Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) wanted to move the audience of his operas to tears. And this is exactly what Beatrice di Tenda manages to do: it has great music and the story really touches the heart. In this production by Daniel Schmid, one can experience the stunning singers Edita Gruberova and Michael Volle in the main roles – with Marcello Viotti conducting the Orchestra of the Zurich Opera House. In Beatrice di Tenda, Bellini departs from the belcanto style, which he used in Norma, and explores a new way of musical expression, which brought to the fore a new warmth and different characteristics. The story is based on true events from the 15th century. It focuses on the impressive Beatrice di Tenda, who is wrongly accused by her husband to be unfaithful and is ultimately beheaded. The premiere of the opera was given at the Teatro la Fenice in Venice on 16 March 1873. Although Beatrice di Tenda is not Bellini’s most successful opera, the title role is a popular showpiece among sopranos. In this production, Beatrice is brilliantly interpreted by the “Queen of Belcanto”, Edita Gruberova.
Bellini’s penultimate opera – written for La Fenice, Venice, in 1833 – has never enjoyed the popularity of such works as La sonnambula, Norma and I puritani. Listening to this vintage Joan Sutherland recording dating from 1966, it is hard to fathom why. The story is strong and stirring – a sort of cross between Maria Stuarda and La Gioconda – and offers fine roles for the wronged titular heroine, her villainous husband Filippo, her platonic admirer Orombello and his would-be mistress, Agnese del Maino (a Princess Eboli avant la lettre). How odd that Sutherland never managed to persuade Covent Garden to mount it for her, especially with this glorious cast. The Decca set is historic because it offered the legendary Sutherland/Pavarotti collaboration for the first time on disc. Luciano is wonderfully stylish here, elegant and ringing: Nureyev, vocally-speaking, to Sutherland’s Fonteyn. La Stupenda was going through one of her ‘moony’, muddy-diction phases, but the vocalism is quite dazzling. It’s a joy to encounter Josephine Veasey in her only commercially recorded Italian role: velvet-toned, shining, she is Sutherland’s most lustrous mezzo rival in any bel canto recording. (BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE)
A wonderfully confident beginning in Florence with Vrooom coming out a tad slower but without losing any energy. The benefits of this approach include Tony Levin’s upright bowed bass on the coda having the same space to chug up to the front of the sound. Frame is taken at a calmer pace so that the English guitarist in the group doesn’t have fingertips ablaze as a result of the double time phase shifts both during and at the end of the song.
Almost from the get-go, Beatrice di Tenda was a black sheep among Bellini's operas. Prominent among the early nay-sayers was the work's illustrious librettist, Felice Romani, who, playing a blame game with the composer over its unhappy reception, pronounced the new opera a "bestialità"and provoked a rift that never healed. Bellini himself stubbornly deemed Beatrice "not unworthy of her sisters" I Capuleti e i Montecchi and Norma. Over the ensuing 180 years, the public hasn't quite concurred, and it remains by far the least performed of his fully mature operas… Patrick Dillon
All of these are live recordings so the sound is quite variable. The standard square box contains separate soft plastic sleeves in which the cds are inserted. The advantage is that the cds are well protected (minor risk for scrapes compared to cardboard), but there is no information printed on the sleeve since it is made of plastic. There is some basic information printed on each cd (name, composer, cd #, the act/s and the date of the recording). There is also a small 24pg booklet that introduces the box including some photos as well as content description for each disc (opera, singers, time and location as well as a list of the separate tracks). I have been collecting these boxes for a while and always find it worthwhile as there are gems nicely interspersed in these collections. By Moonfish