Donizetti Il Borgomastro di Saardam (DVD)
Giorgio Caoduro, Juan Francisco Gatell, Andrea Concetti; Donizetti Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Roberto Rizzi Brignoli; dir. Davide Ferrario (Bergamo, 2017)
Dynamic DVD: 37812; Blu-ray: 57812; CD: CDS7812 101:52 mins (2 discs)
This very-little known opera of Donizetti’s was a comparatively early effort, one of three comedies that he composed in a few months in 1827 when the rage for frothy comedies, of which Rossini was the most distinguished purveyor, was still at its height. It went down well in Naples, but its next production the following year in Milan was not a success, in fact one of those fiascos that Italian audiences tend to prefer to successes. After a few more performances of a modified version, it disappeared completely, as of course did most of Donizetti’s immense output for more than a century, and was revived only in 1973 in Saardam, now known as Zaanstad. The performance on this Blu-ray, DVD and CD – Dynamic clearly has trust in the saleability of the opera – comes from the 2017 Donizetti Festival in Bergamo, and is based on the 1828 Milan version of the score. Admirers of Donizetti should acquire it, for it is unlikely to have a rival in the foreseeable future, and anyway is a good, lively and unfussy production, of a kind that is becoming increasingly rare.
The opera is based on a contemporary French play, which was also set to music by Lortzing, the German composer whose opera Zar und Zimmermann (Tsar and Carpenter) should certainly be revived. It is about the celebrated adventure of the Tsar Peter the Great, who went to work in Holland disguised as a ship-builder. Opportunities for mistaken identity and lovers’ confusions abound and are made the most of. This production doesn’t feature any stars, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable and well acted romp, though I can’t swear that I shall want to see it many more times. I would strongly advise seeing it rather than just listening.