Ugo, conte di Parigi is widely regarded as Gaetano Donizetti's most obscure opera, having closed after only four performances in 1832. Its first modern revival was not given until a concert performance held in London in 1977, on which occasion it was recorded and issued as the first in Opera Rara's survey of Donizetti's complete operatic output, garnering considerable acclaim. In more recent times the Italian label Dynamic has instituted its own Donizetti series and has now gotten around to Ugo, conte di Parigi. For its recording, Dynamic has utilized a live performance from Teatro Donizetti in Bergamo held in October 2003 and featuring exciting young Romanian soprano Doina Dimitriu.
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.
"From its foreboding prelude to its melodramatic conclusion, 'Parisina' is one tuneful delight after ano- ther….Pendatchanska is a youthful protagonist. She has a warm voice of almost mezzo-soprano coloring….Hers is a major vocal talent…" (American Record Guide)
Caterina Cornaro was written in the extremely productive last period of Donizetti's life (between Don Pasquale and Linda di Chamounix) and was the last of his operas to be premiered in the composer’s lifetime. Like every other work of this period, it is intensely original, in this case being unusually dark in both subject matter and general musical tone. This is the only opera of Donizetti’s later period not to have had a quality modern recording.
Coming in at a tidy three hours and eight minutes, Donizetti’s huge Les Martyrs, composed (or adapted) for Paris in 1840, is here presented in its fullest conceivable form, including ballet and many passages cut right after the first performances. The opera was a reworking of his 1838 Poliuto, composed for the San Carlo in Naples, which had been banned by the king himself, since Christian martyrdom under the Romans was found unpleasant by the censors and the king was devoutly religious.
Revived after 171 years in oblivion, the staging of Rosmonda dInghilterra at Bergamos Teatro Donizetti proved fascinating for the Italian public. From the excellent cast of singers, Jessica Pratt and Eva Mei gave standout performances. The opera revolves around a tale of love and intrigue surrounding the main protagonists- the famous Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, her husband Henry II of England, and the fair Rosamund de Clifford. Rosmonda is the quintessential innocent, unaware that the man she loves is the King of England and that she has unwittingly become a rival to the much-feared Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor, having already had her first marriage annulled for reasons of consanguinity, is unwilling to se her second marriage also fail. Only the faithful page Arturo, secretly in love with Rosmonda, knows that the Queen is aware of her husbands betrayal; but he too is embroiled in this game of deceit hoping that he will end up winning the girl. The emotional and dramatic development is very effective. There is not a page in this score without some example of brilliant writing, a captivating theme, a moving passage. It all goes to prove how deeply original Donizetti was and how much there is still to be discovered about this underappreciated composer.
Although it was Donizetti’s first theatrical success, the original 1822 version of this violent love story was never given a complete performance because the tenor cast in the role of the hero died shortly before the first night. Even so, Donizetti quickly adapted this role for a mezzo-soprano, achieving his first theatrical success. Opera Rara presents the world premiere of the original tenor version. In addition the recording includes six more pieces written for the 1824 revival.