In this melodically rich bel canto masterpiece, a femme fatale renowned for her ruthless pursuit of power reveals poignant vulnerability when she comes face to face with her long-lost son. ...
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In this melodically rich bel canto masterpiece, a femme fatale renowned for her ruthless pursuit of power reveals poignant vulnerability when she comes face to face with her long-lost son. Soprano Renée Fleming "uncorks the secret inner torments of history's most notorious poisoner. Her best singing was sumptuous and long-lined, airy and ravishingly rich" (San Jose Mercury News). Tenor Michael Fabiano "made a dashing Company debut as Gennaro, breathing vivid life into the role...singing with both graceful lyricism and full-throated ardor" (San Francisco Chronicle). Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong, "sings like a vocal giant. Her lowest notes have body and depth, the midrange is especially rich, and she propels her secure, full, and rounded highs with aplomb" (San Francisco Classical Voice). Bass-baritone Vitalij Kowaljow "gave a thrillingly robust and commanding account" of Duke Alfonso (San Francisco Chronicle). "The production's execution is first-rate: fine singing, towering sets ...Written by
San Francisco's Lucrezia Borgia, and largely a success
Lucrezia Borgia may not be one of Donizetti's masterpieces, however it is a very compelling opera with some of his most melodically rich music. This San Francisco production is somewhere in the middle in the DVD competition, not as good as the two Sutherland productions(especially the earlier one) but better than the ones with Gruberova and Theodossiou. There are a couple of debits; the costumes could have done with much more of a subtle touch, stylistically they were over-the-top and they were garish too; the hair styles give very little sense of time and place and just look ridiculous; and the homosexual relationship added in didn't add anything and was not needed really. The sets and lighting are beautiful though, the camera work and picture quality are just as excellent and the traditional staging is dramatic and poignant with good detail to characterisation. Donizetti's music is performed with vitality and nuance by the orchestra and the chorus singing rings out and their interaction is some of the best of any opera chorus I've seen recently. All made possible and elevated by the conducting of Riccardo Frizza which accommodates the drama, allowing the music to speak for itself, but pacing-wise it is also very tight and understanding of what the music is conveying. The singing is very good, Michael Fabiano and Elisabeth De Shong being the standouts. Fabiano has a beautiful and ringing tonal quality to his voice, he sings with agility and style and his transition from chest to head voices are enviously smooth. His acting skills don't quite match but he's hardly a mannequin either. De Shong sounds resplendent especially in her powerful middle register, and she is an actress that is both passionate and affecting, completely at ease on stage. Vitalij Kowaljow is a sinister and quite repellent Alfonso, and the darkness and resonance of his basso voice is wholly appropriate. Renee Fleming takes on a different role to what is usually seen of her, it being Bel Canto and a contender for her heaviest role yet(Lucrezia Borgia has been coined the Lady Macbeth of Donizetti soprano roles and for a reason), and she does a very brave job as Lucrezia and mostly it is a good- but not her at her best- performance. She starts off tired but quickly gets better and her silky tone, great musicality and dignified acting skills are other parts to her appeal here. Overall, a largely successful Lucrezia but not a first choice. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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