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Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Don Gregorio - Melodramma giocoso in two acts (1826)
Marquis Don Giulio Antiquati, a misogamist - Giorgio Valerio (baritone); Marquis Enrico, his eldest son - Giorgio Trucco (tenor); Marquis Pippetto, his youngest son - Livio Scarpellini (tenor); Madama Gilda Tallemanni, secret wife of Enrico - Elizaveta Martirosyan (soprano); Gregorio Cordebono, tutor to the sons - Paolo Bordogna (bass); Leonarda, elderly but flirty servant –Alessandra Fratelli (mezzo); Simone, Luca Ludovici (bass)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Donizetti Festival, Bergamo/Stefano Montanari
rec. live, 2007
DYNAMIC CDS 579 [63.29 + 64.32]

Donizetti was the most prolific of the Italian composers that we remember today with over sixty operatic titles to his credit. He died at the young age of fifty-one from the consequences of tertiary syphilis known as the general paralysis of the insane. His last years were spent in a semi-vegetative state. His first real success came with his sixth composition, Zoraida di Granata, premiered in Rome in 1822 (review). After further operas written for the Royal Theatres of Naples he presented his L'ajo nell'imbarazzo in Rome. Back in Naples he revised this work for the smaller Teatro Nova where local dialect was de rigueur. The change required the traditional recitatives to be translated into prose dialogue and the title role was given in the distinctive Neapolitan dialect. It was a great success.
The plot concerns Don Gregorio, a tutor employed by Marquis Don Giulio for his two sons, both in their twenties. The ageing, but still flirty Leonarda, disturbs his Latin lesson to Pippetto and the elder son Enrico. Their father is worried about his heirs, that they may discover women, and their wiles, before they reach the mature age of forty! Despite advising a more liberal regime from the Marquis, Gregorio is even more concerned when the young Enrico confides to him a love influence. Enrico returns with the woman, Gilda, whom he has secretly married, along with their baby. Gregorio tries to help, but the Marquis is suspicious something is afoot, a state of affairs not helped by the maid Leonarda who thinks that Gilda is Don Gregorio’s lover. What with concealments and confusions the farce draws to a conclusion including the hilarious translation of Gregorio into a nurse.
In respect of this recording and its CD presentation, I do not know whether to laugh or tear my remaining hair out. Musically the performance is hugely enjoyable and entertaining. There’s excellent characterisation from Paolo Bordogna, in the eponymous role, and Alessandra Fratelli as Leonarda in particular. Their voices are easy to differentiate along with that of Elizaveta Martirosyan as Gilda. At other times confusion is far too easy. My frustration comes with not being able to follow exactly what is going on as the plot unfolds and relate to who is singing. This is because the contents list for each track merely shows the first character to sing whilst the brief synopsis would have helped immensely if it had been track-related.
I cannot vouch for the veracity of the Neapolitan accent of Paolo Bordogna in the spoken dialogue. This is only notably extensive in one instance (CD.2 Tr.10). It is more than compensated by the excellently sung duet between the tutor and maid which is extensively applauded (CD.2 Tr.7) and by the various duets and trios elsewhere.
The advertising blurb, whilst noting something of the genesis of the work, states that the performance, the first in Italy in modern times, was released on Dynamic DVD in 2008 as a world premiere recording. I certainly missed it. If it looks as good as it sounds it will be a worthwhile investment.
Robert J Farr