Recordings > Opera and Oratorio

DONIZETTI: Linda di Chamounix

spacer Gutiérrez, Pizzolato, Sikora; Costello, Botelho, Tézier, Corbelli, B. Szabó; Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Elder. Libretto and translation. Opera Rara C43 (3)

LindaCham.CD

A melodramma semiseria in three acts, Linda di Chamounix had its world premiere on May 19, 1842, in Vienna, under Donizetti's baton, to rapturous reviews, andenjoyed sporadic revivals in the nineteenth century. The mixed genre of the work — which has the rural–urban dichotomy and mad scenes of Bellini's La Sonnambula but in some ways presages Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco and Luisa Miller — may have worked against its long-term popularity, but Linda can be quite affecting and contains much fine mature Donizetti. Anyone fond of his better-known operas will find music to enjoy here. This composer never ceased formal experimentation; at the same time, he recycled tunes from his own works, and it should be noted that two Linda duets recall Rossini (Semiramide) and Bellini (I Puritani) unmistakably.

Overall, it's an admirable performance, though Mark Elder, a fine Verdian conductor, tends toward driving his highly capable ROH forces unyieldingly fast here. He enforces almost Gavazzeni-like alacrity through the first concerted number, which recalls Anna Bolena's "Ah, segnata è la mia sorte." The chorus responds valiantly. Covent Garden assembled a highly noteworthy young cast. Cuban-born Eglise Gutiérrez, a spectacular young talent yet to be heard at the Met, has enjoyed triumphs with Opera Orchestra of New York and in Europe. Her Linda, while not representative of her very best form (a few high notes emerge unevenly), shows off her wide range, rich if sometimes intriguingly veiled tone, excellent coloratura and ambitious decoration. Stephen Costello opened this Met season in another Donizetti part, Bolena's Percy; here the tenor sounds very pleasing indeed — warm-timbred, especially in the middle, and with good line and diction. He isn't as distinctive or imaginative musically as Gutiérrez, but Costello turns in a very fine showing as the weak Carlo. 

Ludovic Tézier returned to the Met two seasons ago as Count Almaviva, having survived an ill-considered 2002 debut as Escamillo; last season he excelled as Lucia's Enrico. Currently one of the world's leading baritones for this kind of assignment, Tézier sings Antonio (Linda's father) with distinction; more emotional specificity could be desired, however. Contralto Marianna Pizzolato sounds healthy and emotionally invested in the grateful travesti role of Pierotto. Assured stylist Alessandro Corbelli brings interpretive class and a slightly rusty bass-baritone to the seedy, semi-comic Marchese. To Opera Rara's considerable credit, the three supporting roles feature substantive artists, including Bálint Szabó (a sonorous Prefect who is just a touch bluff on top), rich-timbred mezzo Elizabeth Sikora (Maddalena, Linda's mother) and rising tenor Luciano Botelho (Intendant).

As usual, Opera Rara provides a lavish, informative booklet — assuming the purchaser wishes to know nothing about the set's cast. There are color pictures, but otherwise you'll learn far more about the originators of the roles. spacer

DAVID SHENGOLD

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Current Issue: December 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 6