Although there are certainly a very large number of organ enthusiasts, I regret to say that there are also many musicians whose love of music stops short of the organ. They complain about its impenetrable textures, lack of variety, and the dull, featureless music that is sometimes played on it. I suspect that this may be more the result of hearing poor performers on inadequate instruments playing the least interesting parts of the enormous repertoire written for the organ than of any inherent characteristics of the instrument. I would suggest playing this disc to such musicians to show what can be done. Admittedly not necessarily what should be done, but a total and refreshing contrast to what is more usually heard in England, at least on church instruments. The closest English equivalent to the sounds heard here would be the fairground organ, including the bizarre drum effects.
As the title suggests, the bulk of the music here comes from operas. The Bellini and Donizetti items work extremely well in this transformed state, with new but equally theatrical colours to the original works. The three Mozart Overtures are less successful. The violin figurations in the allegro sections simply sound laboured and ineffectual, at times even comical. They are interesting to hear once but I would not want to repeat the experience. That does not apply to any of the other items, not least to the Rossini, which are played with appropriate poise and cheekiness.
The notes, in Italian and English, include the organ specification and a spirited defence of the playing of theatrical music on church organs. This is however wholly unnecessary when for the most part the results are so satisfactory. I look forward to repeated listening to the Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini items. It would be hard not to enjoy these idiomatic performances on an instrument which produces such pungent and characterful sounds.