Donizetti: Elvida & Francesca di Foix

COMPOSERS: Donizetti
LABELS: Opera Rara
ALBUM TITLE: Donizetti Operas
WORKS: Elvida & Francesca di Foix
PERFORMER: Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, LPO, Antonello Allemandi
CATALOGUE NO: ORC 28 & 29
If you thought Opera Rara might be running out of obscure Donizetti to revive, think again. These two issues present minor scores practically unheard since their very first performances, except in the case of the second, staged in Camden in 1982 by – you’ve guessed it – Opera Rara.

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Elvida (1826) is a short opera seria set in Spain during the medieval period, when the eponymous Spanish noblewoman is held prisoner by a Moorish chieftain until rescued by her lover, Castilian Prince Alfonso. Musically, it begins in a skilful but routine manner, though rises later on to something more interesting as the young Donizetti increasingly engages with the characters and their situations.

Francesca di Foix (1831) postdates Donizetti’s first masterpiece, Anna Bolena (1830). It’s officially cast in the semi-seria genre, though in fact it’s nearer to a sophisticated comedy after the manner of Auber or Rossini’s Le comte Ory. The score is entirely delightful, and the reason for its disappearance is that the composer himself suppressed it having robbed it for his instantly successful L’elisir d’amore. It’s good to have it back.

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The casts of both are similar – pretty well all Opera Rara regulars who know precisely what they’re doing with this music, though soprano Annick Massis sounds a little thin as Elvida. Bruce Ford is his usual elegant self, and Jennifer Larmore demonstrates her bel canto supremacy. Conductor Antonello Allemandi is spirited, and the sound is bright and open on both releases. George Hall