COMPOSERS: Gaetano Donizetti
LABELS: Opera Rara
ALBUM TITLE: Donizetti
WORKS: Le Duc d’Albe
PERFORMER: Angela Meade, Michael Spyres, Laurent Naouri, Gianluca Buratto, David Stout, Trystan Llyˆr Griffiths, Robin Tritschler, Dawid Kimberg; Opera Rara Chorus; Hallé Orchestra/Sir Mark Elder
CATALOGUE NO: Opera Rara ORC 54
This is one of the most exciting of Opera Rara’s Donizetti recordings. Begun for Paris in the early 1840s, this work was constantly postponed and the composer more or less finished only two acts – that is, half the projected opera.
These acts show him at the top of his form, writing a drama on a level with Dom Sébastien, which in the event was his last completed opera. It has the usual love-versus-duty plot, with the hero Henri discovering that he is the son of the hated Duke, and in love with Hélène, his gutsy Flemish enemy. In these two acts the music is predominantly martial, but quite remarkably varied. The several magnificent choruses are sung with gusto by the Opera Rara Chorus, and supported by a possessed Hallé Orchestra, Sir Mark Elder eliciting fervent and accurate performances from every last participant.
The opera only has one female character, but Angela Meade makes sure that her singing makes up for that by hurling herself into this heroic role, sounding in fact more at home when she is contemplating making war, not love. Henri is the excellent tenor Michael Spyres, just as exciting and committed. All the cast deserve mention, but so does the elucidatory introduction of Roger Parker, Donizettian-in-chief, and Opera Rara for uniquely continuing to package their products carefully, and above all for providing a text in both French and English, indispensable in opera.