LABELS: Opera Rara
WORKS: Gabriella di Vergy
PERFORMER: Ludmilla Andrew, Christian du Plessis, Maurice Arthur, John Tomlinson, Joan Davies, John WinfieldGeoffrey Mitchell Choir, RPO/Alun Francis
CATALOGUE NO: ORC 3 DDD
This is the first and so far the only recording of Gabriella di Vergy, an early Donizetti opera which remained unstaged during its composer’s lifetime, received its first production in a bowdlerised version in 1869, but had to wait until 1978 (not 1979 as the booklet accompanying the CDs states) for authentic performance and recording by Opera Rara.
Though it may not represent Donizetti at the peak of his powers, Gabriella di Vergy is not unenjoyable, with a score dramatically strong enough to carry its overwrought plot. (The opera ends with Gabriella dying of shock when her husband, Fayel, presents her with an urn containing the heart of her lover, Raoul.)
Donizetti’s writing for the orchestra is confident throughout: terse in the Prelude to Act I and moving in the Act III finale; moreover some of the arias are splendid, especially the tenor’s ‘Io l’amai’, which is almost Verdian in its energy.
There is a vigorous duet for husband and wife to end Act I, a magnificent ensemble finale to Act II and, in Act III, an impressive duet for tenor and baritone. Alun Francis conducts a cast of Opera Rara regulars, with Ludmilla Andrew in good voice as Gabriella, Christian du Plessis stylish as Fayel, and Maurice Arthur an acceptable Raoul. Charles Osborne