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Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, May 2010

Musically it is one of Donizetti’s best and points forward to Verdi, whose first opera was only four years away. Maybe the melodies are not as immediately memorable as, for instance, those in Lucia, but they are dramatically efficient and attractive in their own right. The quality of an opera can often be judged from the number of recordings, and next to Lucia, which is supreme, Maria Stuarda is among the contenders…Riccardo Frizza conducts a wholly idiomatic performance with sensible tempos. He is well assisted by the orchestra. The chorus is also good…They are at their best in the chorus that opens the final scene of the opera: Vedeste? Vedemmo…Qual truce apparato (CD 2 tr. 9).

Laura Polverelli is a vibrant Elisabetta, dramatic, powerful and expressive and her opening aria Ah! Quando all’ara scorgemi and the following cabaletta Ah! Dal ciel discenda have a certain thrill…The duet with Leicester, Era d’amor l’immagine that finishes act I, is one of the best numbers in the opera and it is sung with feeling and some elegance by both singers. Even better is the third act aria Quella vita. Roberto De Biasio takes some time to warm up, singing ably but not in a way that is particularly ingratiating in the first act. In the second act he is much more sensitive and in act III he is really very good. Maria, who doesn’t appear until act II, is sung by Maria Pia Piscitelli, who has a full, rounded voice which is nicely contrasted with Polverelli’s. O nube! Che lieve (CD 1 tr. 14) is very good but she sweeps the board in act III with Quando di luce rosea (CD 2 tr. 7)…The recorded sound is very good and the balance between stage and pit realistic. There are inevitably some stage noises and applause. These have not been edited out but their presence contributes to the feeling of a real performance…The present set is attractive for the singing of the two prima donnas and the tenor and is the most idiomatically Italian of them all. At the usual give-away Naxos price it is well worth the investment.

International Record Review, February 2010

[Maria Pia Piscitelli] deserves more recognition. Her voice is of a very fine quality. It gleams and shines, can soar impressively and is smoothly produced…Thus we have an admirable soprano, a generally convincing cast, a conductor who conveys both anger and regret, a splendid opera and all at an enticing price.

Robert Anderson
Music & Vision, January 2010

DVD: DONIZETTI, G.: Maria Stuarda (Sferisterio Opera Festival, 2007) (NTSC) 2.110268

CD: DONIZETTI, G.: Maria Stuarda (Sferisterio Opera Festival, 2007) 8.660261–62

Malignant Fate

Donizetti has done the royal pair proud, making of each queen a credible and essentially tragic figure. The simplicity of the direction by Pier Luigi Pizzi on the huge expanse of the stage enhances the impression that all the characters are caught up in the toils of a malignant fate. Chorus and orchestra under Riccardo Frizza are wonderfully alert, and support with warm sympathy the twists and turns of the action. Naxos is gradually establishing with its operatic DVDs a reputation as impressive and secure as on CD.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2009

It was in the 1960s that a new generation of sopranos were looking for operas that would showcase their vocal brilliance and rediscovered Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda. Composed in 1834 its political contents were banned by the censors, and despite efforts to set the music to new words, it was plunged into obscurity. Donizetti, never over-fussy regarding small matters such as historical rectitude, had settled for a triangular love story between the imprisoned Mary Stuart, her captor, Queen Elizabeth, and the Earl of Leicester, who is loved by both but his affections are only for Mary. The present performance is taken from the open-air venue at the Sferisterio Opera Festival in Marcerata, Italy, and was originally issued and reviewed last April in DVD format [2.110268]. The staging was impressive and I much commend Maria Pia Piscitelli’s red-blooded portrayal of Mary. Her forceful voice is most impressive, with the supplication to God in the third act as good as you will hear, while the final walk to her death is free of maudlin sentimentality. Vocally the Elizabeth of Laura Polverelli relishes every morsel of the vocal acrobatics on offer, but cannot command the eventual confrontation with Mary as they are both as dramatically exciting. I have this love of provincial Italian tenors of yesteryear, and Roberto De Biasio’s voice comes straight from that era, his fast vibrato creating a mentally doomed person as the opera moves inexorably to its sad conclusion. Among the remaining cast—Donizetti did not leave a great deal for them—Simone Alberghini sounds right for the aging Talbot, while the orchestra adds a strong and purposeful presence under the baton of Riccardo Frizza. The recording is vivid and good under such live conditions.

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