OP2958. Elvida (Donizetti). Antonello Allemandi Cond.London Phil.; Anne-Marie Gibbons, Annick Massis, Ashley Catling, Bruce Ford, Jennifer Larmore, Pietro Spagnoli, etc. Opera Rara ORC 29. Includes Elaborate 86pp. Libretto-Book. Final Copy! - 792938002927
“On his return to Naples from Palermo, Donizetti’s next commission was for a one-act opera seria for the Teatro San Carlo. The work was to be staged as part of a mixed programme on the birthday, and in the presence, of Queen Maria Clementina. Like many such ‘pièces d’occasion’ it received scant attention and after a further three performances it was forgotten. The plot tells a simple story of a Spanish noblewoman, Elvida (sop), who is captured by a Moorish chieftain, Amur (bass). Elvida resists the attentions of the Chieftain’s son Zeider, a travesty role (mezzo), and is rescued by her fiancé Alfonso (ten). As is noted in various sources and by Jeremy Commons in his usual informative and erudite booklet essay, Donizetti approached the commission with little enthusiasm. However, he had three of the greatest singers of the time at his disposal. One was the tenor Rubini, creator of several roles for Donizetti and Bellini. Donizetti wrote to Mayr that he hoped to impress with Rubini’s cavatina and the quartet. The Rubini role, fiancé Alfonso, is sung here by Opera Rara’s ‘house’ tenor Bruce Ford. In the aria itself ‘Atre nube al sole intorno’ (a black cloud hangs about the sun) he sings with fine open tone managing the decorations and fioritura with aplomb. In the following caballeta Cara imaginin del mio (‘Dear image of my beloved’) his tone is a little squeezed. However, he launches the quartet with fine heady tone and his usual exemplary diction is evident throughout. Donizetti was correct in respect of both the tenor solo and the quartet. Both are fine pieces of writing, particularly the dramatic quartet with concluding high note for the soprano. At the original performance the Flemish soprano Henriette Méric-Lalande, renowned for her supple voice and ability in coloratura, sang the role of Elvida. In this performance Annick Massis’ voice seems to me to have gained in richness and variety of colour without loss of flexibility. There is not a lot of character to be got into the part but she sings with purity, trills well and is comfortable in the coloratura demands. She perhaps needs to pay a little more attention to diction although I recognise that singing so far up the stave poses particular physical problems for sopranos. As the amorous son, Jennifer Larmore’s smooth creamy singing is heard to good effect in her duet with Annick Massis where, at one point, they match note for note. Pietro Spagnoli sings the role of Amur, originally taken by Luigi Lablache. His lightish bass is clear and even, much in the vein of ‘house’ regular Alastair Miles. He sings with commendably even legato and admirable diction to complement his smooth tone. He is a welcome addition to Opera Rara’s singer roster.
Jeremy Commons remarks that this opera might not be Donizetti at his greatest; sometimes, to my ears, the music sounds inappropriately jolly. The vibrant orchestral playing under the baton of Antonello Allemandi, allied to the committed chorus contribution to go with the excellent solo singing, overcome any minor reservations. I shall return to this recording for bel canto indulgence and pleasure. It is a worthy and welcome addition to the availability of Donizetti’s operatic oeuvre on disc. I strongly recommend all lovers of the composer’s music and the bel canto genre to add it to their collections. Opera Rara provide the usual luxury packaging and there is a full libretto with English translation.”
- Robert J. Farr
“Annick Massis has an almost superhuman ability to sing colorature.”
- Robert Thickness, THE TIMES
“Jennifer Larmore is an outstanding American mezzo soprano who parlayed operatic success in Europe into international stardom during the 1990s. Known for excelling in the coloratura roles of Rossini and Handel, she has also moved into the early nineteenth century bel canto repertory, as well as the operas of Mozart and Richard Strauss. Especially since 2000, Larmore has been a very active recitalist, and she has recorded widely for the Harmonia Mundi, Teldec, and Deutsche Grammophon labels.
Larmore studied at the Westminster Choir College, and then privately with John Bullock and Regina Resnik. She made her professional début at Santa Barbara's Music Academy of the West as Rosina in Rossini's THE BARBER OF SEVILLE -- appropriate, considering that Rosina has since become her signature role, one that she has performed more than 500 times. Three years later, a last-minute audition led to a contract at the Nice Opéra. There, her vocal talents, energetic acting, and natural beauty quickly established her as an emerging star, and during the next decade she performed dozens of leading roles with major European houses. In the mid-'90s Larmore returned to the United States, making her Chicago Lyric Opera début in 1993, winning the prestigious Richard Tucker award in 1994, and débuting as Rosina at the Metropolitan Opera in 1995. Since then she has been a regular attraction at the Met, singing everything from Handel's GIULIO CESARE to Humperdinck's HÄNSEL UND GRETEL. With her frequent collaborator Antoine Palloc, she has made several international recital tours, including appearances in Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid, Hong Kong, and London, as well as most major American cities.
Larmore's GIULIO CESARE on Harmonia Mundi (with René Jacobs),’L'étoile’, a collection of French arias, and’Call Me Mister’, a celebration of mezzo soprano ‘pants’ roles, are notable among her recordings. A particularly unique venture has been her satellite radio program ‘Backstage with Jennifer Larmore’, on which she proves herself a witty and insightful interviewer and commentator.”
- Allen Schrott, allmusic.com