Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Orchestra: London Symphny Orchestra
Conductor: Julius Rudel
Number of Discs: 3 CD box set
Format: APE (image+cue)
Size: 889 MB
Enrico VIII – Paul Plishka
Anna Bolena – Beverly Sills
Giovanna Seymour – Shirley Verrett
Lord Rochefort – Robert Lloyd
Lord Riccardo Percy – Stuart Burrows
Smeton – Patricia Kern
Sir Hervey – Robert Tear
John Alldis Choir
02 Atto Primo. Scena 1. N.1 Introduzione: Nè venne il Re?
03 N.2 Sortita: Ella di me, sollecita
04 N.3 Scena e Romanza – Cavatina: Si taciturna e mesta
05 Deh! non voler costringere
06 Come, innocente giovane
07 Legger potessi in me! Non v’ha sguardo
08 N.4 Scena e Duetto: Oh! qual parlar fu il sono!
09 Fama, si: l’avrete
10 La mia fama e a’pie dell’ara
11 Anna pure amor m’offria (Enrico, Giovanna)
12 Ah! qual sia cercar non oso
13 Scena 2. N.5 Scena e Cavatina: Chi veggo?
14 Da quel dì che, lei perduta
15 Ah! così nel dì ridenti
16 N.6 Scena e Quintetto: Desta sì tosto
17 Io sentii sulla mia mano
18 Or che reso ai patrii lidi
19 Questo dì per noi spuntato
01 Scena 3. N.7 Scena e Cavatina: E’sgombro il loco
02 Ah! parea che per incanto
03 N.8 Scena e Duetto: Basta, basta, trop’oltre vai
04 Anna! – Riccardo!
05 S’ei t’abborre, io t’amo ancora
06 Ah! per pietà del mio spavento
07 Alcun potria ascolarti
08 Tace ognuno
09 In quegli sguardi impresso
10 N.9 FinaleI: In separato carcere
11 Atto Secondo. N.10 Introduzione: Oh! dove mal ne andarono
12 O mie fedeli
13 N.11 Scena e Duetto: Dio, che mi vedi in core
14 Sul suo capo aggravi un Dio
15 Dal mio cor punita io sono
16 Va, infelice
01 Scena 2. N.12 Coro, Scena e Terzetto: Ebben? Dinanzi ai giudici
02 Scostatevi … il Re giunge
03 Ambo morrete, o perfidi
04 Al Consiglio sien tratti
05 N.13 Scena ed Aria: Sposa a Percy
06 Per questa fiamma indomita
07 Stolta! Non sai …
08 Ah! pensate che rivolti
09 Scena 3. N.14 Recitativo, Scena ed Aria: Tu pur dannato a morte
10 Vivi tu, te ne scongiuro
11 Nel veder la tua costanza
12 N.15 Coro: Chi può vederla a ciglio asciutto
13 N.16 Scena ed Aria finale: Piangete voi?
14 Al dolce guidami
15 Qual mesto suon?
16 Cielo, a’miei lunghi spasimi
17 Coppia iniqua, l’estrema vendetta
An anglophone cast does Donizetti proud
I am posting this review under several, various issues of this 1972 classic as I have owned or heard it in various incarnations but have invariably found it to be in good sound whatever the label. It originally appeared under ABC but is now Universal (DG/Decca), the big difference being that the one with the green DG cover includes a libretto, whereas the others do not.
It is the best version available if you discount Callas – which you can’t, and if you do want her account, make sure you avoid the shocking EMI “official” issue and get the Opera d’Oro set (see my review), which despite being heavily cut and featuring a merely mediocre cast apart from Simionato and Callas herself is preferable to EMI’s woolly effort by virtue of being far cheaper and in greatly superior sound quality. However, if you want the full score, this version, ably, flexibly and idiomatically conducted by Julius Rudel, is first choice.
It was Donizetti’s first big success and already evinces his trademark qualities of acute musical characterisation and the winning combination of floating cantilena lines alternating with passages of great drama. The cast is exclusively Anglophone: four Brits and three Americans – and an English orchestra in the ever-accomplished LSO – but it is not short on Italianità, even if Stuart Burrows’ tenor is a little soft-grained and Paul Plishka’s Henry a bit woolly. However, Plishka makes the king a growling, brooding brute, which is wholly apt; Burrows’ beautiful tenor is both agile and suggestive of an essentially sympathetic personality in Percy. Patricia Kern’s rich, steady mezzo is lovely as Smeton and the young Robert Lloyd’s sonorous bass is sufficiently imposing to suggest that he might have been a vocally more ingratiating Henry than Plishka. Some harshness in the higher regions apart, Shirley Verrett’s makes a highly dramatic Giovanna (Jane Seymour); pace a previous reviewer, I don’t think she would have made a success of the role of Anna. We may safely entrust that to Sills in this form.
Some reviewers have remarked how we might be conscious of the fact that she is pushing her voice to its limits, to which I say, of course – this is an incredibly demanding role which requires her to encompass a huge gamut of emotions within an equally wide tessitura from to E flat down to a trenchant chest voice – which she manages to her great credit. Her coloratura sparkles and she creates real pathos in the plangent, drooping melody of “Ai dolci guidami”; the ascending trills are precise and exquisite, her intonation spot-on; there is very little shrillness in a voice caught still in its prime before the toll of singing the Queens became apparent. Show me a singer alive today who can rival her.
Shop around for an affordable set; the Brilliant issue is usually the cheapest if you can do without a libretto.