Pacini: Alessandro nell’indie

LABELS: Opera Rara
WORKS: Alessandro nell’indie
PERFORMER: Bruce Ford, Jennifer Larmore, Laura Claycomb, Dean Robinson, Mark Wilde; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir; London PO/David Parry
CATALOGUE NO: Opera Rara ORC 35 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Giovanni Pacini (1796-1867) enjoyed a long career of over half a century during a glorious period in the history of Italian opera. Indeed, he was a rival of (in turn) Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini and Verdi. He composed around 80 operas and wrote other music prolifically. His achievements were as notable as his affairs were colourful – one of his lovers was none other than Napoleon’s sister. All of this makes him worth investigating, and Opera Rara’s world premiere recording of Alessandro nell’Indie is the latest from a company that has long championed the composer. Some of its previous exhumations have shown Pacini to be competent rather than inspired, and though Alessandro contains its fair share of unmemorable tunes it also has some arresting moments. Clearly, Pacini was rising to the occasion of his first opera for Naples (1824). An unresolved chord imposingly cuts through the air at the opening, and some of what follows is almost proto-Verdian, if without being as dramatically sustained as Verdi might have achieved; and the orchestration is more exciting than you might expect. The plot is simple, with just three main characters. Alessandro (‘the Great’, no less) is resisted in his Asian campaigns by an Indian king, Poro. Both mean love Cleofide, a queen from another part of India, and in the end the militarily victorious Alessandro magnanimously cedes her to his rival. Bruce Ford (as Alessandro), Jennifer Larmore (Poro) and Laura Claycomb (Cleofide) bring their roles to vivid life, and David Parry is a persuasive conductor.