LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Donizetti
WORKS: La Favorite
PERFORMER: Kate Aldrich, Yijie Shi, Ludovic Tézier, Giovanni Furlanetto, Marie-Bénédicte Souquet, Alain Gabriel, Dongjin Ahn; Choeur du Capitole de Toulouse/Antonello Allemandi; dir. Vincent Boussard
CATALOGUE NO: OA 1166 D (DVD) OABD 7165 D (Blue-ray)
The resurrection of many of Donizetti’s 65 operas during the last 50 years is as extraordinary as Handel’s similar re-emergence. It features comparable efforts in the production of critical editions, performances which would have amazed their composers by their hyper-completeness, and a curious tendency to treat the works with an awed devotion which they were never intended to receive – the respective composers would have been amazed at their survival at all. For those of us who enjoy their works this side of idolatry, the scrupulous concern to ensure that we hear every note can be a mixed blessing. Over three hours of Donizetti, even when he is on form, can seem too much; one can feel that yet another aria of loss or grief makes what one has heard already seem formulaic, as well as what lies ahead.
This Blu-ray and DVD of La favorite elicited those feelings, at the same time as I felt that this late, serious opera, which was usually done in Italian (there is a recording with Pavarotti) but was designed to be a Parisian success, is a fine achievement, finely done. The sets are sparse, the pomp and visual grandeur the Parisians demanded are mercifully absent, and the stress is almost wholly on the central triangle: Léonor de Guzmán, superbly sung and acted by Kate Aldrich, the King Alphonse XI, Ludovic Tézier in commanding and sinister form, and incidentally getting the most applause from the Toulouse audience, and Fernand, the heroic doomed lover, sung with tremendous intensity and warmth by Yijie Shi. They make a thrilling trio, and I wish the men hadn’t been dressed in ruffs and black leather coats, claimed in the notes to add universality, but surely striking any non-brainwashed person as mere incongruity. So strong are the lead performances that I got wholly involved in the action, only to find that it failed to develop interestingly and to justify its length. Michael Tanner