About this Recording

Duets and Arias from Italian Operas

Verdi's La forza dei destino (The Force of Destiny) was first performed in St. Petersburg in 1862. Set in mid-eighteenth century Spain and Italy, the opera deals with the love of Leonora, daughter of the Marquis of Calatrava, and Don Alvaro. The couple plan to elope, but are surprised by Leonora's father, who is accidentally killed, and dies cursing his daughter. Don Carlos, disguised as a student, seeks out his sister and her lover, the former a fugitive, now disguised as a man. She later conceals herself in a hermitage, while Alvaro, believing her dead and also in disguise, does valiant service in Italy, rescuing Carlos from death. In the last act Alvaro has become a monk, near the hermitage of Leonora. He is discovered by Don Carlos, who still seeks revenge, and is challenged by him in Invano Alvaro - Le minaccie, i fieri accenti. The patience of Alvaro, turned monk, is exhausted and the two fight. Carlos is wounded and help is sought from the hermit, Leonora, whom Carlos has just the strength to kill, as he dies, thus securing vengeance. The earlier duet between Carlos and Alvaro, Solenne in quest'ora, occurs in the third act, when Alvaro is wounded in battle, and asks Carlos to carry out his last wishes and destroy unopened certain papers he has with him, papers that would reveal his identity.

Verdi's Rigoletto, first performed in Venice in 1851, is based on Victor Hugo's Le roi s'amuse. Alter various changes in period, the action was finally set in sixteenth century Mantua, where the licentious Duke has his will with women, including the wives of his courtiers. In this he is aided by the cynical hunchback jester Rigoletto, cursed by one of the courtiers whose daughter the Duke has seduced. The curse has its effect when it is discovered that Rigoletto has a daughter, Gilda, prey of the Duke, in disguise, and finally his victim. Rigoletto's planned revenge, by means of a hired assassin, fails when Gilda herself is killed, leaving the Duke himself unharmed. In Pari siamo, We are alike, Rigoletto, accosted by the murderer Sparafucile, who offers him his services, reflects on the similarity of their situations; both of them are hirelings. In Cortigiani, vil razza dannata, Vile cursed race of courtiers, Rigoletto, in anguish at the seizure of his daughter by a band of courtiers, inveighs against them.

Amilcare Ponchielli is best known today for his opera La Gioconda, although in his own time he occupied a leading position in the world of Italian opera. The libretto by Boito is based on the play Angelo, tyran de Padoue, by Victor Hugo, and deals with the tragic betrayal and death of the singer of the title, in love with Enzo Grimaldo, prince of Genoa, and desired by the evil state spy Barnaba. In the first act, set in Venice, Enzo, proscribed in Venice and therefore disguised as a Dalmatian sea-captain, is recognised by Barnaba, who observes signs of recognition between Enzo and Laura, wife of Alvise, a member of the ruling council of Venice. Enzo is pledged to La Gioconda, but had earlier loved Laura, and Barnaba now offers his assistance to Enzo, seeking his own revenge on La Gioconda, who has rejected his advances. Enzo, in spite of his better judgement, accepts Barnaba's help.

L'elisir d'amore, The Elixir of Love, by Donizetti, was first staged in Milan in 1832. The peasant Nemorino loves Adina, and seeks to further his cause by drinking a love-philtre sold to him by the quack-doctor Dulcamara. The sergeant Belcore is Nemorino's rival and when the latter needs more money to buy a second bottle of elixir from Dr. Dulcamara he persuades him to enlist, an action which will bring him at once twenty scudi. In the end all ends happily for Nemorino and Adina, while Belcore is content to try his fortune with other girls.

Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, first performed in Rome in 1888, and Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci, first staged in Milan in 1892, are often coupled in a double bill. Both operas offer a degree of realism, the first a village drama of love and jealousy and the second based on an actual criminal case. Turiddu, once pledged to Santuzza, is in love with Lola, wife of the village teamster Alfio. In the Prelude to the opera Turiddu sings of his admiration for Lola. The later scene brings Alfio and Turiddu together. Santuzza, in jealousy, has told Alfio that Turiddu has been with his wife, and now the two confront each other and prepare to settle the matter between them in a duel to the death. In the event it is Turiddu who is killed.

I Pagliacci presents the very real jealousies and loves of actors, compelled to perform before the public, whatever their feelings. Life intervenes when the actor Canio, rightly jealous of his young wife Nedda, murders her on stage, provoked by the machinations of the hunchback clown Tonio. It is Tonio who introduces the drama with a prologue.

Verdi's opera Don Carlo, with a libretto adapted from the play by Schiller, was first mounted in Paris in 1867, to be revised and staged in Milan in its new form in 1884. The drama centres on the love of Don Carlo, son of Philip II of Spain, and his father's third wife, Elisabetta. Matters are further complicated by the activities of Rodrigo, eager for the liberation of the Spanish Netherlands and enlisting Carlo in his cause.

Giacomo Aragall
The Spanish tenor Giacomo Aragall was born in Barcelona and as a child was a chorister at Santa Maria dei Mar. He embarked on serious study as a singer i at the age of nineteen with Jaime Francesco Puig and success in the 1962 Bilbao J Singing Competition won him a scholarship for study in Milan with Vladimiro i Badiani. In the same year he won first prize in the Voci Verdiani Competition in Bussetto. After his acclaimed debut at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice in the opera Gerusalemme and outstanding success in Palermo, he was engaged by La Scala, Milan, where he sang in La Bohème and L'amico Fritz, the youngest tenor to make his debut there. Appearances in the other major Italian opera-houses, followed. In 1965 he sang in Rigoletto at the Verona Arena and three years later made his debut at the Metropolitan in New York. Since then he has appeared in the principal opera-houses of Europe and the Americas. He has recorded major operatic roles for companies that include Decca, Erato/RCA and Eurodisc.

Eduard Tumagian
The baritone Eduard Tumagian made his debut at La Scala in the role of Nabucco, under the direction of Riccardo Muti. He has since appeared at the same opera-house in the first staging of Flavio Testi's opera Richard III in 1987 and in Verdi's I due Foscari and I Vespri Siciliani in 1988 and 1989. He has also appeared at the Opera in Paris, in Lyon, Toulouse, Montpellier, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, Zürich and Amsterdam. He made his first stage appearance at the opera in Bucharest, his native city, and after victory in a number of international competitions he was invited to appear at the Opera of the Rhine in Strasbourg, where he sang the roles of Posa, Germont, Rigoletto and Scarpia. In 1985 he sang the part of Napoleon in a concert performance of Prokofiev's War and Peace under Mstislav Rostropovich which was later recorded. Eduard Tumagian made his American debut in 1986 in La forza dei destino in Pittsburgh and later roles in America have included Nabucco under Riccardo Muti in Philadelphia and New York.

Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)

The Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 at the instance of Milos Ruppeldt and Oskar Nedbal, prominent personalities in the sphere of music. Ondrej Lenard was appointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977 its conductor-in- chief. The orchestra has given successful concerts both at home and abroad, in Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Hong Kong and Japan. For Marco Polo the orchestra has recorded works by Glazunov, Gliere, Miaskovsky and other late romantic composers and film music of Honegger, Bliss, Ibert and Khachaturian as well as several volumes of the label's Johann Strauss Edition. Naxos recordings include symphonies and ballets by Tchaikovsky, and symphonies by Berlioz and Saint-Saëns.

Alexander Rahbari
Alexander Rahbari was born in Iran in 1948 and was trained as a conductor at the Vienna Music Academy as a pupil of von Einem, Swarowsky and Österreicher. On his return to Iran he was appointed director of the Teheran Conservatory of Music and took a leading position in the cultural development of his country. In 1977 he moved to Europe, winning first prize in the Besançon International Conductors' Competition and the Geneva silver medal. In the 1986- 87 season he appeared for the first time with the BRT Philharmonic and in September 1988, accepted appointment as principal conductor.

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