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Robert J Farr
MusicWeb International, November 2011

CD: DONIZETTI, G.: Marino Faliero [Opera] (Surian, Stanisci, Magri, Grassi, Bergamo Musica Festival Orchestra and Chorus, Cinquegrani) 8.660303–04
DVD: DONIZETTI, G.: Marino Faliero (1835 edition) (Bergamo Musica Festival, 2008) (NTSC) 2.110616–17

This performance from the Bergamo Festival was based in the town where the composer was born and died. It is set in period costume and in an evocative and imaginative set, when one can see it that is. Even allowing for the fact that much of the plotting goes on at night the stage scene is often under-lit. The presentation of both the DVD and CD issue has the long act 1 on the first disc with acts 2 and 3 on the second. Thankfully this issue is by Naxos so that on the DVD the Chapter divisions are generous and in number sequence, unlike those on the Dynamic Label from Italian Festivals. Artist profiles are another welcome virtue to go alongside an informed and informative introductory essay, and the full list of Chapter and Track divisions and timings.

the ageing Doge the Croat bass Giorgio Surian is an excellent actor and…creates a viable character whose dignity is impressive.

The conducting of Bruno Cinquegrani is well paced and the chorus vibrant and involved. Read complete review

James Zychowicz
MusicWeb International, October 2011

…the music sounds more dramatic than some of the composer’s earlier scores, and various scenes reflect the kind of dramaturgy that Verdi would pursue a decade later. The opening scene is a case in point, in which the head of the Venetian Arsenal, Israele (baritone) sets the stage by recounting the victories of Faliero just as the patrician Steno (bass) harasses the sailors who work for Israele. Israele, sung here by Luca Grassi, is a strong character, whose response to the situation anticipates his later invitation to Faliero to join the conspiracy.

Likewise, the second scene contains elements that are essential to opera, an encounter between Elena and Fernando, with the obligatory exchange of a memento (here Elena’s veil), just before Faliero enters. There’s also the dissembling Fernando responding to his uncle with concerns about the public accusations of Elena’s infidelity. The incongruity of the scene in the context of real life evaporates in the milieu of opera. The situation contains two duets between Elena and Fernando, followed by the scene with Faliero. Here Ivan Magri gives laudable effort in a role that demands much. In this production the orchestra sometimes seems to compete with Magri, yet his first-act aria “Di mia patria o bel soggiorno” stands out.

As to the production itself, the sets give a sense of the period, an element important to the plot. The rich colors and dark combinations fit the story well, with the lighting serving the characters well. The realistic elements of the sets are useful props for the singers, and are visually engaging by fitting well into the text. This dark work comes to life in this production, which benefits from the choice of presenting Marino Faliero as a costume drama in rich detail.

Credit is due to the entire cast for its valiant efforts with this challenging score. Giorgio Surian is convincing in the title role, with Rachele Stanisci presenting a strong vocal and dramatic creation of Elena, the erring, but contrite spouse. Ivan Magri assumes the Fernando role with flare. His extroverted vocalism is part of nature of the music given his character. Luca Grassi’s secondary role of Israele is well sung, and serves as a strong connection between the conspirators and Faliero, the crucial element in this tragic opera.

The orchestra and chorus of the Bergamo Music Festival offer fine support. Conductor Cinquegrani demonstrates his command not only with solid tempos and clear direction, but also with the timing between numbers. His pacing contributes to the overall effect. Likewise, the stage direction by Marco Spada serves us well in allowing the performers to interact eloquently in this staging.

Since this work is performed rarely, it is useful to have a reliable video available between those infrequent productions of this otherwise strong score. The sound is full and reliable throughout, with the navigation keyed well to the individual numbers. Recorded at live performances, this recent release makes a strong production of Marino Faliero readily available. A wide audience can now hear and view Donizetti’s fine score and, through it, can have a broader frame of reference for the composer’s other works, including Lucia di Lammermoor, which followed soon after.

Frank Behrens
Art Times, June 2011

Think Donizetti-comic and you think of “Don Pasquale” and “The Elixir of Love.” Think Donizetti-serious and you think of “Lucia.” Once people might have thought of “Marino Faliero,” which was quite popular and then faded from the general memory. Now that Naxos has released a double-disc DVD set of this work, many might find it worthwhile.

The production was given in 2009 at the Teatro Donizetti in Bergamo, Italy, conducted by Bruno Cinquegrani.

Like Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra,” the main character is an historical Doge of Venice, who in 1355 attempted to overthrow the powerful Councils and declare himself King of Venice. It didn’t work, but Donizetti thought the story was worth his 50th opera. Now viewers might decide on their own if the composer’s judgment was correct.

The libretto by Giovanni Emanuele Bidera is poorly written, with the love affair between Marino’s wife Elena (Rachele Stanisci) and his nephew Fernando (Ivan Nagri) being almost incidental to the major plot. Marino himself is an anomaly, neither villain nor hero. In this production, he is played by Giorgio Surian with very little character at all. His eyes seem to be tightly shut (I thought for a moment that he might be blind) and he shows restrained generalized emotion about his conspiracy, marital problems, and his nemesis Steno (Luca Dall’Amico), who seems to hate everybody and Fernando in particular.

In fact, the only character with whom I felt any sympathy was Israele Bertucci (Luca Grassi), the Captain of the Venetian Arsenal. He, in contrast to all the rest, is an honest man who fights for the good of Venice and not for his own.

Except for a lovely off-stage gondolier’s song, Donizetti offers nothing new. Everything is formulistic, very good and very unmemorable. The direction is traditional and unimaginative. Yet I enjoyed it thoroughly because of the novelty of seeing a Donizetti opera seria hitherto unknown to me.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2011

Donizetti’s fifteenth opera, Marino Faliero, had the misfortune of appearing in the same year as Bellini’s I Puritani, Helevy’s La Juive and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Initially holding its place in the repertoire, having been premiered in Paris and London within a few months of one another, it dropped from view until its revival in Bergamo—the source of this recording—in 1966. Based on real events in Venice in the mid 14th century, the aging Marino Faliero, Doge of Venice, is married to the young Elena who is suffering character assassination by Steno, a military man, whose advances she had spurned. Faliero is persuaded to join a conspiracy against the ruling Council of Forty of which Steno is a member, unaware that Elena is in love with Fernando, the nephew of Faliero, who in a masked ball challenges Steno to a duel for insulting Elena. It is Fernando who is found dying, presumably at the hand of Steno’s accomplices. Faliero swears to avenge his death, but the conspiracy is discovered, and Faliero is found guilty of plotting against the government. Condemned to death, Elena is left without either man. A long opera, the length of its opening act—here running over 73 minutes—being cited as one reason of its fall from popularity. The 2008 Bergamo Festival production from Marco Spada is traditional, most elegantly dressed in the historic period, and uses one adaptable set quickly transformed for changes of scene. In the lead role Rachele Stanisci is a powerful soprano whose make-up is rather wanting. Her big first act scene with Fernando is highly charged, though Ivan Magri’s acting and voice was still warming to the task. It calls for a high tenor, and he comes good for his long solo scene at the beginning of the second act. The remainder of the cast are reliable; the orchestra provide a more than adequate backdrop, and the filming is a well-planned series of close-ups and full stage shots as required, The opera is spread over two discs and has Italian and English subtitles. A rarity worth seeing.

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