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Bonynge: Donizetti – Anna Bolena (3 CD, APE)

Bonynge: Donizetti - Anna Bolena (3 CD, APE)
Bonynge: Donizetti - Anna Bolena (3 CD, APE)

Audio CD
Number of Discs: 3
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Decca
Size: 733 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Anna Bolena, opera
Composed by Gaetano Donizetti
Performed by Welsh National Opera Orchestra
with Susanne Mentzer, Bernadette Manca di Nissa, Ernesto Gavazzi, Joan Sutherland, Giorgio Surian, Samuel Ramey, Jerry Hadley
Conducted by John Fisher, Richard Bonynge

Disc: 1
01. Overture
02. Act One: Scene 1: Ne venne il Re?
03. Act One: Scene 1: Ella di me, sollecita
04. Act One: Scene 1: Si taciturna e mesta
05. Act One: Scene 1: Deh! non voler costringere
06. Act One: Scene 1: Come, innocente giovane
07. Act One: Scene 1: Non v’ha sguardo cui sia dato
08. Act One: Scene 1: Oh! qual parlar fu il suo!
09. Act One: Scene 1: Tutta in voi la luce mia
10. Act One: Scene 1: Ah! qual sia cercar non oso
11. Act One: Scene 2: Chi veggo?
12. Act One: Scene 2: Da quel di che, lei perduta
13. Act One: Scene 2: Ah! cosi nei di ridenti
14. Act One: Scene 2: Desta so tosto
15. Act One: Scene 2: Io sentii sulla mia mano
16. Act One: Scene 2: Or che reso ai patrii lidi
17. Act One: Scene 2: Questo di per noi spuntato

Disc: 2
01. Act One: Scene 3: E’ sgombro il loco
02. Act One: Scene 3: Ah! parea che per incanto
03. Act One: Scene 3: Taci, taci, tropp’oltre vai
04. Act One: Scene 3: S’ei t’abborre, io t’amo ancora
05. Act One: Scene 3: Ah! per pieta del mio spavento
06. Act One: Scene 3: Alcun potria ascoltarti
07. Act One: Scene 3: Tace ognuno
08. Act One: Scene 3: In separato carcere
09. Act Two: Scene 1: Oh! dove mai ne andarono
10. Act Two: Scene 1: Dio, che mim vedi in core
11. Act Two: Scene 1: Al par del mio
12. Act Two: Scene 1: Va, infelice

Disc: 3
01. Act Two: Scene 2: Ebben? Dinanzi ai giudici
02. Act Two: Scene 2: Scostatevi…il Re giunge
03. Act Two: Scene 2: Ambo morrete, o perfidi
04. Act Two: Scene 2: Al Consiglio sien tratti
05. Act Two: Scene 2: Sposa a Percy
06. Act Two: Scene 2: Per questa fiamma indomita
07. Act Two: Scene 2: Stolta! Non sai…
08. Act Two: Scene 2: Ah! pensate che rivolti
09. Act Two: Scene 3: Tu pur dannato a morte
10. Act Two: Scene 3: Vivi tu, te ne scongiuro
11. Act Two: Scene 3: Nel veder la tua costanza
12. Act Two: Scene 3: Chi puo vederla a ciglio asciutto
13. Act Two: Scene 3: Piangete voi?
14. Act Two: Scene 3: Al dolce guidami
15. Act Two: Scene 3: Qual mesto suon?
16. Act Two: Scene 3: Cielo, a’ miei lunghi spasimi
17. Act Two: Scene 3: Coppia iniqua, l’estrema vendetta

Anna Bolena: the twilight of Sutherland’s career

Before taking apart this opera, as convention proves I must, I have to say first that I always find it incredible that opera listeners are so willing to lash out at the performance of singers, especially when most of us are quite unable to produce anything close to what operatic singers do. Certainly there have been performers who are simply not good singers, but history has proven that, despite her flaws, Joan Sutherland was one of the most gifted singers of the recorded era; her coloratura is unlike anything on record, and while her diction suffered during part of her career, the latter difficulty was attended to. Also, one must consider the selection of Anna Bolenas out there. Of note, there is Callas’ live recording from 1957, Sills’ studio recording that became part of the noted Tudor Queens trilogy, and then there is this recording from Sutherland in 1988. Obviously, there are other recordings out there, but none have attained the fame that these three have come to posses throughout the decades since they were recorded. Anna Bolena is not a role suited for many singers; I’m not sure there is a modern soprano who could pull it off at this point. (Perhaps Gruberova twenty years ago, or possibly June Anderson.) Regardless, this recording of Anna Bolena is fantastic simply because Dame Joan, already in her 60’s, was able to produce a work of great control and beauty; furthermore her supporting cast is quite stellar.

Susanne Mentzer is a wonderfully beautiful and lyric Giovanna Seymour. She has certain dark qualities that remind me a little of Giuletta Simionato or Marylin Horne, and yet she has a light and youthful tone that combines well with Sutherland’s more matronly sound. Perhaps this isn’t a historically correct idea, but this opera isn’t historically correct to begin with, and therefore Sutherland’s aged sound is quite appropriate. The Percy of Jerry Hadley is quite extraordinary, and one is often stunned by the sheer power and beauty of his performance. He is quite young sounding here, and sometimes it is a distraction because he is the love interest of Sutherland’s older sounding Anna, but he is not beaten by any other modern Percy. Enrico VIII, sung by Samuel Ramey is quite awe-inspiring. He is truly evil sounding, quite like the malevolent pig that he is supposed to to be. In the past I have found great fault in Sutherland’s male co-stars (like the men of her first Norma and her Semiramide); however, the assembled cast here is first rate.

This recording of Anna Bolena was made the year that I was born, and therefore it is safe to say that Joan Sutherland’s career was quite over by the time that I started to listen to opera. Initially I possessed one of the famous “Callas-only” opera biases that I’ve come to find rather amusing; I have, though, discovered over and over again just why Sutherland was crowned La Stupenda by the loggione at La Fenice. Her singing abilities are amazing. I have heard Sutherland from the beginning of her career in Maria Callas 1952 Covent Garden Norma and her 1959 Donna Anna (Don Giovanni) under Guilini, and to compare it to her Anna Bolena is quite interesting. It’s clear that thirty-five years of high-flying coloratura has dimmed her voice by 1988, but Sutherland’s technique and vocal power can still put many modern sopranos to shame. Despite the matronly sound, the increased vibrato, and a slight wobble, Sutherland is still able to produce a recording that incomparable to any other studio Bolena.

Finally, I have to give notice to Richard Bonynge’s conducting. I have a deep trepidation about Bonynge’s conducting skills after hearing his work in the first Sutherland Norma, but in the case of this Bolena, maestro has found a creative balance that evokes the sense of bel-canto drama and the pathos necessary to feel for the doomed Queen.

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