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Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Rita, ou Le mari battu (1841)
Rita - Priscille Laplace
Peppe - Aldo Caputo
Gaspar - Alberto Rinaldi
Orchestra of the Opéra Royal de Wallonie/Claudio Scimone
Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera (director)
rec. live, Palai Opéra de Liège, May 2010
Region Code: 0, Aspect Ratio: 16:9, LPCN: 2.0 Stereo
DYNAMIC 33741 [54:00]

Rita is a one-act farce, about 50 minutes long. In many ways it’s the opposite of what we might expect from a romantic comedy. It dates from 1841 and the height of Donizetti’s Parisian success. The subject matter concerns a love triangle where both men are trying to lose the woman. The waspish cafe-owner Rita beats her meek husband Peppe because she in turn was beaten up by her first husband, Gaspar. Gaspar then turns up - he didn’t die in a shipwreck, as she at first believed - but he is engaged to another fiancée in Greenland. Various contorted ensembles later, Rita agrees to destroy their marriage certificate. Gaspar goes off to his fiancée and Peppe decides to be more assertive. It’s far from a light-hearted tale, but its fairly nasty strain of domestic violence is not taken in the least bit seriously by its composer. Instead he delivers a series of musical numbers that exude light-hearted fizz, from the bustling overture through to the two trios that close the work.
This is the first ever recording of the original French version and it’s good to have it but, truth be told, the performance isn’t very good. Priscille Laplace and Aldo Caputo both sing well enough, though she is rather too shrill on the ear; this may be in keeping with her character but it gets wearing after a while. The finest moment is Caputo’s singing of the tenor aria when he thinks he has successfully lost his wife. He has a sunny, Italianate voice that fits the music well. Alberto Rinaldi’s voice is gruff and unpleasant, though, and he seems to bark his way through most of his music. Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera stages it in a simple, effective set, with an attractive cafe facade and tables, but the camera direction is very amateurish, with lots of unnecessary angles thrusting the viewer into places he doesn’t want to be. More seriously, the microphone balance puts the voices much too far forward, and at times you can hear the on-stage effects, such as the slamming of a door, more loudly than the orchestra. The orchestra itself play very well, though, and Claudio Scimone, whose idea this project must surely have been, directs them with affection and bounce. Still, this is probably a DVD for die-hard Donizetti completists only, despite its brief running time.
Simon Thompson