Meyerbeer in Italy
with Bruce Ford, Chris Merritt, Browen Mills, Anne Mason, Yvonne Kenny, Paul Nilon, Diana Montague, Geoffrey Dolton, Maria Bovino, Harry Nicoll, Russell Smythe, Della Jones, Patricia Spence, Linda Kitchen, Ugo Benelli, Ian Platt
Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
David Parry, conductor
Opera Rara, 2002
The German composer Giacomo Meyerbeer had a special consideration for Italy: he visited it for the first time in 1816 and it was in this country that he truly became a composer. This is the reason why he changed his original name, Jakob, with the Italian form with which we know him to this day.
This Opera Rara recording offers a selection from Meyerbeer’s six Italian operas, now largely forgotten, but some of them enjoyed success in the first decades of the 19th century. The Rossinian influence is easy to perceive in almost every opera and actually these are not among Meyerbeer’s best works, but the aria from Semiramide riconosciuta and the terzetto from Margherita d’Anjou are extremely enjoyable.
The major part of the album is reserved to Il crociato in Egitto, the opera which gave Meyerbeer an international fame and which Gioacchino Rossini produced it at the Théâtre Italien in Paris, where he was director (in the performance sang the legendary soprano Giuditta Pasta), but there is also the opportunity to listen to extensive excerpts from the others. Meyerbeer in Italy offers a trio from Romilda e Costanza, Meyerbeer’s first work for Italy and a traditional rescue opera, written in 1817, an aria from Semiramide riconosciuta (1819), a sextet from Emma di Resburgo, the composer’s first success and the first opera where he had the opportunity to portray scenic background (a Scottish background, in this case), a trio from Margherita d’Anjou (1820; the complete opera was recorded by Parry with Annick Massis), Meyerbeer’s first opera to be performed at La Scala in Milan and his first approach to modern French drama.
I have to say that the album is not exceptional, but this is a fault of the music rather than of the performance, and the selection is limited indeed, but it allows to get an idea of every opera. The singers are all of good level and work very well with each other: listen for example to the beautiful duet between Diana Montague and Yvonne Kenny from Il crociato in Egitto and the way in which the voices blend together, or to the amazing trio from Margherita d’Anjou, where Alastair Miles, Geoffrey Dolton and Russell Smythe are engaged in a funny competition (and in some excellent sillabati).
The arias from Semiramide riconosciuta (sung by Kenny) and Il crociato in Egitto (Cara mano dell’amore, Della Jones) are also particularly beautiful, especially the first, thanks to the singer’s melodious voice. I was not completely satisfied by Bruce Ford in the other aria from Crociato (Queste destre l’acciaro di morte), because the tenor was not always irreproachable. David Parry’s conduction is also very good and gives homogeneity to the album.