Donizetti: Parisina

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Donizetti
LABELS: Opera Rara
WORKS: Parisina
PERFORMER: Carmen Giannattasio, José Bros, Dario Solari, Nicola Ulivieri, Ann Taylor; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir; London PO/David Parry
CATALOGUE NO: ORC 40

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Quarrelling Guelphs and Ghibellines again! But fear not – Opera Rara aren’t about to scrape the bottom of the Donizetti barrel. Parisina may have been written in a rush and tumble for Florence in 1833 and the overture borrowed from Ugo, conte di Parigi, but imminent deadlines and the promise of disaster seem to bring out the best in Donizetti.

And this reworked slice of Gothic Byron with Azzo, Duke of Ferrara revenging himself on his adulterous wife Parisina by executing her lover Ugo, who in reality is his own lost son, is full of good things. Thanks to a thoughtful libretto from Felice Romani these are flesh and blood characters.

Donizetti provides Parisina with one of his most plaintive arias in ‘Sogno talor di correre’ and a spectacular send off in Act III with ‘Ora funesta!’. There’s some exquisite orchestra writing – where did this great composer find that endless stream of melody? – and fine work for the chorus, with the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir on tiptop form here.

José Bros is a serviceable Ugo, though somewhat stretched in the upper register. Dario Solari’s Duke would have been more of a villain had the timbre of the voice been darker. As for Carmen Giannattasio’s Parisina, you may not be able to distinguish the words, but the vocal attack is magnificent and the trills and runs and drops through the registers spot on. David Parry keeps everything bubbling along, though sometimes it seems a little too fast.

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You may need to lie down in a darkened room after the Act II finale! Christopher Cook