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Bob Rose
Fanfare, September 2012

This is a recording of a very rare opera by a little-known composer, Nicola Vaccaj…

The libretto by Jacopo Caglanca was based on Friedrich Schiller’s Die Braut von Messina. The opera is set in Sicily in remote times.

The music is interesting and there are good arias and ensembles.

Jessica Pratt, an Australian soprano, has a fine coloratura voice, and sings the role of Isabella very well. Also quite fine is the tenor Filippo Adami, who is considered a specialist in Rossini. His voice is bright and clear. Wakako Ono is a Japanese mezzo-soprano; she sings her role quite well.

Maurizio Lo Piccolo…has a fine voice and is a good Diego. Antonio Fogliani is a fine conductor…and is excellent in this type of music.

The sound is very good. The booklet contains a listing of the tracks and an essay by Jeremy Commons, who also contributes a plot summary, and there is an article on each singer, as well as the conductor, the choir, and the orchestra.

Anyone who enjoys 19th-century Italian opera should have this rare issue. I recommend it heartily. © 2012 Fanfare

Charles H Parsons
American Record Guide, September 2012

Sposa really is a lovely work…with its generous supply of melody. The most worthy star of the opera is soprano Jessica Pratt. Isabella is a big bel canto role with lots of fireworks and drama, and Pratt fearlessly plows her way through with spectacular effect. Wakako Ono casts an alluring spell as the much coveted Beatrice. Filippo Adami (Emanuel) is bright and chipper in his romantic effusions…Maurizio Lo Piccolo does well by the basso outburst of Diego. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2012

A story of a successful career that ended in abject failure and despair. The young Nicola Vaccaj was reading law in Rome when he realised his true vocation was in music and moved to Naples to study composition under Paisiello. His early works were for church use, but he moved to Venice with the express purpose of becoming a theatre composer. His early operas enjoyed some success in Parma, Naples and Milan, but it was as a singing teacher that he became fashionable. Then onto the scene came the young Bellini whose operas were so well received that they removed what little success Vaccaj had enjoyed. It was such a setback that and he decided to live and teach in Paris, later moving to England. At the age of 48 he was offered a long overdue post at the Milan Conservatoire where he brought about, in a short period of time, major reforms in the teaching of singing. Six years later he retired to manage family estates in Pesaro, dying there at the age of 58. He apparently wrote sixteen operas, his penultimate theatre work, La sposa di Messina, dating from 1839. For his libretto he asked Jacopo Cabianca to use Schiller’s tragedy, Die Braut von Messina, as the basis of a story that relates Prince of Messina’s dream. It was a nightmare of his newly born daughter bringing about the destruction of his two sons. He aimed to kill the baby, but his wife manages to save the child by sending her to be brought up in a remote area. Many years later the two brothers individually fall in love with this unknown girl; in jealousy they fight and one is killed; but when the remaining brother discovers she is, in fact, their sister, he kills himself. Messina’s prophecy has been fulfilled. Rehearsals leading to the first night had been troubled, and the realistic production of death and suicide did not please the audience. On the following night only the opening act took place, and the opera was not seen again until 2009 when this recording was made. Was it worth the effort? Well its not a lost masterpiece, but there are far less worthy scores being revived around the world. Vaccaj obviously knew his trade, his major arias having good melodic invention, while choruses are in the familiar style of Bellini. The British soprano, Jessica Pratt, makes a potently voiced mother, while Wakako Ono, as the daughter, has a pleasingly fresh quality. If Filippo Adami and Armando Ariostini as the brothers sing with that high degree of vibrato still beloved in provincial Italy, they do capture their roles with commitment. The orchestra add a confident backdrop under Antonino Fogliani, and the radio engineers have capably captured the sound from concert performances. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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