Ugo Conte di Parigi unfortunately, did not repeat the success of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, because the Austrian censorship, which in that period was particularly strict and obtuse, requested a series of important changes that compromised its dramatic essence and, after 1846, the work disappeared altogether from the repertoire. Ugo Conte di Parigi really did not deserve such a fate, for it is - especially from the musical point of view - a work worthy of the best Donizetti, rich in moving melodies and compelling concertati.
Opera Rara chose this most obscure of Donizetti’s operas on the strength of its many beautiful and intricate ensembles. A convoluted plot culminates in the magnificent poison scene, conceived as a vehicle for the talents of the great singing actress Giuditta Pasta. Della Jones, Janet Price, Eiddwen Harrhy and Yvonne Kenny make their recording debuts for the first of Opera Rara’s Donizetti revivals.
…bietet diese neue Aufnahme unter einem jungen, kraftvollen Dirigenten (Plasson), der es versteht, Donizettis dramatisches Feuer zu entfachen. Auch die jungen Sänger engagieren sich mit vollem Einsatz für das vergessene, aber sehr reizvolle Donizetti-Werk. Allen voran die Pendatchanska, die mit glutvollem, temperamentvollem Sopran die Titelpartie gestaltet, überzeugender als Caballé, die als einzige Vorgängerin betrachtet werden kann. Auch Moretti bringt für den Ugo das Timbre, die Technik und die Leidenschaft mit - unerklärlich deswegen die brutale Kürzung seiner Cabaletta im 2.Akt. Technisch unsicherer aber dramatisch kraftvoll De Andrès als Bösewicht Azzo und kultiviert Aliev als Ernesto. Sieht man in das mitgelieferte Libretto hinein, werden kleine Streichungen in der Oper sichtbar, die uns hier jedoch als Ohrenschmaus und geglückte Wiederentdeckung präsentiert wird.
This opera becomes a battle of the divas in its great second act, with Sutherland, as Mary Stuart, pitted against the jealous, paranoid, and vengeful Elizabeth I (Tourangeau). There is an intensely dramatic confrontation in which insults are violently exchanged between the powerful monarch and her imprisoned but still regal rival to the throne. Mary wins the battle of insults, but this is a dangerous victory over one who has the power of life and death. Elizabeth orders Mary's execution and Act III becomes a spectacle of pathos and horror. Sutherland's usual style is more attuned to pathos than to the swapping of insults, but she rises splendidly to the challenges of Act II and she has a splendid supporting cast. (Joe McLellan)
“Sutherland is in her element here - and what a wonderful score it is too…Horne has the odd moment of unsteadiness in the early parts of the opera, but she is impressive in the brilliant Brindisi of the last Act” (The Penguin Guide)
Belisario is, quite simply, one of Donizetti’s finest achievements. Dating from the high watermark of Donizetti’s maturity, with its premiere in 1836 (the year after the debut of Maria Stuarda in Milan and Lucia di Lammermoor in Naples), Belisario proved a triumph on stages throughout the 19th century. Yet, incredibly, it is little known today. The libretto, by Salvadore Cammarano (who collaborated with Donizetti on Lucia di Lammermoor), tells the moving and typically complicated story of the 6th century Byzantine general. Falsely accused by his wife, Antonina, of killing their son, he was blinded and exiled as his punishment. Only the recognition by his daughter, Irene, that her father’s former captive, Alamiro, was her long-lost brother restores Belisario’s reputation; tragically, too late to save his life.
How this opera grows in the affections. And how it strengthens the larger, ever-deepening appreciation not merely of Donizetti's work but of operatic conventions as such. I mean that the frequently derided forms of opera (the set pieces, aria-and-cabaletta and so forth) can increasingly be a source of pleasure and of perceived power in the writing. Here, for instance, part of the exhilaration arises out of the composer's skill in suiting the conventions to his dramatic and musical purposes. Elizabeth's first aria, meditatively hopeful yet anxious, fits the lyric-cantabile form; then the arrival of Talbot and Cecil with their opposing influences provokes the intensified turbulence of irresolution that makes dramatic sense out of the cabaletta. It is so with the duets and ensembles: they look like conventional set-pieces, but established form and specific material have been so well fitted that, with the musical inspiration working strongly (as it is here), you have opera not in its naive stage awaiting development towards freedom from form but, on the contrary, opera at the confident height of a period in its history when it was entirely true to itself.