- Vincenzo Sarinelli (Voice)
Notes & Reviews:
Lucia di Lammermoor's tragic tale of love, feuds, deception, madness and murder has thrilled audiences since its premiere in 1835. It boasts a fast-moving plot, a strong cast of characters, a brooding Scottish Gothic horror setting and some of Donizetti's most effective and demanding music, making it the most celebrated bel canto opera in the repertoire. On this live recording from the Donizetti Theatre in Bergamo, Desiree Rancatore gives a fresh and thrilling interpretation of the demanding role of the doomed heroine Lucy Ashton, her famous 'mad scene' featuring a glass harmonica, Donizetti's original choice of instrument, rather than the more usual flute, to underline the state of her shattered mind.
MusicWeb International - Robert Hugill
This is the latest in the Naxos sequence of Italian bel canto operas in performances from Italy. They are sung by predominantly Italian young singers. There is something entirely admirable in the way that Naxos is making available these recordings. Unfortunately the vagaries of the current international opera scene mean that real bel canto singers are in short supply. This performance, recorded at the Donizetti Festival in Bergamo, would have been entirely creditable and attractive if heard live. But it does not quite have the qualities which make you want to hear it repeatedly.
First, the plus points. The opera is performed in Roger Parker's critical edition so what we hear is a lot closer to Donizetti's original intentions. We even get a glass harmonica to wonderfully eerie effect in the mad scene. The singers all seem to be native Italian speakers. This is less critical in an opera like Lucia where recitative is kept to a minimum, but it still counts for a great deal. Finally, most are young so that we have young characters played by young singers. All this is relative. Don't forget that Lucia is supposed to be in her late teens.
Anyone picking up this performance on spec would find a pleasant enough performance. If you already have a selection of Lucia recordings (Callas, Sutherland, Caballe and perhaps the one conducted by Mackerras) then this makes an interesting addition, giving you an idea what current performances in Italy are like.
The point of a good Lucia is to make the opera come over as drama. In their different ways Callas, Sutherland and Caballé make you see the piece as drama; the endless roulades are a means to an end. Callas is perhaps the best at making you understand, via the music, that Lucia really is mad. Not every singer can do this; simply being able to sing the notes is something of a triumph.
The removal of late 19th century accretions from the role of Lucia mean that it becomes more accessible to lyric sopranos with a turn for coloratura. Desirée Rancatore definitely has all the notes, even her acuti are beautiful and in tune. She can also sing the fioriture, perhaps without Sutherland's amazing accuracy and Callas's acuity. And there's the rub. Rancatore's Lucia is a pleasant enough girl, who suffers... but not deeply. During the mad scene she doesn't sound as if she's just killed her husband and is about to expire; she is just too balanced. More importantly her singing is too generalised. Each individual note doesn't seem to matter. I have one further problem with Rancatore, something of a bête noire of mine - vibrato. As captured on this disc Rancatore has a significant and continuous vibrato. Though the core of her voice is substantial enough, at times the vibrato is a little too like her trills. Some people might not find this a problem.
As Edgardo, Roberto De Biasio is suitably impassioned and negotiates Edgardo's part with skill. Like Rancatore he has all the notes and his final aria is impressive, but his voice does at times have a tendency to hardness. De Biasio evidently grasps the need to inject passion and expression but he seems to be approaching Donizetti's music more from the verismo direction than is desirable.
I felt that Luca Grassi's Enrico had rather too much of a tendency to bluster. That said, he and De Biasio do manage to stir up quite a storm in the Wolf's Crag scene. Enrico Giuseppe Iori makes an acceptable Raimondo, but he lacks the warm and suave believability which are needed to make this character work. Matteo Barca's Arturo sounds rather small of voice, but that might be the recording which is live from a stage production.
There are the inevitable stage noises, but none of these are overly distracting. To their credit, few excuses need to be made for the ensemble, it is generally admirable.
Conductor Antonino Fogliani keeps things on an even keel and whilst the orchestra and chorus are not La Scala, they do a pretty good job.
The booklet comes with a detailed synopsis and photographs of the Bergamo production, an Italian libretto can be downloaded from the Naxos website.
This set works fine if you know Lucia di Lammermoor. But, even at the inexpensive price, I am wary of recommending it to the newcomer, there is too much of a danger that you will listen to it and wonder what all the fuss is about.
David's Review Corner - David Denton
As improbable as the story of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor may appear to be, Walter Scott's novel is based on true events that took place in Scotland in the 1660's.
It was the ideal vehicle for his brand of highly charged drama, and would call for a mad scene with its highly commercial coloratura soprano aria. It was an immediate success, and the big virtuoso passages for Lucia has placed an onus on opera companies to placate their superstar singers by including it in the repertoire, its popularity in recent times coming from the legendary recording by Maria Callas (Naxos 8.110131 - 32). Here it is performed at the Bergamo Festival in October 2006 by an Italian cast, Lucia coming from the young, but already highly experienced, Desiree Rancatore. As with all 'live' recordings you do have the 'tingle-factor' of the singers acting out their roles, though you also have to wait while voices warm to the task ahead, and we are well into the first act before Rancatore has freed up her top register. From therein it mixes a beauty of tone and a virile excitement as she performs the vocal acrobatics audiences love. On the stage Roberto de Biasio would send the hearts of young females racing, and he has a thrilling voice though he forces up to the top end of his register. He is almost upstaged by the grace and smooth voice of Luca Grassi as Enrico, the character who rather ends up as the villain of the story. Enrico Giuseppe Iori, as Raimondo, is as reliable as ever, and when all of the principals are together in the second act the voices blend perfectly. The Bergamo orchestra, under conductor Antonio Fogliani, goes well past the call of duty, and the chorus is spirited. The engineering comes from Dynamic and picks up little stage noise, while the balance between voices and orchestra could hardly be better in the studio. You can access the libretto on the Naxos website, but it is without translations.
ClassicsToday.com - Robert Levine
This performance, recorded live in Bergamo in October, 2006, is an old-fashioned Lucia, the sort that is clearly pre-Callas, although most cuts are opened: the Lucia/Raimondo scene in Act 1; the wonderful tenor/baritone knockdown at the start of Act 3; and the three minutes of confrontation between the first and second parts of the Mad Scene. If my ears are telling me the truth, I also think I hear a glass harmonica at the start of the Mad Scene [It is, as Donizetti originally intended - Ed] - always a nice touch. But otherwise, the attitude, style, and emphasis are on pretty singing and high notes.
Désirée Rancatore is a light coloratura soprano with a prominent vibrato that adds a certain urgency to her recitatives and exclamations...Her high notes - Cs, Ds, and E-flat - are reliable and right-on, her coloratura is clean...Roberto De Biasio sings Edgardo with passion, an appealing timbre...Enrico Giuseppe Iori as Raimondo makes the best impression; his basso cantante is smooth and expressive.
MusicWeb International - Göran Forsling
Today we have got so used to the drawbacks with live recordings that we hardly raise an eye-brow when there are stage-noises or other extra-musical inclusions. Applause can be irritating at repeated listening, but it is understandable that they aren't edited out since this would involve a lot of extra work, not least re-record certain passages in a silent hall. Opera visitor seem very reluctant to save their applause until an aria or act is finished. Now, this is not a greater problem with the present production than with a number of similar issues and generally it is quite possible to enjoy this performance without too much irritation. The balance between pit and stage is quite good, better in fact than in several other sets in Naxos' ever-growing series of recordings from Italian opera houses or festivals.
The chorus and orchestra may not be in the class of the big opera houses' forces but they aren't bad either and Antonio Fogliani leads a generally well-paced performance that includes also the Wolf Crag scene. Moreover there is a special frisson to have a glass-harmonica in the Mad Scene instead of the flute we normally hear. The glass-harmonica was Donizetti's original idea but good players were obviously sparse. To my knowledge there has been only one previous recording of the opera with glass-harmonica and that was the Thomas Schippers set with Beverly Sills and Carlo Bergonzi, set down almost 40 years ago.
So far so good then, but before you place your order for this set, dear reader, I would recommend you to continue reading a little while. Now I come to the most vital point: the singing.
Good singing is vital for any opera recording, especially when we don't see the singers and can savour their stage presence and vivid acting. Lord Enrico Ashton is the first of the central characters we meet. We have browsed the synopsis and we know that he is an evil person. When he opens his mouth we also hear that he is. Luca Grassi, who sings the role, has a powerful and coarse voice, his tone is rather guttural and he rarely bothers to find any softer nuances than forte. Cruda funeste smania is a wonderful opening aria for a good baritone but however evil the character is it has to be song with beautiful tone, with some kind of elegance and style. After all this is a bel canto opera and bel canto means 'beautiful singing'. Here the beauty is missing and the style is of the kind possibly acceptable in a verismo opera. No points for Enrico.
In the next scene Lucia, his sister, appears and expectations are high: Désirée Rancatore we read in the cast list and she is a well-known name in this kind of repertoire. Perhaps we should say 'was' - she is a wobbler. We know that different persons react differently to vibrato and through the years we have become hardened - but this is a bit too much. After her first big aria we notice a couple of positive features, however: she has impressive top notes, the voice in itself is beautiful and she knows what she is doing. She gives a three-dimensional portrait of Lucia.
Then the third part in the central drama, Sir Edgardo di Ravenswood, makes his entrance. When he starts singing we suddenly pay attention. Here is a lyric tenor, perhaps a size too small for the role - he has to force to balance his singing partners - but it is a rather flexible instrument and he has done his homework and learnt the difference between f and p. In other words, he phrases sensitively and the somewhat whitish tone makes us think of Alfredo Kraus. Not that he is quite in that class but that we venture to mention Kraus at all is positive enough. Roberto De Biasio says the cast list, and the name rings a bell: he was the tenor on two other recent Naxos operas: Maria Stuarda and Lucrezia Borgia. On both he made a very good impression. Nice to hear him again. Let's hope he is on good form in the final scene, which is the tenor's big moment.
But before that we have to evaluate Raimondo Bidibent, the chaplain. We have heard a few phrases from him already but it wasn't enough to decide whether he is good or bad. As a character he is in fact both, but one wants to regard him as a basically noble person and when we reach the end of CD 1 and the scene where he convinces her that she should obey her brother and marry Arturo, we can conclude that he isn't so bad after all. He is no Pinza and he isn't a Ghiaurov or Ramey, to name two basses from more recent times, but he is what an Italian would call 'passable'.
The mad scene confirms the impression that Rancatore is an expressive singer but that the vibrato is annoying and her coloratura technique isn't as fluent as Sutherland's or Sills' - but it is 'passable'.
We have also found that Alisa is squally and that neither of the two comprimario tenors is worth writing home about. The third tenor, however, confirms in the last scene that he indeed is something to write home about. Here he sings with glow and commitment and suddenly his voice even sounds that size bigger than we had thought in the beginning. He sings the moving Tu che a Dio spiegasti l'ali, which always has a special effect on the lachrymal ducts, with all the emotions laid bare. This is the finest moment in this performance and the best, perhaps only, reason to add this set to the collection. It is cheap but it is worth paying a couple of euros or pounds more to get Sutherland, Sills, Gruberova, Studer or Rost instead.
Recording information: Teatro Donizetti di Bergamo, Italy (10/14/2006/10/16/2006).
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Works DetailsDonizetti, Gaetano : Lucia di Lammermoor
- Performer: Vincenzo Sarinelli (Voice)
- Conductor: Antonino Fogliani
- Notes: Teatro Donizetti di Bergamo, Italy (10/14/2006/10/16/2006)
- Running Time: 100 min. 38 sec.
- Period Time: Romantic
- Form: Opera/Operetta
- Written: 1835