ALBUM TITLE: Donizetti: Aristea
PERFORMER: Andrea Lauren Brown, Sara Hershkowitz (sopranos), Caroline Adler (alto), Cornel Frey, Robert Sellier (tenors), Andreas Burkhart (bass); Bavarian State Opera Chorus; Simon Mayr Chorus and Ensemble/Franz Hauk
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573360
You would need to be an unusually advanced Donizetti addict – they do exist – to have heard of this short work, let alone to have heard it. That being the case, it is vexing of Naxos only to produce desultory notes about it, and to send listeners to their computers if they want the cantata’s libretto (though that is provided in Italian only, and with confusing changes of characters’ names) and more information about the derivation of the plot, and even, in any detail, what the plot is. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. It’s one of those mistaken-identity affairs with long-lost children brought up in a shepherd’s hut. Since it lasts very slightly under an hour it’s most enjoyably heard as a series of arias and ensembles. It has a curious structure, beginning with a series of soprano arias, moving onto several male arias, and then, in the second and vastly more enjoyable half, a series of quartets, which are really fun.
Enthusiasm keeps the thing afloat. I found the three sopranos, one a travesti role, virtually indistinguishable from one another, and none of them has a remarkable voice, though they are serviceable. They sound much better singing together, and better still when the tenors and the bass join in. The conductor, Franz Hauk, seems to warm to his task as he goes along. The fully accompanied pieces are separated by string-accompanied recitatives, which carry the plot a bit further. Michael Tanner