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Donizetti - Parisina

(Opera Rara Concert Performance)


Azzo – Dario Solari

Parisina – Carmen Giannattasio

Ugo – José Bros

Ernesto – Nicola Ulivieri

Imelda – Ann Taylor

London Philharmonic Orchestra & Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
/David Parry
Royal Festival Hall 6 December 2008


Opera Rara continues to rescue operas that have fallen on hard times.  Not that Donizetti’s Parisina  is in any way a lost cause: packed with wonderful music it was highly successful at its Florence premiere and still gets the occasional airing, for example at Wexford in 1996 – the “one for the heart” as I remember with fond nostalgia.    


The problem is that Donizetti was so prolific that his works have inevitably been whittled down by custom and practice to a manageable number to be accommodated in current repertoire.  The neglect that Parisina has suffered is both unjust and unfortunate.  The opera falls about half way through Donizetti’s output and it marks a turning point, and a distinct shift away from the convention whereby the more seamy episodes in opera took place off stage and were merely described in a stream of beautiful singing, and towards a “verismo” approach in which the audience could be confronted with violence and its hero's recently murdered corpse.


Of course, in the honey coloured lighting of the Festival Hall, imaginations again needed to be stretched, but this concert hall, above any other in London, has acoustics best suited to grand opera and we had a cast of singers who were determined to convey the full drama.


Apologies were made for Carmen Giannattasio, craving our indulgence as she was suffering from 'vocal fatigue' - understandable after a week of intensive recording sessions and hard on the heels of her tour as Violetta for Scottish Opera.  However, she rose above these problems, giving a fervently dramatic performance with glittering vocal agility, culminating in a dying scream of searing intensity.


Tenor José Bros sang rather solidly as Ugo, the hero of the piece.  The villain, Parisina’s husband Azzo, fared better – Dario Solari quickly warmed up to pour out his richly dark toned baritone.  Bass Nicola Uliviera, Ernesto, was absolutely secure throughout, though there were moments when I would have liked to hear a little more variety of colour.   The Geoffrey Mitchell Choir were in ebullient form.


One of the joys of this opera is the rich orchestral variety, incorporating a number of delightful little descriptive interludes.   In the prelude to the garden scene the tranquil rippling of the River Po is evident, and in the closing scene, the screeching of sinister birds portend the final tragedy.  These episodes and more were brilliantly realised by the LPO under David Parry’s enthusiastic direction.


The recording [Opera Rara ORC40], due for release in September 2009, is a pleasure to be anticipated.


Serena Fenwick