LABELS: Opera Rara
WORKS: Linda di Chamounix
PERFORMER: Eglise Gutiérrez, Ludovic Tézier, Elizabeth Sikora, Alessandro Corbelli, Stephen Costello, Marianna Pizzolato, Bálint Szabó, Luciano Botelho; Royal Opera House Orchestra & Chorus/Sir Mark Elder
CATALOGUE NO: Opera Rara ORC 43
It seems to be largely a matter of chance which operas of Donizetti survive and which don’t. Linda di Chamounix leads a fringe existence at best, yet it is difficult, listening to this admirable new recording, to see why that should be. Admittedly, among Donizetti’s serious operas Lucia di Lammermoor had unique pathos and a glorious melodic largesse, but Linda is a touching and dramatic piece too. With its pastoral background and story that veers towards disaster but actually ends happily, it belongs to a genre that was quite widely practised at the time – Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie is the best-known example, and that fine opera, as well, is played too rarely.
This new and lavishly presented set, typical of Opera Rara’s high standards, is the product of two concert performances that took place at the Royal Opera House in 2009, thanks largely to the enthusiasm of the conductor, Sir Mark Elder. He infuses the whole performance with conviction, right from the rather impressive overture, which Donizetti was required to write for Vienna, and adapted from a string quartet. Linda’s first aria is usually the only piece that gets recorded, and tests the coloratura powers of the singer to the limit. Eglise Gutiérrez manages with little to spare, but the effect is exhilarating.
Later on she has the inevitable mad scene, not one of Donizetti’s greatest; she recovers her sanity when the man she loves, and who she thinks has betrayed her, sings his love music from Act I. All the singers are up to their roles, and the playing of the orchestra is bold; even the most conventional passages sweep you along. This opera has been recorded before, but not to this standard. It’s hard to imagine this set ever being replaced, or even rivalled. Michael Tanner