Donizetti: Maria Padilla

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Donizetti
LABELS: Opera Rara
WORKS: Maria Padilla
PERFORMER: Lois McDonall; Delia Jones; Graham Clark; Christian du Plessis; Roderick Earle; Ian Caley; Roderick Kennedy; Joan DaviesGeoffrey Mitchell Choir; London Symphony Orchestra/Alun Francis
The 61st of Donizetti’s 67 operas, the little-known Maria Padilla was first performed at La Scala, Milan, in 1841, six years after the same composer’s masterpiece, Lucia di


Lammermoor. It is therefore no apprentice work, but one of the composer’s most original scores, the disappearance of which from the stage after its first 10 years of life is inexplicable. It did not re-emerge until 1973, when it was performed in concert form by Opera Rara, who made this recording eight years later.

The complexity of the plot — involving a secret royal marriage, an outraged father of the bride, insane after undergoing a whipping, and a distraught heroine – is equalled only by its inanity, but it is redeemed by Donizetti’s music, especially the superb finales to each of its three acts.


Lois McDonall makes a brave assault on the difficulties of the title role, and Christian du Plessis as her haughty spouse, Don Pedro, has a true feeling for Donizettian style. The tenor role of Maria’s father is capably sung by Graham Clark, although his voice does not record well. Alun Francis conducts a full-blooded performance of a work which deserves to be brought back to the stage by some enterprising festival. Wexford, perhaps? Charles Osborne