Donizetti rarities...
Strange how easily one takes a particular singer for granted, until out of the blue, a recording appears that casts past impressions into another light. This occurred last week when I heard the stylish Spanish tenor José Bros's performance in the latest release from Opera Rara - Donizetti's Maria di Rohan.
This recording of the penultimate work in the astonishingly prolific Italian composer's 70-plus operatic canon stars the creamy-voiced Bulgarian soprano, Krassimira Stoyanova - an exciting new discovery for me - in its title role of Maria, Contessa di Rohan, with Bros singing the romantic lead, Riccardo, Conte di Chalais.
Set in 17th century Paris, the love-triangle plot of this three-act lyric tragedy rivals the most melodramatic in the genre. Suffice it to say the opera's score, written for Vienna in 1843, is one of the composer's finest, compactly constructed, each number as melodically charged as the last, the soprano's entrance scena, ` Cupa fatal mestizia', compelling several encores before one moves on.
With conductor Sir Mark Elder in fine fettle at the helm of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, one of Europe's finest period instrument bands, this scholarly recording follows the original score, but includes, by way of appendices, revisions Donizetti added for a subsequent Paris run of the work.
The last track, `Non sequite la caccia', an extra number for the tenor, has Bros fearlessly pitching his lyric tenor into the vocal stratosphere. Thrilling singing that had me reprising this track repeatedly before revisiting other bel canto recordings of this fine singer (among them Opera Rara's recordings of two other Donizetti operas, Roberto Devereux and Parisina. Also the same composer's Anna Bolena and Lucrezia Borgia, and Bellini's La Sonnamubula, the latter three sets on the Nightingale label starring the indefatigable Edita Gruberova).
British baritone Christopher Purves and mezzo soprano Enkelejda Shkosa head Opera Rara's exceptionally strong supporting cast of Maria di Rohan. This handsomely presented two-disc set is accompanied by Jeremy Commons's exhaustively informative notes, a performance history of the work, and the libretto translated into English. Well worth acquiring.
REVIEW BY WILLIAM CHARLTON-PERKINS, 24 NOVEMBER 2011