Donizetti is one of the fathers of Bel Canto, having written over 70 operas, his first work coming at the age of 19. Born on Nov. 29, 1797, the composer has become well-known for such operas as “L’Elisir d’Amore,” “Don Pasquale,” “Lucia di Lammermoor,” “Lucrezia Borgia,” as well as the Tudor trilogy, which has been revived by many of the great divas of the 20th Century. However, many of the composer’s works have become obscure in the repertoire and seldom get revived.
In celebration of the composer’s birthday, OperaWire takes a look at some of Donizetti’s essential operas that need revivals.
Written in 1822, “La Zingara” was Donizetti’s first work written for Naples, and the first performance of this “rescue opera” took place at the Teatro Nuovo on May 12, 1822. The work mixes Donizetti’s buffo and serious characters and also uses Neapolitan dialect. This piece has seldom been performed but it was recorded at the Festival della Valle d’Itria, Martina Franca in 2001 and recently had its North American premiere with the Amore Opera.
“Linda di Chamounix”
“Linda” is best known for its aria “O Luce di Quest’Anima” and it has been performed by many major divas including Lily Pons who performed it at the Metropolitan Opera, as well as Mariella Devia, Diana Damrau, Edita Gruberova, and Antonietta Stella. Many great tenors like Alfredo Kraus and Juan Diego Flórez have also been attracted to the work. However, it continues to be overlooked in the repertoire and many companies continue to ignore it. That said, “Linda” is undoubtedly an incredible piece filled with vocal fireworks and a mad scene that gives the soprano acting and vocal opportunities.
“L’Assedio di Calais”
This drama recently had its North American premiere at the Glimmerglass Festival after years of neglect. Donizetti wrote “L’Assedio” influenced by the French style but ended up employing many of the Italian conventions. The work has two recording by Opera Rara and House of Opera and in modern times has been shown at the Wexford Opera Festival and English Touring Opera.
Dating from 1820, “Belisario” is another diva showcase that has been sung by many of the greatest sopranos, including Leyla Gencer (who revived the work in the 20th century), Joyce El-Khoury, and Nelly Miricioiu. The opera has been described as having the musical quality of “Lucia di Lammermoor,” which makes up for the shortcomings of the plot and dramatic structure.
“Gemma di Vergy”
This melodrama premiered in 1834 and remained very popular until the 1860s. However, it disappeared by the 1900s. It was revived by Monserrat Caballé and has been recorded live on numerous occasions. Adriana Maliponte also performed the work and it proved to be Maria Agresta’s breakout opera. Like many of Donizetti’s great diva showcases “Gemma di Vergy” possesses many vocal fireworks and dramatic opportunities.
Are there any other Donizetti operas that deserve major revivals? Let us know in the comments below!