L’Ange de Nisida
Florian Sempey, Roberto Lorenzi, Konu Kim, Lidia Fridman, Federico Benetti; Donizetti Opera Orchestra & Chorus/Jean-Luc Tingaud; dir. Francesco Micheli (Bergamo, 2019)
Dynamic 37848 & 57847 174 mins (DVD & Blu-ray)
It’s not often that you get to watch a ‘new’ old opera. Hats off, then, to scholar Candida Mantica, who painstakingly reassembled this long-lost Donizetti opera from fragmentary sources during her doctoral research. L’Ange de Nisida was commissioned by a Parisian theatre that subsequently went bankrupt. Unperformable back in Italy – where it couldn’t get past the censors – it was never staged, though Donizetti recycled some of it in La Favorite. Its premiere was a 2018 concert performance at Covent Garden; this DVD documents the first stage performance, in Bergamo in 2019.
Essentially a complicated love-triangle between Ferdinand, King of Naples, his mistress Sylvia Linarès and an exiled soldier, Leone de Casaldi, the opera boasts some attractive arias and choruses. Though the orchestral pacing here is slow at times, the three principals perform with vocal and dramatic commitment. Konu Kim has a light, pure tenor voice expressive of great anguish; baritone Florian Sempey is a commanding Don Fernand; and soprano Lidia Fridman is a haunted ‘angel’, fragile in stature yet powerful in voice. Staged almost in the round (the action taking place in the parterre), the production is simultaneously intimate and distancing. Though the lighting effects are imaginative, the costumes attractive and the renovated Teatro Donizetti spectacular, the lack of a set leaves the audience disorientated in terms of the action.
The opera’s reconstruction is a major achievement, but it needs a more engaging production to really ignite our interest in this story and its characters. One for the Donizetti aficionado for now.