Rossini’s ‘La donna del lago’ starring Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Flórez

'Rossini makes immense demands on the singers’ coloratura technique, which are easily met by this remarkable team'

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: Erato
ALBUM TITLE: Rossini
WORKS: La donna del lago
PERFORMER: Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Flórez, Daniela Barcellona, Eduardo Valdes, John Osborn, Olga Makarina, Gregory Schmidt; Metropolitan Opera & Chorus/Michele Mariotti; dir. Paul Curran (New York, 2015)
CATALOGUE NO: Erato DVD: 2564605098; Blu-ray: 2564605099

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This serious opera is an adaptation of Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake, and helped to inspire the continental craze for all things Scottish and Scott’s. In this production from the New York Met, the most conspicuous Scottish feature is the wearing of kilts by many of the performers, often to unfortunate effect. Of the three male characters in love with Elena (the Lady), the successful one is confusingly taken by a mezzo, the superb singer Daniela Barcellona, but in her (his) Scottish uniform she is certainly no match for the stylishly dressed Juan Diego Flórez, one of the two unlucky tenor suitors.

With such a lavish supply of admirers, it isn’t surprising that there is an unusual number of duets, trios etc, and fewer arias than usual, most of them shortish. Even so, Rossini makes immense demands on the singers’ coloratura technique, which are easily met by this remarkable team. Flórez is his usual exuberant self, throwing off top notes casually and deserving his Niagaras of appluase; he remains a primitive actor but that’s hardly the point. Joyce DiDonato as the much sought-after heroine is, as always, in tremendous form, not only master of all the required skills, but a sensitive actor and altogether one of the great operatic stars of the present.

The less important roles are well taken too, and the settings, by Kevin Knight, are far more delightful than the costumes, also by him. This was a Met live relay, so there are the usual inane intermission interviews, fortunately transferred to the end. Lovers of this operatic repertoire could wish for no more. And anyone who doubts that Rossini was capable of powerful, serious drama should see this and find themselves revising their opinion.

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Michael Tanner