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Opera Rara has come to Donizetti’s rescue again with a stunning performance of this later masterpiece. The booklet admits that the opera is patchy, but its strengths far outweigh any minor weaknesses. Structurally the piece is curious, with the soprano disappearing from the central action, reappearing to sing an aria and cabaletta separated by an inordinately lengthy tempo di mezzo (the linking passage) that is crammed with its own drama and musical strengths. Mark Elder’s conducting displays great belief in the opera and he leads a passionate performance. As Antonina, Joyce El-Khoury’s naturally fast and highly distinctive soprano is hugely welcome in an age of increasing vocal homogeneity; she attacks the role’s considerable demands head-on and delivers a thrilling performance. This is an old-fashioned performance, and I mean that as the highest praise! Camilla Roberts’s graceful Irene provides a good vocal and dramatic foil. Belisario is in the elegantly understated hands of Nicola Alaimo, and Russell Thomas’s Alamiro reveals a rich tenor with appropriate squillo as well as surprising agility. A hugely interesting opera and top-flight cast.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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