Donizetti: Il diluvio universale

COMPOSERS: Donizetti
LABELS: Opera Rara
ALBUM TITLE: Rare Donizetti
WORKS: Il diluvio universale
PERFORMER: Mirco Palazzi, Simon Bailey, Mark Wilde, Dean Robinson, Irina Lungu; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Giuliano Carella
CATALOGUE NO: ORC31
Donizetti’s 1830 version of the story of Noah and the flood is an authentic rarity – only two 19th-century productions and one in the 20th, followed up by this recording. The work itself is an azione tragico-sacra – an opera on a religious subject suitable for Lent, like Rossini’s Mosè in Egitto. It’s not so consistently inspired, however, as Rossini’s work or those, for that matter, of Donizetti’s own maturity. Incongruously, with hindsight, he borrowed one idea for his 1840 Parisian comedy La fille du régiment, though since he must have considered Diluvio a dead duck by then one can hardly blame him.

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High standards are evident in the casting and execution of the piece, which are impressive throughout. Much of the action is concerned with non-Biblical characters, led by Sela (splendidly sung by Majella Cullagh), married to the paganworshipping Cadmo (the excellent Colin Lee), who is also the object of interest of the scheming Ada (the flamboyant Manuela Custer). Loyal to the Israelite God from first to last is Mirco Palazzi’s Noè, and though he sounds a little young for a 600- year-old patriarch (who wouldn’t?!) he manages some authority. So does the lively Italian conductor Giuliano Carella, who brings out the score’s best points. George Hall