LABELS: Opera Rara
ALBUM TITLE: Donizetti: Caterina Cornaro
WORKS: Caterina Cornaro
PERFORMER: Carmen Giannattasio, Colin Lee, Troy Cook, Vuyani Mlinde, Loïc Félix; BBC Symphony Orchestra/David Parry
CATALOGUE NO: ORC48
Caterina Cornaro was the last of Donizetti’s operas to reach the stage in his lifetime. It had little success in Naples in 1844, but did better in Parma the following year, when the composer provided a new tragic ending – included on this recording after the original, more positive one. The second version more convincingly fits a plot about a young Venetian noblewoman torn away from her betrothed to become the wife of Venice’s puppet king in Cyprus; subsequent machinations see the king, Lusignano, attacked by the Venetians and mortally wounded in his successful attempt to defeat them.
Donizetti produces an interesting, often imaginative score, though infelicities in the plot, which was mangled by the Neapolitan censors, arguably deny it the accolade of one of his masterpieces. Following the Parma production nothing was heard of the opera until 1972, when it slowly began to re-emerge from obscurity. Opera Rara’s studio recording shows its genuine qualities. As Caterina, Carmen Giannattasio brings an easy confidence to the rich lyricism of the writing, though a cleaner attack on the text would stamp more personality on the role. American baritone Troy Cook brings focused understanding to that of the king more admired than loved by Caterina, who fully comprehends the complexity of his compromised position. Colin Lee is sweet and graceful as Caterina’s disappointed fiancé, Gerardo, demonstrating a keen sense of style throughout, and Vuyani Mlinde impresses as the ruthless Venetian counsellor, Mocenigo.
David Parry secures a fine overall performance, drawing out the subtle drama of the piece.