COMPOSERS: Mercadante/Pacini
LABELS: Opera Rara
ALBUM TITLE: Paventa Insano: Arias and Ensembles
WORKS: Arias and Ensembles
PERFORMER: Annick Massis, Laura Polverelli,
Bruce Ford, Majella Cullagh,
Kenneth Tarver, Alan Opie, Roland Wood, Henry Waddington; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir; LPO/David Parry


The title of this collection comes from a trio in Mercadante’s opera Virginia, ‘Fear my anger madman…’. However, newcomers and old friends of Opera Rara’s fishing expeditions into forgotten bel canto have nothing to fear.

Indeed the catch is surprisingly handsome. Filleted highlights, of course, are never whole works but Pacini and Mercadante are revealed as more than just historical footnotes, with flashes of real originality amid the routine music making. The finale from Allan Cameron, Pacini’s Puritans and Royalists saga, neatly illustrates the point: the composer pens a tuneful aria for his heroine and then a deliciously inventive cabaletta that gives a good singer every chance to shine. But he joins the two with a measure of rumpty tumpty musical padding of unsurpassing banality. Nothing that conductor Parry or soprano Annick Massis can do will hide the join.


Elsewhere, committed singing from Bruce Ford, Majella Cullagh, and in particular Alan Opie and Laura Polverelli makes the best possible case for characters that psychologically are thin as a cigarette paper. But that’s not the point. It’s the sudden musical surprise and the quality of the commitment of the singers that turns away any potential anger, maybe madness too! Christopher Cook