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Donald Feldman
American Record Guide, July 2011

The singing is good to excellent but missing believable acting at some points. The audio reflects the Blu-Ray standard quality, though the conductor takes a slow and metronomic view that does not help the pace and energy of the piece.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

Mike Ashman
Gramophone, May 2011

A modern production for Donizetti’s Tudor drama

Probing modern productions of bel canto operas are not yet common on DVD. Like the late Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, Tunisian-born director Denis Krief is also his own set, costume and lighting designer. His stripped-down focus on Donizetti’s Schiller-based Tudor tragedy makes it something of a tale of Tristan and two Isoldes. Sonia Ganassi’s Elisabetta can hardly keep her hands off José Bros’s Roberto (Leicester) even when she’s cruelly consigning him to witness the execution of Fiorenza Cedolins’s Maria—whom she believes, probably rightly, he loves (or lusts after) more than her. Leicester secures the fabled (and fictional) meeting between the queens by seducing Elisabetta in mid-court and is no less physical with Maria when persuading her to talk to her rival. The whole is set by Krief in a knot garden maze of metallic walls, raised for Elizabeth’s court, dropped low for Maria’s Fotheringay. For the final scene approaching Maria’s execution the walls open slightly to reveal a dais-cum-scaffold area (an implication that Maria’s fate was inevitable). This beneficial influence of both Wieland Wagner and Robert Wilson extends to the costumes, which might be called modernised versions of 19th-century Elizabethan, with soldiers in simple black leather and metal pole spears. The Queens are colour-coded—Elisabetta in “jealous” orange; Maria in red, then Schiller’s prescribed white for her execution.

Maestro Carminati looks an amiable, gentle soul as he enters the pit but he unleashes a firestorm of tension and passion in the big duets and his judicious tempi bind Donizetti’s not-so-easy recitatives into flowing music-drama. Ganassi is in superb fettle throughout, encompassing both power and agility. Cedolins takes a little longer to be at full stretch but the scene with Leicester, the “absolution” from Talbot and the Requiem-like finale are movingly turned. Bros makes a real character of Leicester’s obsessions, problems and weaknesses, and is in fine voice for a repertoire that suits his size of voice well. Video director Mancini has decided to let us watch a majority of the production from upstairs, which neatly emphasises the maze prison aspects of the set; Krief’s subtle colours read precisely on Blu-ray. Sound and balance seem true and natural. An outstanding release, and a great relief to be removed from the static period costume displays normally inflicted on this drama.

Nicholas Sheffo
Fulvue Drive-in, March 2011

Donizetti: Maria Stuarda is the third and final major sonic winner amongst the selections this time around in another Blu-ray from C Major. This timely trilogy on the Tudor Queens (the hit cable TV show has renewed interest in everything Tudor) and is in three parts, including Anna Bolena and Roberto Devereux. This lesser-known, performed and seen piece is done very well here with the Orchestra e Coro del Teatro La Fenice and is a great way to be introduced to the work.

Kevin Filipski
Times Square, February 2011

Donizetti’s popular bel canto opera, is seen in a starkly beautiful 2010 staging in Venice featuring a fiery Fiorenza Cedolins in the title role…

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